Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary


Völklinger Hütte --- Völklingen Steel Mill

March 6-7
Updated March17

Dear Friends and Families,

This is the second part of my Spring Europe trip, an old steel mill and remains of a bridge.

Volklingen Hutte - March 6 and 7
For an engineer and photographer, this place was cool.  I spent a day and a half wandering almost all alone  among the bones of this vintage industrial landmark, taking pictures in continuously changing light and shadows. Despite the thousand pictures I took, I could come back, not for photos perhaps, but for the sense of history that is here. 

The photography made me pay attention to details and to size, but the experience of quietly wandering where men had done the hardest and most dangerous of work was the real success.  I could not help but wonder if there are German or American workers who would take such risks anymore.  Nowadays, most, but not all, of the German steel industry has been outsourced to other countries, in part due to safety and environmental regulation, but also, I suspect, because hard, dirty, dangerous work no longer competes in the employment market.

My pictures came from across the facility, from the banks of narrow ovens where coal was cooked to become coke, through hoppers where iron ore was received and sorted, and under and around huge crushers and grinders that pulverized all the ingredients.  The half-dozen furnaces tower over the facility and are themselves towered over by exhaust gas pipes, massive but somehow elegant in their curves, to an engineer anyway!  I will try to paint a picture of the process with my pictures, but to get the real feel, you need to visit.
Overview  -- the drive, the plan, my walk
Hard to fit in a picture
The movie and this plaque reminded us of difficulty and deaths.  Nearby, industry still at work.
Coal to Coke Ovens - Called "Paradise" for some reason.
Much of the coke area is being invaded by trees
Material transport -- move material from coke area or ore piles.
Some come through gratings, some on tracks
Material was smashed to bits and put into hoppers to load hoppers.
Eventually, every batch ends in these hoppers that go up to top of furnaces.

Air blowers - they put the "blast" in blast furnaces
Pieces, each elegant (in my view!)
Lunchtime and an old lesson in blast air

Other --I just like these too!
Friday morning it was off to Belgium, via an important WWII landmark.  Another story.

Remagen Bridge - March 8

d130308_01_Trip%5BTrack.jpgI left the industrial Saar Valley Friday morning, heading for Brussels, with an intermediate stop in the German town of Remagen.  The town is famous for a railroad bridge that had been built in 1916-1918 as part of the German WWI war effort to ferry troupes to the Western Front, but was not finished in time.  It served only in retreat.  In the Second World War, it again served to transport war material from the German side, but was made famous when, toward the end of the war, Americans unexpectedly seized the bridge, despite unsuccessful attempts by the defenders to destroy it.  This was the first crossing of the Rhine by the Allied troupes.

That first crossing occurred on March 8, 1945, 68 years to the day from my trip.  All that is left are the black stone bridgehead towers on either side of the river.  Inside the western towers is a simple museum, featuring photographs from the WWII era.  There was a balance between the depiction of German civilian suffering due to Allied attempts to bomb the bridge and tales of the American "miracle" that the bridge was captured intact, more or less, and allowed thousands of soldiers to establish themselves East of the natural barrier of the fast-flowing Rhine.

Another quick stop on my travels and worth it for any history buffs.  Pictures, including pictures of pictures, illustrate the visit.

Bridgeheads and Anniversary Memorials
Local towns were frequently bombed, chasing women and children into the surrounding hills.
Note the damage on the bridge pier.  Explosives failed to do their job, reportedly due to Polish POWs who sabotaged the fuses.
After the Allied success, Remagen was made into a Prisoner-of-War camp, with over a quarter-million residents at its peak.  The camp closed four months after it opened.  The war had ended.

That was Germany.  Now, on to Belgium


John and Marianne (in absentia)


Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary