Søby Brown Coal Museum

Søby Brown Coal Museum was established in 1977. The museum shows life in the "Klondike" of Søby in the period 1940-70 in pictures, movies, houses, tools and machinery the history of the elite Danish labour force that worked under conditions which were unique in Denmark.
Søby was a town of 2.000 residents which shared its sorrows and joys in a fine spirit of solidarity. There are cultural and work tales from a dramatic period in Danish history.

The excavation of brown coal ended in the spring of 1970.

The memorial grove (Mindelunden) was inaugurated in 1950. The visit to the museum can be concluded with a look of the 57 stones with the names of the dead coal workers.

The museum offers a guided tour lasting two hours. The tour also takes you out into the surrounding area.

The village hall (Søby Forsamlingshus) and the picnic shed (Spiseskur) are excellent for talks by guides. The museum accommodates 130 people, so the weather is no obstacle.

Bring your own food, which can be eaten indoors at the museum during the visit.
Food, ice, cake, coffee, beer and soft drinks can be purchased in our shop, but also brought with you.

Opening hours 2019
1.4.-20.10. and 7.12.-8.12: All weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5. p.m.
21.10.-31.3: By special arrangement.

Prices 2019
Adults .................................... DKK 40,-
Children 0–12 ............................ DKK 0,-
Guided tour 2 hours ................... DKK 500,-

The history
Most of Jutland was covered by the sea during the tertiary miocene period (approx. 24-5 million years ago). After the sea retreated, swamps and vegetation emerged in deltas and lakes, where plant residue accumulated, but it did not decompose. Instead, a carbonisation process occurred, where peat was created first, and the brown coal was created later though more sediments and an increased pressure.
To top layers of coal in Søby are more than 12 million years old, and the lower layers are 15 million years old.
Peat and brown coal are only formed instead of an aerobic digestion, when there is a high groundwater level, where the oxygen does not reach the plants after they have died.
We find the most coal by far in the triangle between Videbæk-Herning-Brande, where we had almost all active brown coal reserves between 1950 and 1970.
We differentiate between two kinds of brown coal: xyloid lignite and compact lignite. Looks, composition and use are different.
Xyloid lignite contains a lot of wood and is located in the top layer (top coal). In compact lignite, all the wood has been transformed. The coal is very hard and is located in the bottom layer (bottom coal). Some places in Søby three layers of brown coal have been dug up. Each layer is on average two metres, the same as the two middle layers of mica clay. In total it was around ten metres. About 12-15 million years ago, the five layers measured in at around 30 metres, which the following three or four ice ages since then has compressed. According to the Brown Coal Law of 1940-1954, the brown coal had to be dug by hand.
The workers were divided into four teams. First, the sand team removed the top layer of soil at 5-22 metres. The soil was pushed or shovelled onto a conveyor to the other side of the reserves, where it formed a sand tip.
Then, the bottom was ready with the top layer of brown coal. This so called "top coal" was of a more recent date and was often filled with pieces of wood from the forests of the past. The first brown coal team followed the sand team, and loaded the coal into boxes, which was then moved through the receiving plant to the sorting plant.
After the coal team, the clay team followed and removed a layer of mica clay. The material was shovelled or hoisted onto wheelbarrows and loaded into the back end of the excavation. Under the layer of clay, a new layer of coal was ready to be dug up. This layer is called the "bottom coal" and was older than the top coal. This layer was dug up in the same way as the top coal layer. All three phases of the work were done on piecework.
Pumping the water out was an important function. During the opening of a new brown coal reserve, a sewage well was dug, where the ground water ran through a pipe system. A pumping man constantly supervised the pumps, which was key in securing the production.
On the loading track, the workers loaded an average of 60 tons on a 10-hour working day. That is approximately three railway wagons per day of the kind that you stand next to. 60 tons daily by one man!
Per Aarsleff opened his company in Søby lignite reserves in 1947, and in a letter hanging in the village hall in Søby, he writes, among other things:
The loading is paid by piecework of 1-1.5 DKK per ton. With this effort, the loader earned three times the  daily salary of ordinary brown coal workers. The brown coal workers of the past should have a three-fold hurray.
Søby brown coal reserve had two large briquette factories: "Søby-Værket" and "Briketfabrikken Thor" as well as some smaller factories.
At some point, the Danish plants exported around 50 tons to Ruhr per day.
In the grocery shop, the museum has briquettes from both "Søby" and "Thor". Some of the buildings at "Søby-Værket" are still on Brunkulsvej 8. The same applies to the briquette factory "Thor" on Brunkulsvej 7.
The briquettes were pressed by coal dust, which via a funnel on the top of the machine came down to the press itself. The briquette was compressed by a large pressure and came out of the hole at the end of the press.
Falck” stationed an ambulance from August 6, 1947 to February 7, 1951. The brown coal reserve held Denmark's most dangerous workplace, and in Søby there were so many accidents that the workers made a move to get an ambulance, which the contractors later paid for.
The ambulance had 330 emergency calls in the first year. Station manager Hjalmar Frigaard:
"The workers served the society by daring their lives by going down into the deep pits".
Peder Voldsgaard Christensen bought Voldsgaard in 1926 and by a coincidence found coal in a field where the Festival Square is located today. Four unemployed men had heard the news, so when World War II broke out, they contacted him and were allowed to dig for brown coal on the field. In January 1940 they were able to sell a load of brown coal, and the knowledge of the excavation of brown coal spread like a wildfire. On the farm's hayloft, some of the first workers slept, and from 1940 Peder Voldsgaard allowed families to live here on his land. Here, the “Klondike city” spread where the museum is now.
Many people rushed to Søby, where they at first lived in poor conditions and with expensive food. Due to this, the state established pensions and sleeping barracks with maximum prices, where around one third of the wages went to board and lodging.
The pension had 125 permanent residents. The sleeping barrack consisted of 10 rooms for four people in each. In 1943, the pension and the two of the sleeping barracks burned causing mortal danger for five workers. Christmas Eve 1945 one of the sleeping barracks burned, where 16 men lost everything.
The state ran a guest house, many contractors had their own canteens, and on top of that several private people also ran canteens with ingenious names such as "Søby Old Inn", "The Snake", "Red Mill", "“The Yellow Mansion" and "Buchenwald".
Søby had several shops and kiosks. Bjarne Fischer closed as the last in 1968. The museum exhibits a true Søby Supermarket with many goods from the 1940s and 1950s. If the goods could be obtained, they would also be sold as purchasing power in Søby was good. On a wall in the house various rationing coupons are hanging. The period for rationing lasted from September 1939 until January 1953. 
The YMCA opened a leisure home for adults in Søby on May 17, 1942 and five years later another one a few kilometres east in Ulbæk just by the railway. The leisure home was open from 8am to 10pm and sold a lot of coffee with cake, but also arranged for example films that gathered 50-100 participants. For a period, workers formed "Bumsernes Sangkor" (The Bums' Choir). Each evening ended with a brief devotion. The home in Ulbæk closed in 1952 and the following year in Søby.
Many children lived with the family in Søby, and went to the local schools which were packed – at some point a teacher taught some children in their home. In the spring of 1944, the parish council created a pre-school, where Mrs Johansen taught 40 children aged 7-10 in two classes. It took place in the farmhouse at "Sdr. Søbygaard", which is still located a couple of hundred meters to the south on Mindelundvej 14.
The school closed after just one year because the new owner wanted to use the living room. Instead, the primary schools in Høgild and Søbylund were expanded.