Cycling trough Germany, we came across an intriguing sign: Altes Shiffhebewerk (Old Boat Lift). A boat lift? We made the detour to Waltrop, and were surprised by this magnificent giant machine.
I love 19th century industrial buildings. It was an era in which even completely utilitarian buildings like factories were adorned with frilly bits. I especially like the cast-iron structural elements, that stretch into the building like lace. When it comes to cast iron structures, it doesn’t get much better that the Old Henrichenburg Boat Lift in Waltrop.
This magnificent building/machine was built in 1899 to lift entire ships, including the water they floated in, 14 meters into the air. It was in use until 1962, when a new boat lift was built. It is now an industrial museum, and well worth a visit.
The great thing about the museum is that you can get real close to the machine. Seeing it from a distance is nice, but when you get up close, it’s so much more impressive. It’s huge! You can climb the big stone towers of the lift, and be high up in the air on the metal structure, admiring the enormous cogwheels and screws of the machinery, and you can get under it, to see the massive pistons in their water cylinders. Awe inspiring stuff.
In the museum building next to the lift, you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about boat lifts, and the technology behind them.
And while you’re wallowing in water works, go just around the corner of the museum and admire the old shaft lock. You usually only ever see those filled with water, but this one is empty, with a bicycle path trough it. It gives a nice opportunity to appreciate just how big those things really are.
So if you’re into industrial history, or giant iron structures, go and check out the Heinrichenburg Boat Lift if you’re in the neighbourhood!