Surely you're asking yourselves where I am. I traveled to Maulinia, and currently I'm in a small Maulinian town, Varennes. It's a small and pleasing place where country and factories merge together in harmony. But Varennes isn't also known for being a pleasant place where you can rest for some days.
Once, Varennes was known for having an important place in the Audio/Video industry, since it was the hometown of Arieltron, a once-famous company that made high quality TV sets, radios, record players and Hi-Fi systems.
Things were going good for Arieltron, mostly because of the high quality of their products, that were semi-handmade. But this production technique revealed to be harmful later.
Each product made by Arieltron was refined and technologically advanced, but it was also very expensive. And due to the small size of the plant, the production never managed to boost up during its 50 years of life, resulting in slow production times and long waiting lists for customers, that always closed an eye because they were going to receive an high quality product.
Although these issues, the company managed to survive and gained a good reputation both inside and outside Maulinia. But in the '60s, things began to change. Many new brands were coming in Maulinia, such as Trottco, Freedom Radioelectronics, Elektrojunos, and they offered less innovative products but with a lower price than the ones made by the small varensian company, so, the incomes plummeted and Arieltron began to struggle on the market. The workers and the management asked to the chairman, Philippe Vellarmè, to expand the Varennes plant or build a new one in order to increase the production and to adopt a mass-production technique, but Vellarmè always refused, saying that "they would face the foreign competitors with their traditional mix of quality and craftsmanship".
But Vellarmè's decision proved to be harmful rather than helpful in order to keep the incomes constant... And after some years of strikes and disputes between Vellarmè and trade unions, the company declared bankruptcy in 1972, after it was found out that Arieltron had a debt of thousands and thousands sanfleurs towards banks. In order to pay the debt, the main machinery was sold and the plant was sold to the Bank of Maulinia, that later sold it to the town. Nowadays, the Arieltron plant still lays there, rotting and crumbling, and it's completely abandoned, left to its fate, becoming an attraction for urban explorers and vandals. Scenario of eight suicide cases and scheduled for demolition three times, (but all the companies that were going to demolish the plant went bankrupt), the Arieltron ruins surely have a fascinating and creepy atmosphere.
Here we are. Rue De Montalbaine, 23. These are the ruins of the Arieltron plant. The ironic thing is that next to the abandoned plant, there's a public park that was closed and abandoned in the early '90s. It has been renovated only in 2003, after a large sum of money was donated to the local administration by the former Arieltron employees.
The plant was organized in three buildings. The biggest one on the right is the main factory, the one on the left is the power plant, and the other building behind the power plant was the office.
The overall buildings are old and crumbling, so we must look carefully where we put our feet. The main gates are closed, but I managed to find my way in by climbing the fence. It wasn't so high after all.
And here we are. This was the main entrance of the factory. The project of the building followed a quite rationalistic philosophy, the architect wanted to give to the building as much light as possible, thanks to the massive adoption of large windows and doors with glasses.
We've got many things to explore. Let's begin with the main plant. During its heyday, in the courtyard of the factory there used to be the cars of the management and the vans of the company.
The buildings date back to the '20s, since they were built in 1921. Arieltron started as a headphones and phonographs manufacturer, and its products gained immediately a reputation of outstanding quality and technological innovations.
The walls are getting weaker, the paint is peeling off the walls that are slowly collapsing. We can see the interior of the main factory, where there were the production lines, through this large gaping hole in the wall.
Gosh! The doors of the plant aren't locked, but it has been quite hard to open them in order to get inside. It seems that they were stuck! But luckily, I managed to open the door and step into the plant ruins. Now this area is empty and littered by trash and other foul things, but once there was the machinery required to the production of TVs, Radios and Hi-Fi systems. There were four or five production lines in this plant, and 212 workers were employed here.
Between the trash that litters the floor of the production plant, there are the leaflets that were distributed among the workers, in order to announce the definitive closure of the plant.
"Varennes, 16th of November, 1972 - Announcement to the workers of the Arieltron plant:
Due to serious financial issues that prevent the company to work regularly, this morning, the management, at the local town hall, declared bankruptcy for Arieltron S.A. The ownership of the plant will be transferred to the Bank of Maulinia in a month. Starting from tomorrow, all the activities are officially stopped and the workers are going to receive an early wage as the activity of the Varennes plant will no longer be resumed.
Those leaflets described a tragic moment in a few words, since during a morning, the workers of this plant found out that they were going to lose their job because the company went bankrupt the same morning... That's a sad happening that changed the life of this town forever, since Varennes managed to grow economically thanks to the contribution of Arieltron.
This is what remains of the production lines: the switchboard. Usually the machinery was never turned off in order to not decrease productivity. I must say that the switchboard is still in good conditions. I wonder if the factory has still power, like in Erzsebetburg.
This thing looks like if it came out from a sci-fi movie. It was just a cable car that was used by the workers in order to access to part of some machines that weren't reachable from the ground. The cable is quite rusty, I think that if not sooner, or later, the car will fall on the floor.
A rusty fire extinguisher. Although the building has been vandalized many times, it's surprising to see that little boys didn't play with fire extinguishers, that are still left as they were, like 40 years ago. But let's see what we can explore of the ground floor.
I tried to enter into the workers' locker room, but the doors were firmly locked, and I haven't been able to open them. Luckily, the doors of the toilets weren't locked, so I managed to sneak in.
Ugh! There's a foul stench of mold here! It's one of the most decayed rooms of the ground floor. Because of water infiltrations and humidity, the toilets turned into a sort of swamp. Neon lights are slowly rusting as nature is slowly claiming the factory.
I couldn't stay into that toilet for a long time, the stench was too much excessive! I went back to the production lines, looking at what remains of the machinery's control panels.
Let's go upstairs now. The production plant had officially two floors, but there was an intermediate floor between the ground one and the second floor, where there was also the office of the chief of security. It seems that the office hasn't be touched a lot by vandals.
This rusty fan is a silent witness of all the strikes and the battles done by the workers and the management against Vellarmè's idiotic decision to not expand the plant in order to compete with foreign companies. A silent witness of many battles that left only a pile of dust in the history of this town. And it's exactly what remains today of this once-famous company: nothing more than dust. Hmm, I'm being such a poet today!
A better closeup of the cable car. I must say it gives me the creeps. Don't know why.
I made my way into the chief of security's office. It has a quite claustrophobic atmosphere, despite there are large windows. On the floor there's still his clipboard showing all the things he was going to do in order to avoid any accident to workers.
The office is quite small, it's just a rectangular room with large windows that allowed the chief of security to see what was happening on the production lines. It seems it was a man who liked to read during his spare time... Hmmm, in fact he liked thrillers. Interesting!
Ahhh, the good old rotary telephone. It's an icon of old abandoned buildings! I don't see them since so many years, except for abandoned places! Meh, those telephones are memories of my childhood. It's in quite good conditions I must say. I grabbed the receiver in order to hear if the telephone line still works, but there's not any dial tone. Seems the plant hasn't power anymore, although some previous explorers said that until three years ago, both telephone lines and lights were still working here.
Now that's what I call an interesting find! That's one of the last TVs made by Arieltron. This one, was the Arieltron TPT 150, the first "portable" TV ever. A truly groundbreaking product when it debuted on the market, in 1969. Although its weight was 2 Kgs and it was a bit smaller than a suitcase, it led the way to the miniaturization process of electronic products of the mid '70s, reaching the peak in the '80s. I wonder if it still works! But I must contain my excitement, urban explorers don't steal things, but they simply photograph them!
The toilets of the second floor are less decayed than the ones of the ground floor. Those rusty mirrors look like they came out from an horror movie.
A little peek from the dusty window, there's a nice view of the other main places of Varennes. It's strange to see a factory like this one in the middle of the town, between a public park and some restaurants. I talked with the locals, they still have a lot of respect towards these ruins, and I met some of them who used to work there. They told me that the closure of the factory was a tragic moment for them.
Let's go upstairs. The third floor used to contain the R&D area and the office of the chief engineer and the designer. I hope those stairs are solid enough...
Decay is going faster and faster as years pass, and the building is slowly collapsing. The walls are humid and moldy, part of walls already collapsed, such as this one.
Here we are. Trash is everywhere and water drips from the roof, making a constant "plick, plock" sound. Wind is blowing from the old curtains, and the doors creak because of the wind. Shivers go down my spine. It's a creepy atmosphere.
This is what remains of the Research and Development Lab. The room is overgrown as nature is claiming this place back. During its heyday, this room was forbidden to whoever wasn't part of the R&D staff. Here the prototypes of the new TV sets, radios and Hi-Fi systems were developed.
