spinner
+
Shrink map
Only Anchor Points.

European Themeroute | Application of Power

From the Middle Ages until the late 19th century water and wind supplied the driving power for a huge variety of engines. Windmills dominated the flat lands of northwest Europe. In the 18th century around a thousand mills were standing alongside the banks of the River Zaan, near the trading centre of ... more

Icon: Application of PowerWhat drives us forward. European Theme Route Energy

From the Middle Ages until the late 19th century water and wind supplied the driving power for a huge variety of engines. Windmills dominated the flat lands of northwest Europe. In the 18th century around a thousand mills were standing alongside the banks of the River Zaan, near the trading centre of Amsterdam. They were used to process timber, flour and paper, and not least raw materials from abroad like tobacco and cocoa. For this reason the region around Zaandam is widely recognized as being one of Europe's earliest industrial areas. Around the middle of the 18th century people a small wind wheel began to be added to the mills: this enabled the blades to turn automatically in the direction of the wind. At the end of the century an English engineer invented a mechanism to enable the windmills to adapt to different wind strengths. He divided the blades into shutter-like segments which could be opened or closed as necessary.

There were more than 500,000 waterwheels in Europe at the time. They were used to drive all sorts of machinery ranging from paper mills, oil mills and sawmills to forging hammers. Later on, huge high-power wheels - some made of iron – supplied power to large textile factories and ironworks. Where water was scarce, horizontal waterwheels proved their worth – and these led to decisive innovations. In 1833 a French engineer by the name of Benoit Fourneyron invented the water turbine. This was more efficient because it channelled the water to flow alongside the axis without coming up against one vane after another as in waterwheels, but several at the same time.

Improvements primarily came from the agricultural areas of the USA which were rich in water. The Francis turbine, named after its inventor, was created in the textile centre of Lowell: it had movable vanes which enabled it to react better to the changing amounts of water. Finally an American by the name of Lester Pelton achieved a very high rate of revolutions by directing the concentrated power of a jet of water on to the turbine vanes. Nowadays his turbine is primarily used in mountain power stations where it is possible to exploit high waterfalls to the full.

It was only after 1870 that steam power began to replace water power. This major invention has a long prehistory: the first working model of a steam engine, built by Thomas Newcomen in 1712, was put into action to pump off pit water in a coalmine near Wolverhampton. Newcomen blew hot steam from below into a cylinder, thereby driving a piston upwards. He then sprayed cold water into the cylinder and the condensed steam produced a vacuum. The upshot was that the piston was then driven back downwards by pressure from the air outside.

Since the cylinder was being alternately heated by steam and cooled by water, a lot of energy was lost in the process and the engines needed a great deal of fuel. This is where improvements began. In 1769 James Watt made history by separating the condensing chamber from the cylinder. In this way he could keep the cylinder constantly hot and the condensing chamber constantly cool, thereby saving fuel. Next, with the aid of transmission he replaced the up-and-down movement by a rotation. Nonetheless the steam engine was still unable to compete with the continual rotation of large waterwheels. Watt rebuilt them in such a way as to enable the steam to drive the piston in both directions. He not only blew steam into the cylinder from below in order to drive the piston upwards, but also from above in order to drive it back down again. This resulted in a considerably smoother movement.

Starting in 1785 the Boulton & Watt factory began to deliver 'double-acting' steam engines. These proved to be the first really competitive universal engines, because they could be used on all sites independent of water or wind. For this reason the steam engine is regarded as the mother of industrial cities, which now began to shoot out of the ground. Steam power began its triumphal march in the booming textile industry, before moving over to coal mines and steelworks.

The next fundamental improvement took place around a hundred years later, once more in Great Britain, when Charles Parsons succeeded in directing the steam onto the vanes of a rotor so that the power could immediately be converted into a very quick rotary movement. The 1884 steam turbine is still regarded as the ideal method of producing electricity. Only in mountainous regions are water turbines more efficient.

Only in the 1880s did steam begin to be replaced by electrical power, even though the basic knowledge went back to the first half of the century. At that time the Englishman Michael Faraday discovered that you could create electricity in a wire-wound coil if it was rotated between the poles of a powerful magnet. This was the underlying principle behind the generator, known at the time as a dynamo, which could convert mechanical power into electrical power. The discovery only became economically viable after several experimenters realised that it was possible to maintain the magnetic field solely with the help of the electricity produced, without the need for any additional external source of electricity.

Following the so-called dynamo-electric principle, companies like Siemens & Halske in Berlin and the Belgian Théophile Gramme company in France began to build dynamo engines to drive things like arc lamps, which were able to produce a very bright light when placed between two carbon electrodes. It was only with the invention of the light bulb by Thomas Edison that a greater demand for electrical power set in.

