Around 1850 industrialisation started to make major in-roads into Norway and Trøndelag. Even if Trondheim never became a major industrial city, "Fabrikken ved Nidelven" [the factory on the Nid river] was among the very first mechanical workshops when it was established in 1843. This company did not last long, but managed to make its mark as a pioneer enterprise in Trønder and Norwegian industry. Much of the honour for this may be ascribed to the English mechanic and engineer John Trenery.
Trenery came from the home of industrialisation where the surplus of technically gifted men in England led many to seek new markets abroad. Trenery went to Kåfjord in Finnmark, where he was the master mechanic at the copper works for some years.
In 1843 he came to Trondheim. Three leading merchants (Christian Ludvig Schreiner, Herman Christian Garmann and Arild Huitfeldt) had taken the initiative to establish a multi-purpose industrial company based on steam power, including mill operations, a metal foundry and a machine workshop. John Trenery was brought in as co-owner and expert in charge.
The plant was located in Øvre Bakklandet. In cooperation with Trondhjems Skipsværft, in 1850 it launched Nidelven, the first Norwegian-made steamboat. In 1862 Thrønderen, the first Norwegian steam locomotive, was rolled out. The factory had major assignments for the construction of the railway line to Støren (Størenbanen), which was completed in 1864. Machines and other equipment were also manufactured on a large scale for the emerging industrial companies in Trøndelag. The foundry’s production served many areas, and particularly provided equipment that brought progress to households.
Financially, Fabrikken ved Nidelven was not an unconditional success. The lack of specialisation was probably one of the reasons. The old owners withdrew in 1864, and a little later, in 1872, the enterprise merged (with Trolla Brug) to become Trondhjems Mekaniske Værksted (TMV [Trondheim Mechanical Workshop]).
For two decades Trenery was a vital contributor to the development of a high standard of mechanical expertise in Trondheim, which had important ripple effects as the century passed. From 1851 he was the director of Trondhjems Tegneskole [Trondheim school of technical drawing], which taught drafting to workers.
In 1863 John Trenery fell seriously ill and died in August the next year. His grave in old Bakke churchyard is one of the few remaining ones at this church. The inscription on the memorial plaque says it was erected "by grateful workers". While his relationship with the shareholders had been somewhat tension-filled in his later years, this symbolises Trenery's ground-breaking efforts on behalf of industrial workers. In new maps of Trondheim we find Trenery Park, and Trenerys gate [street] logically situated in the new urban shopping and housing environment that has grown out of the old TMV plant area.
Recommended reading: Pål Thonstad Sandvik: Mekanisk industri i en europeisk periferi [Mechanical industry in a European periphery]. Ad Notam Gyldendal, 1994.