One of the last radios made by Arieltron.
I leave the R&D room, and I climb on the roof. Geez, being on the top of a ruin is very satisfying. Feeling the fresh hair on your skin, looking at the town in this position, makes you feel like a king. It's surely one of the most suggestive places to take photos. I feel like a free spirit being here.
Going back to the designers' office, well, there's not much. Just another old rotary telephone, and an extremely rotten neon light. Drawing boards are missing.
I left the factory and now I'm in the courtyard again. As I said before, after the plant was abandoned, it was used literally as a scrap yard, and every kind of trash has been dumped here, contributing to the decay of the place.
This time the door hasn't been too difficult to open. I'm in the ground floor of the office building. Here it used to be the reception. People who wanted to talk to the management were going to sit on that bench and wait until it was possible to talk to them.
The room is overgrown with plants that are popping out from the rotten floor. Behind this bar there was the secretary. On the dusty bar there still are some original letterhead papers . It seems that when it was abandoned, the engineers were still repairing a TV set and two phonograph turntables. They were the last things that left the Arieltron factory in 1972.
A short look at the toilets of the office. The door was locked so I couldn't get in. The roof is collapsed and the stalls are unaccessible. Let's go upstairs.
Holy cow! This room is so overgrown! Humidity played a significant part in the decaying of this area. Once there were the offices of the chairman and the small conference room. As we can see, little -or nothing- remains of the conference room. Even the wall where once there was the door collapsed.
What remains of the conference room. Once there was a long table surrounded by chairs. Here the management did the last reunion, in order to declare bankruptcy, in 1972.
Love that neon light! It's so terribly '60ish! I want one!
Aww! Another old Arieltron TV set, the 191 "Small Office Television". Once these things were the state-of-art on the market. Just like what the advertising said, "With Arieltron you won't be disappointed"!
After I leave what remains of the conference room, I step into the most important room of the building: the chairman's office. Here's where Philippe Vellarmè used to work. All his possessions are still there... The overall room gives me a weird mix of feelings. I feel like I'm unwanted here. It seems that someone wants to kick me out from this room. It makes me feel very uncomfortable.
I left Vellarmè's office, and I reached the attic. I'm surprised to see that it's a quite empty, there wasn't a lot of stuff there, with the exception of some crates and trash here and there.
An old and rusty vacuum cleaner. Nothing exceptional.
This is an interesting find instead. An old Arieltron TV set of the early '60s, probably the UTEM-500. Not sure though. I wonder what's the reason for being stored here. Perhaps it was broken? Or it was a prototype?
Old electric stuff. It looks like it came out from a sci-fi movie of the '70s.
I know, being on the rusty balcony of the office building is a bit risky, but couldn't resist to shoot the panorama, especially from this angle. I wanted to emphasize the decay of the place by putting everything into a single picture: the rust, the plants and the trash. Now it's better to go downstairs. There's the last building to explore.
It's that one. The smallest building of the Arieltron ruins: the old powerplant. Here there was the main power supply and all the machinery required for making the factory work.
The sign warn us menaciously. There wasn't only the electrical power supply in this building, but there were also the gas tanks full with propane...
I walked into the power plant. A smell of mold is flowing into my nose, as I go upstairs. The iron structure where there's the power supply and the gas tanks is rusty and creaking. I need to watch out my steps.
I walked up the rusty stairs carefully, and I've reached the power supply. The rusty switchboards are waiting for someone who'll come back and turn them on. But it's something that will never happen. I can feel the overall decay of this place by looking even at the smallest things. The gas tanks are rusty and covered with dust, although radiators have been removed since many years. I peeked through the window, and looking the at the plant, I tried to imagine the despair of the workers' families when they realized that they lost the job that gave them a slice of bread everyday. I feel sorry for the workers, and for Vellarmè too, that believed in his stupid ideas: he committed suicide when he was arrested for false accounting, since he tried to hide the heavy debts that his company had towards the banks.
After I took the photos of the power plant, I thought that there's nothing more to explore. I leave the plant by sneaking out and I step in my car silently. Waiting to choose the best photos that I shoot in the ruins. Meanwhile, I managed to find a photo of the Arieltron plant back in its heyday:
“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
But stupidity not.”
Friederich von Erckhardt - West Sarbodian philosopher