The American discovered that carbonised bamboo filaments enclosed in glass did not catch fire but radiated on a continual basis. Carbonised filaments were later replaced by tungsten filaments. Edison, who was more a manager than an inventor, always had his eye on the market. He not only produced light bulbs but also planned power stations and grids. In 1882 he opened a central electricity work in New York. Companies in European countries were quick to follow: in Germany for example, the German Edison company (Deutsche Edison-Gesellschaft or DEG), which later became AEG.

Edison’s greatest competitor was gaslight because every industrial country already possessed a gas-supply network. Gas was produced by coal and first used for lighting purposes before being used for domestic heating and cooking. Although electric light became the major source of illumination in private households, gasworks remained an indispensable part of practically every local authority for around 100 years.

Around the turn of the 20th century, industry finally began to abandon steam power in favour of electricity: the triumphal march of electricity had finally begun. Since electricity was mainly produced by means of steam turbines, coal remained the most important source of power until the rise of the oil industry.

Even before the middle of the 19th century people from regions as far apart as Galicia and Baku, Alsace and Sicily where producing petrol from oil sources in order to fuel lamps. In 1840 a refinery was opened in Romania, and another in 1859 in Poland. There was a particularly large demand for petroleum in the west of the USA, where there were no gas supplies for the new settlers. The oil industry expanded rapidly - in Europe too – after Edward Drake successfully drilled for oil in Pennsylvania in 1859. Petroleum continued to be used for lighting purposes and the invention of the combustion engine towards the end of the century opened up new areas of use for the residual ingredients of crude oil: petrol and diesel.

Berlin | Germany
Lifeworld Ship”, “From Ballooning to the Berlin Airlift”, “Trains, Locomotives and People”: any technological developments that Berlin witnessed during the past 120 years are showcased in the capital's Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology). Greeting travellers from a distance there ...
more

German Technical Museum
Trebbiner Strasse 9
10963 Berlin, Germany

The red bricks of the 100 year old briquette factory can already be seen from a distance. Today, it is at the heart of the Museum Energy Factory Knappenrode und at the same time its most fascinating exhibit. The time of the shout down in 1993 seems to have been uniquely preserved. Hammer mills, disk ...
more

Saxon Museum of Industry | Energy Factory Knappenrode
Ernst-Thälmann-Straße 8
02977 Hoyerswerda, Germany

Oberhausen | Germany
Between 1988 and 1992 the citizens of Oberhausen were involved in a passionate dispute. The bone of contention was a gasometer belonging to the disused Good Hope steel mill. Bulldozers had been ordered onto the site to demolish it and then sent back again. Some people considered it to be a filthy ...
more

Gasometer
Arenastraße 11
46047 Oberhausen, Germany

They represented the acme of European technology prior to the Industrial Revolution: the Bologna-type silk-throwing machines. Not a single of them has survived, but a half-size reconstruction in the Museum of Industrial Heritage keeps them impressingly alive. Coupled with other functional models ...
more

Museum of Industrial Heritage
Museo del Patrimonio Industriale
Fornace Galotti Via della Beverara 123
40131 Bologna, Italy

How does a drop of water transform into electric power? The high halls of Cedegolo's historical Museum of Hydroelectric Power, bathed in light, offer answers that affect all senses. The experience starts with the sphere's room: A double video projection on opposing semispheres follows a drop's ...
more

Museum of Hydroelectric Energy
Museo dell'energia idroelettrica
Via Roma 48
25051 Cedegolo, Italy

Malnisio di Montereale Valcellina | Italy
Without the water pipes climbing the steep slopes in the background this monumental wing-shaped building in the village of Malnisio could well be taken for a palace. In fact, it's a palace of hydroelectric power: for more than 80 years its powerful machines transformed the current of northern ...
more

Power Plant Museum & Science Centre
Museo della Centrale & Immaginario Scientifico
Via Volta 27
33086 Malnisio di Montereale Valcellina, Italy

Medemblik | Netherlands
This place in the north of Holland is a twin milestone in Dutch industrial history. On the one hand it displays a huge number of original steam engines used in shipping and industry, most of which have been preserved thanks to the farsightedness of a private collector named Cees P. Jongert. On the ...
more

Netherlands Steam Machine Museum
Nederlands Stoommachinemuseum
Oosterdijk 4
1671 HJ Medemblik, Netherlands

Zaandam | Netherlands
Creaking windmills, little wooden houses with green facades, hump-backed bridges, brand-new clogs, row and rows of cheese blocks. And water wherever you look. Zaanse Schans could come straight out of a picture book of Holland in the 17th and 18th century. Time seems to have stopped still here. The ...
more

