The Völklingen Ironworks represent a modern ironmaking plant from the 19th and 20th centuries.
The 'Völklinger Hütte' was founded in 1873 by Julius Buch. Under the direction of the Röchling family (from 1881 on) it developed into one of the most important iron and steel works in Europe.
During its heydays, 17.000 people worked here. They manned the furnaces, stoves, coke ovens, and sintering machines. The entire process of pig iron production was executed in this 6 ha. large spot.
The iron works were closed in 1986.
Visit September 2005
This Sunday was named 'Open Monuments Day' in Germany, allowing free access to a number of sights. A fair share of visitors found their way to the Ironworks in Völklingen too. This Saarland WHS also attracts international visitors, because it is situated very close to both France and Luxembourg (and not too far from Belgium and The Netherlands). The complex is huge, so allocating crowds isn't a problem.
Although there are guided tours I decided to explore the site on my own. Everything worth seeing has displays in German, French and English, so that's no problem. I can also recommend watching the multimedia presentation right away after you enter the site. It puts the different buildings in their context.
Exploring the iron works involves quite a lot of climbing and peeking around corners. No wonder this site is a favourite with kids. Of course I borrowed a hardhat too and climbed the rows of see through stairs to the viewing platform. Although everything on this complex is huge, it's also interesting to see that all parts of the production process are quite close together. The raw products were moved around in small carts via an ingenious transport system.
One of the most remarkable buildings I found the one pictured to the left: the Water Tower (dating 1918), with room to hold 3 million litres of water from the river Saar. The tower is one of the earliest large concrete buildings in Europe. It's next to the parking lot, so probably the first thing you will see.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I visited this site in May 2012 on the way from Würzburg. The ironworks have gone out of production but they are the only intact example in Western Europe and North America of an integrated ironworks built in the 19th and 20th centuries. The whole visit was quite a short but informative one. I would have never visited this place if it weren't for UNESCO. However, visiting it helped me picture and understand how important such places were in the industrial revolution.
| Date posted: September 2012|
|John Fournelle (USA):|
I visited Volklingen Ironworks in May 2010 and spent at least 2 hours wandering and climbing over the entire works. It was an amazing experience. I had spent 8 years of my younger like working as a welder in the Bethlehem Steel Sparrows Point shipyard, immediately adjacent to the huge Beth Steel furnaces and mills, across a small inlet from the (odoriferous) coke ovens (where we'd steal coke for our warming fire pots during the winter). Knowing what it was to work at Sparrows Point, and then visualizing what it would appear as a quiet(!) ghost town sent shivers down my spine. I only wish I knew German to be able to read the workers' graffiti!! (I know what I left as graffiti at Sparrows Point). I will go back again and take even more time to walk and climb it.
| Date posted: May 2012|
|Toby Sernel (USA):|
After seeing this on the iPhone App, I visited the Volklingen Ironworks today. Signs are in German, French, and English. Not only are the views and history incredible, but the staff and additional accommodations are unbelievable: art studio, childrens museum, 50m viewing stand (you must wear provided hard hats). If you find yourself near Saarbrucken and have a few hours, it's easily worth the 10 Euro entrance fee. I'm going back soon--don't forget a camera!
| Date posted: August 2010|
|andrew voll (united states (us army stationed in germany)):|
The Steel Mill is one of the most awesome works of engineering ive witnessed. The pulley systems were flawless, with very heavy strength cables! Once you think that you have seen all that there is to see you find another place to explore; in some parts you can smell the sulfuric smell that must have strongly lingered through the air, definitely worth a days trip!
| Date posted: May 2008|
|Martha Wiley (USA) ():|
The Volklingen Ironworks are amazing example of a steel mill that was operated for over 100 years. I think you have to be a person who appreciates the built environment, though, to enjoy this site. Even on a sunny day, it is gray, dark, empty and echoing now that the fires are out. You can imagine the thousands of workers here, working before OSHA and environmental safeguards. On the one hand, you can see them working like slaves under inhumane and dangerous conditions, churning out millions of feet of steel products for the industrial monster while the stacks belched out endless tons of cinders and smoke. On the other, you can see men working hard, taking pride in their work and their product, taking home a good wage for the time, and being proud to be part of a larger story of industrialization, improving the national standard of living and helping their country defeat its enemies.
Take the whole walk around the site with the audioguide. Be sure to put on a hardhat and climb up and up to the top levels to get a fantastic view of the valley and of the entire industrial site. It takes about 2 hours to do the whole walk, but you need to see all the parts of the operation in order the understand the full scale of this plant. There are many many steps, few elevators and some safe but dangerous feeling platforms and stairs made of see-through metal mesh.
I would recommend this site to anyone who is a student of industrialization. An architect who requires steel beams to build her designs? An engineer who puts steel into those freeway bridges? Anyone who drives a car with steel parts? You should really see this site to understand what goes into making that steel. It is not like any other WHS I've ever seen.
Have you been to Völklingen Ironworks? Share your experiences!
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