The History of Völklingen Ironworks


Julius Buch, an iron and steel engineer, builds an ironworks near Völklingen. Six years later however, the works are closed. The high rates make the import of pig iron more expensive.


The Saarbrücken businessman Carl Röchling buys the closed works in Völklingen. He prefers the production of pig iron. In 1883 the first blast furnace goes into operation.


The improvement of the infrastructure implemented by Carl Röchling brings success to Völklinger Hütte.  The Röchling Brothers Völklinger Ironworks in Völklingen becomes the biggest steel girder producer in the German Empire.


Carl Röchling introduces the Thomas process at the Völklinger Hütte relatively late. Minette from Lothringen can now be mass smelted in Völklingen.


The first coke oven battery is erected directly adjacent to the blast furnace in Völklingen. The Röchling family has considerable experience in the coking of coal having operated one of the largest coking plants, in the Saarland industrial region at Sulzbachtal.
The coal silo, made of sheet steel, which rises up above the coking-plant, dates from the same year and is one of the oldest constructions still preserved at the Völklingen Ironworks.


Two years earlier experiments concerning the use of blast furnace gas for the driving of power engines were successfully executed.  The experiments show blast furnace gas to be necessary for propelling internal combustion engines. The Röchling brothers immediately recognise the significance of the gas engine for the development of the iron and steel industry. They therefore erect a blast engine building some distance away from the blast furnaces.


The inclined ore lift is built in Völklingen. Production of by-products of iron and steel manufacture is pushed ahead. The company product range now also includes Thomas slag as a fertiliser, ammoniac, benzene and various tar products. The processing of waste materials from the coking plant proves to be an important source, in particular the so-called coal by-product operations, which emerge as an important source of income for the Völklinger Works.


At the outbreak of the First World War production initially came to a standstill. Later, Völklingen also proceeded making armaments: shells for the front and almost 90% of the raw steel required for the new German steel helmet, which went into general issue from 1916.  Ironworkers, however, were drafted into military service; their place in the ironworks was taken by women and – illegally – by prisoners of war. During the war the Völklingen works underwent further construction: a Siemens-Martin steelworks was built for the production of armaments.


The burden shed is built in 1913 and like the water tower, is one of the first constructions of this size made from reinforced concrete.


The Water tower is erected in 1917-1918 and is one of the first manifestations of a new industrial architectural form.


Sintering technology offers the opportunity to recycle waste products from the smelting processes - i.e. ore dust, blast furnace flue dust. One of the most modern sintering plants in Europe is built in Völklingen - and one of the biggest at that time. Materials with a grain size that is too fine for use in the blast furnaces at 1300°C are heated to form a sinter cake in the sinter plant and then broken into the correct size pieces.


During the Second World War a total of almost 70,000 foreign workers and prisoners of war worked in the mines, foundries and factories of the Saar region. At the Völklingen Ironworks and its auxiliary operations more than 12,000 foreign people of various nations were put to work for the ironworks. The great majority were forced labour, French, Italian and Russian prisoners of war or Russian and Ukrainian civilians deported from the Soviet Union. The working conditions were discriminatory and inhuman. More than 250 of the foreign work force, most of whom were forced labourers (male and female), died there.
At the end of the war the ironworks goes back into operation under French management.


More than 17,000 people work at the Völklinger Hütte. The highest number of employees in the history of the works is reached.


The Völklingen Ironworks is affected by the worldwide steel crisis. In 1982 the iron and steelworks in Völklingen and Burbach were amalgamated to become ARBED-Saarstahl.


A new steelworks goes into operation in the vicinity of the Völklingen Ironworks. Using the basic oxygen process, the pig iron from the blast furnaces is further processed into steel.


The Völklinger Hütte blast furnaces are shut down. The Saarland Council of Ministers agrees to preserve significant parts of the closed works as historical monuments.


A new phase begins in the history of the ironworks when the Völklinger Hütte is granted a place as the first industrial monument on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site List. It is the only surviving ironworks in the world from the heyday of iron and steel production and a unique testimony to an industrial epoch of the past.


The Saarland establishes the new carrier organisation the World Cultural Heritage Site, European Centre for Art and Industrial Heritage.


For the first time, more than 104,000 people visit the Völklinger Hütte World Cultural Heritage Site.


The Science Center “Ferrodrom® - adventure world of iron “ opens in the burden hall.  The 10-year anniversary of the Völklinger ironworks as a UNESCO-World Cultural Heritage Site is celebrated.  202,057 people visit the Völklingen Ironworks.


193,073 people visit the exhibition 'IncaGold - 3000 years of advanced civilisation - masterpieces from Peru's Larco Museum'.


The visitor walkway network is extended from two to three kilometres, much of which is covered over.  A new introductory multimedia show; the ore shed; the world of adventure for children; a new picnic area; and 'Lily Luna the fantastic world of iron things' are opened at Völklingen.


Luxembourg and its Greater Region is granted status as the Cultural Capital of Europe 2007, with Völklingen Ironworks standing out as one of its main attractions.  The Science Center Ferrodrome® is extended to include over 100 hands-on exhibits both indoors and out.


In 2008 one of the most modern solar panel constructions at an industrial World Cultural Heritage Site was developed on the roof of the blower hall. Beneath the coal track, the new wind power machine presents at the push of a button a thrilling effect of the force of the tamed wind. The wind power machine completes the experience of the elements earth, wind, fire and water in the ScienceCenter Ferrodrom®.
The sound installation by the artist Stephan Matthieu, which can be experienced in front of the blower machine 9 & 10 in the blower hall, demonstrates impressively how it may be sounded like in the liquid pig iron production of Völklingen Ironworks before shut down.


In that year the Völklinger Hütte celebrates 15th anniversary as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. In December 1994 the Völklinger Hütte is included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site List in the Thai city Phuket. Also in 2009, the carrier organisation the World Cultural Heritage Site, European Centre for Art and Industrial Heritage under the direction of General Director Dr. Meinrad Maria Grewenig celebrates 10th anniversary.


Rehabilitation of the parking area for visitors and of the sintering plant.
More than 2,5 million persons visited the World Cultural Heritage Site Völklinger Hütte and its exhibitions since 2000.

Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte
Völklinger Hütte

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