The Role of Korbuly Family in Hungarian Industrial History

From railways to cars, from tractors to airplanes members of the Korbuly family designed all kind of vehicles. Some family members also played crucial roles at big industrial companies. Now the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport launched a virtual exhibition focusing on three generations of the Korbuly family.


From railways to cars, from tractors to airplanes members of the Korbuly family designed all kind of vehicles. Some family members also played crucial roles at big industrial companies. Now the Hungarian Museum of Science, Technology and Transport launched a virtual exhibition focusing on three generations of the Korbuly family.

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Korbuly János’ birth. This prompted the family to contact the Museum and encouraged them to set up an exhibition. This idea was developed into a virtual exhibition, which was launched earlier this week. It will be followed by a “real-life” exhibition next Spring.

The Korbuly name gained international recognition when József Korbuly, a Hungarian railway engineer received an award for his new patented railway bearing at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair, which was used by many railway companies in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and beyond.

József had 10 children. While three died at a young age, there were four boys (Sándor, József jr., Károly and János) and three girls who reached adulthood.

Sándor, József, Károly and János together with Ilona and Mária in 1912

 

Károly Korbuly (1873-1944) graduated from the Royal Joseph Polytechnic University as a mechanical engineer. After a brief tutoring gig, he worked at the Ganz factory, where he met Kálmán Kandó, the father of the electric train. Károly together with his brother, Sándor and József moved to Italy in 1907 when Kandó was comissioned by the Westinghouse Co. to set up a railway factory there.

In 1916 Károly returned to Hungary, where he was personally asked (!) by Manfréd Weiss to become the technical director of the sprawling Weiss Manfréd conglomerate. Károly orchestrated the move to civil production after the first world war. He oversaw the launch of a wide range of products from cars to ovens, from bathtub fixtures to bicycles, airplanes, agricultural products and dozens more. Under his leadership the Weiss Manfréd company thrived. One of his patents for a new method employed in pipe production, was licensed worldwide. In 1944 the German army occupied Hungary. Károly stepped down from his position. Soon his health deteoriated and he died in the Summer of 1944.

János Korbuly (1893-1976) was 20 years younger than Károly. He also graduated as a mechanical engineer. He joined the Weiss Manfréd factory after the first world war. In the mid-1920s he supervised the development of the WM personal car. This was based on an Italian FIAM car and featured a two-stroke engine and Weymann-bodies. Weiss Manfréd cars and trucks were not particularly well-received, so the company stopped production in around 1930 after just a couple hundred units produced.

A Weiss Manfréd car (centre) accompanied by a Steyr (left)
A one-off version with a sporting body
Weiss Manfréd touring car at the 1927 Svábhegy race in Budapest
Viktor Szmick and Emánuel Czaykowski drove a WM car to 2nd place at the 1929 Monte Carlo Rally

Korbuly and his team developed agricultural tractors and military trucks. Their works attracted the attention of Hungarian-born Nicholas Straussler, who comissioned Weiss Manfréd for a series of military vehicle prototypes begininning in 1933. The story of Straussler and Alvis-Straussler armoured cars have been the subject of many articles in English…

The Straussler AP1 oil tanker developed for the Anglo-Persian oil company in 1937. It was a 8×4 truck powered by a 180 hp V8 engine

Based on a Straussler design, Korbuly with Hungarian military engineers developed the 39M Csaba armoured car, the first of its kind in Hungary in 1939. Later he adapted a Skoda tank for Hungarian production.
After the death of Károly in 1944 it was János and László Korbuly, son of Károly who led the Weiss Manfréd factory. But the whole Korbuly family was ejected from the plant in 1946.

János Korbuly went on to work at the Vörös Csillag Traktorgyár (Red Star Tractor Company) in two stints. During his second stay, he developed the Dutra tractors, which earned him a Kossuth award in 1963 together with Emil Rohrer.

Dutra D4KB trucks with János Korbuly (left) and Emil Rohrer (right)

 

More details and over 280 photos are available on the dedicated website of the museum

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