Zaanse Schans
De Zaanse Schans
Schansend 1
1509 AW Zaandam, Netherlands

Seldom are nature and technology located so unexpectedly near to one another. A waterfall thunders into the depths right next to the old hydroelectric power station built in 1911, with which the Norsk Hydro company catapulted the rural parish of Rjukan into the industrial era. There is nothing to ...
more

Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum World Heritage Site
Norsk Industriarbeidermuseum
Vemork
3661 Rjukan, Norway

According to the Norwegian writer, Frode Grytten, who comes from the area: “The valley seems to have been created by a gigantic blow with a sledgehammer”. As early as the 19th century waterfalls, glaciers and dramatic mountain landscapes attracted countless tourists to the region around Odda and ...
more

Norwegian Museum of Hydro Power and Industry
Norsk Vasskraft- og Industristadmuseum
Naustbakken 7
5770 Tyssedal, Norway

The most eye-catching feature of the Vapor Aymerich, Amat i Jover in Terrassa near Barcelona is doubtless its unique roof. It consists of row upon row of 161 shell-shaped half arches, each with gently curving windows like stylised crests of waves. At first sight the building, designed by the Catalan ...
more

Catalonian Museum of Science and Industry
Museu nacional de la Ciéncia i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (mNACTEC)
Rambla d’Ègara 270
08221 Terrassa, Spain

Istanbul | Turkey
Broad daylight pours in through large-scale arched windows, illuminating a hall that proudly presents itself as a cathedral of technology. The control desks appear to be altars, some of them as large as cupboards, others arranged in a semi-circle as if imitating a sacred choir. From here the eyes ...
more

santralistanbul Energy Museum
Eski Silahtarağa Elektrik Santrali
Kazım Karabekir Cad. No: 2 Eyüp
34060 Istanbul, Turkey

London | United Kingdom
This steam engine is so huge that you can walk under its beams standing upright – whilst it’s puffing away and rising and sinking. Originally it was used to pump water in west London. Now it is the pride of the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, along with eight other powerful steam engines. Six of them are ...
more

London Museum of Water & Steam
Green Dragon Lane Brentford
TW8 0EN London, United Kingdom

Sheffield | United Kingdom
Knives, saws, scythes, files, razor blades, cutlery. No doubt about it, Sheffield is the English equivalent of Solingen. What began with small workshops in the 16th century quickly developed into the brand mark of an up-and-coming industrial city. Later Sheffield was to pioneer modern steel ...
more

Kelham Island Museum
Alma Street
S3 8RY Sheffield, United Kingdom

Berlin | Germany
How does electricity get into the socket? The Energy Museum in Berlin does not only vividly illustrate how electricity is generated and distributed, but it also traces the development of communication technology and home appliances. Several exhibits are shown in action. Whoever, for instance, kept ...
more

Energy Museum
Teltowkanalstraße 9
12247 Berlin, Germany

Eingebettet zwischen Gewerbebauten und Hauptverkehrsstraße gleicht der Landschaftspark Herzberge einer Oase der Entschleunigung im Großstadtgetriebe. Mittendrin das Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts aus Backstein errichtete Gebäude-Ensemble des Evangelischen Krankenhauses Königin Elisabeth Herzberge. Das ...
more

Herzberge Boiler House Museum
Herzbergstraße 79
10365 Berlin, Germany

Berlin | Germany
The industrial district Schöneweide is closely linked to Emil Rathenau. In 1896 he purchased an area of 92,000 square meters next to the river Spree to establish the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG). Thus, he laid the foundations of one of the major industrial sites of his time. One year ...
more

Industriesalon Schöneweide
Besucherzentrum für Industriekultur
Reinbeckstraße 9
12459 Berlin, Germany

Wietze | Germany
Petroleum has been extracted around the small town of Wietze on the edge of the Lüneburg Heide, 12 km west of Celle, since the 16th century when it was used as a lubricant and for medicinal purposes. In 1858-59 the geologist Konrad Hunæus drilled the first oil well in the area, and about 2000 wells ...
more

German Petroleum Museum
Schwarzer Weg 7-9
29323 Wietze, Germany

Athens | Greece
The Industrial Gas Museum operates in the premises of Athens gasworks. When entering the museum, the visitor can get general information on industrial history and industrial heritage. Inside the museum the history of Athens gasworks along with other gasworks in Greece and in Europe is being ...
more

Industrial Gas Museum
Gazi Pireos 100
11854 Athens, Greece

Dimitsana | Greece
Dimitsana is a village some 30 km north-west of Tripolis in the Central Peloponnese. The museum is close to a celebrated beauty spot called Kefalari-tou Al-Yanni. All the restored industrial buildings on the 10 ha site depended on water power. A corn mill has working equipment powered by a ...
more

Open-air water-power museum
Kefalari Ai-Yannis
220 07 Dimitsana, Greece