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Author Topic: Endane Factory - then and now - posted by the Editor  (Read 20943 times)
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« on: August 09, 2008, 06:15:43 PM »



Below is a recent communication between Terry Mills who designed the drum withering units for the Endane factory in 1955, and Dan Seevaratnam, Exec Deputy Chairman of Kahawatte Plantations, the owners of Endane. Related photo material submitted by Dan can be viewed in the photo Album by typing "Endane factory machinery" in the search box and hitting the submit button.


Dear David
Further to previous communications reg. Endane. I designed the drum withering units in Belfast and in September 1955 went out to Ceylon to supervise installation at Endane. I PG'd with Jeff Williams (SD) until the official opening in February 1956. Some of these photographs are on your web site.

During the next five years I was based at Bandarawela and Talawakelle and made some inspection visits to Endane. Sam Watt was quite pleased with the drum operation, as with the other Sirocco machinery, and never had any complaints regarding tea prices. Although Davidson & Co, Sirocco Engineering Works, are no more, having been bought over by another company, I still meet up with my old Sirocco cronies once a month in Belfast. As I would like to give them some information regarding the drum units my queries are as follows:

1 When were the drum units removed from Endane?
2 What was the reason for the removal of the drums? I suspect this was because of trough withering which was obviously cheaper and less labour intensive.
3 Were the tea market prices at Endane affected by this move? In other words did tea prices rise or fall due to the change over to troughs?
4 What happened to the drums? Were the drums used elsewhere or were they scrapped?
5 Is the other Sirocco tea machinery still in existance and operating at the factory?
6 If so, which engineering company maintains and supplies new parts for them?
Any other information, or photographs, which your friend Dan can provide would be most welcome.
I must thank you for your interest and help in this matter.


Dear Mr. Mills,

Reference your email to Mr. David Colin-Thome, we give below some information which we hope you will find useful.

Q 1,2,3 4 - The drum wither units have not been removed, still available at the original site at Samawatte.

Out of the total 5 units - even now 2 units could be worked if necessary.

In Trough withering systems, better controlled air could be supplied for a longer period. (minimum 8, maximum 16 hrs.). Thereby a more uniform wither could be obtained to undertake an effective rolling.

With long wither hours, cell permeability, leaf becoming pliable, takes place in a gradual and in a scientific manner. Thus, this helps to undertake a better rolling where the leaf does not break up faster.

In drum withering owing to totation with temperature, a faster wither could be obtained. However, the leaf discolouration and breaking up into flakes is higher than in trough withering.
These drum type heavy machines driven by a large motor can also consume more electricity than required.

The trough withering system was preferred by most Managers, due to the reason of obtaining a better end product.

Q 5 Other Sirrocco machines at Samawatte

The two Sirrocco driers are still being made use of. There are also two rollers available in the rolling room. In most of our other factories in Kahawatte and Nawalapitiya, there are about 8 to 10 Sirocco driers still in operation, either as the main drier or as the backup.

Other than for some Sirocco single action rollers, there are three double action rollers in two factories which are still being made use of.

Sirrocco driers and rollers are very solid machines designed to perform and built to last. The end product through the use of these machines are still recommended by the users.

The only concern is that there are better fuel and energy efficient heaters and driers designed which are replacing the old driers as they are found to be more economical.

Q6 Expertise of large Engineering Firms such as Browns, Walkers, CCC have broken up and started their own small enterprise workshops. They are being channelled privately to get repairs done on most machines.

Attached are few photographs taken shortly of these withering units, rollers and driers as it is at Samawatte factory.
Kind regards
Dan Seevaratnam
Executive Deputy Chairman,


Dear Mr Seevaratnam,

Very many thanks for your e-mail which I received to-day 31 August, with photographs of the Sirocco tea machinery.
It is gratifying to know that even after 50 years in operation these Belfast made machines are still functioning well. I was the first person to operate the drums, rollers and driers as I was living on Endane to supervise, install and commission the machines in 1956.

I agree with you that in these modern times power effiiency is an essential requirement and machinery is now manufactured to this end. However, the big problem with these machines is that they do not have a long life span.

Before Davidson & Co. Ltd went out of the tea machinery business they did modernise a lot of machinery for ease of use and power efficiency but still retaining the quality for long usage. Sir Samuel Davidson, the founder, started installing his new design of tea production machines in 1879 and I found one of the very first Sirocco packers upcountry in Sri Lanka when I was there from 1955-1960.

The photographs show that the drums and tea driers have had some considerable sevice but the rollers appear to be in very good condition.

I visited the only tea estate in Mauritius and found Sirocco machinery there but the teas they produced were all flavoured, vanilla, peppermint etc, and certainly not to my taste. I still prefer Ceylon tea.

I meet up with approximately 20 of my old Sirocco colleagues once a month for lunch in Belfast and I will be showing them the pictures of the Sirocco machinery which you kindly supplied. They will be very interested indeed.

I was last in Sri Lanka in 1997/8 and spent some time in the Bandarawela and Nuwara Eliya district seeing some of the factories. I was very pleased to meet the Manager of Haputale factory who remembered me from my days in Ceylon. I have vowed to return once more before 'the clock stops ticking'.
Again please accept my sincere thanks for taking the time forward me the photographs and to reply to my queries and also to David Colin-Thome for his efforts too.

Yours most sincerely
Terry Mills
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