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Regional route Saar-Lor-Lux | Germany

For centuries the region along the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg has been deeply influenced by the borders between them. Whereas now the area comprising the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg is effortlessly joined by two hyphens – Saar-Lor-Lux – in former times the borders between the three used to change ... more

Transcending borders …: industrial heritage in the Saar-Lorraine-Luxembourg area

For centuries the region along the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg has been deeply influenced by the borders between them. Whereas now the area comprising the Saar, Lorraine and Luxembourg is effortlessly joined by two hyphens – Saar-Lor-Lux – in former times the borders between the three used to change regularly at the end of wars. Nonetheless without the "Minette" (iron ore with a relatively small proportion of iron) from Lorraine it was impossible to make steel in the Saar because there were no borders underground. Iron ore deposits lay to the southwest of Luxembourg and stretched out in the direction of Nancy. Coal seams spread throughout both the Bavarian and the Prussian parts of the Saar. Later on the development of a global market for raw materials spelt the end of ore and steel in the area. That said, they still share a common industrial history and an omnipresent industrial heritage. Iron ore, coal and steel go together like the Völklinger Hütte world cultural heritage site, the Musée de la Mine in Petite Rosselle and the Industrial and Railway Park in Fond-de-Gras, Luxembourg.

The inhabitants were confronted with the challenge of both natural and political borders. The galleries in the Rischbach mine in St. Ingbert were extended underground to transport coal because the steep overground road made the journey too dangerous and expensive, and it was forbidden to deliver coal to the area across the nearby Prussian border. A steel trough carrying ships up a lift in Saint-Louis/Arzviller replaced a chain of sluices in the Rhine-Marne canal. By contrast salt mining in Marsal came to an abrupt end when a military architect by the name of Vauban transformed the town into a fortress on the orders of Louis XIV in 1699. The Franco-German war of 1870/71 resulted in further shifts in borders: the upshot was that the French village of Meisenthal where a glass merchant named Emil Gallé produced his wares now became a German village. This, however, did not prevent the patriotic Gallé from stamping his vases and bowls with the name "Nancy".

In the industrial age transcending borders made it a duty to produce superlative goods as efficiently as possible. In 1883 the first blast furnace to be erected in the region, the Völklinger Hütte, was simultaneously the largest in the Saar. In 1890 the largest beam rolling mill in the German Empire stood here. After 1945 the Petite Rosselle colliery comprising four shafts was one of the largest heavy industry sites in the whole of France. Although shaft 4 of the old Göttelborn colliery – the "White Giant" –was almost 100 metres high and 1200 metres deep, it was never really exploited to the full. Whilst the turbines on the engines of the fine mechanical workshop in the Fellenberg mill in Merzig continued, as ever, to be driven by hydraulic power.

Just as the underground treasures of nature paid no heed to political borders, so class boundaries dictated the industrial heritage of the Saar-Lor-Lux region. The architecture in and around the workers housing estates reflected the social hierarchy in the "empires" of the mill barons: these ranged from mansion to dormitory house, miner’s dwelling to manager’s villa. Such boundaries permeated right into the everyday life of the workers as can be seen by the way the housing was distributed in the old coal mine in Velsen. There workers and their families were kept apart according to their religious confessions, their family status and rank.

Industrial heritage means transcending past boundaries and other countries. The specific attraction of the museums and cultural venues in the Saar-Lor-Lux region lies in the fact that they can recount the history of coal, iron ore, steel, glass, ceramics and salt and remind visitors of a time long past.


ERIH Anchor Points

The sheer size of the central tip is enough to give you an idea of what was going on here once. Rising into the sky to the north is the stripped face of a sand stone quarry which once supplied filling material for the mined-out seams of coal below. Two gigantic buildings - the washeries for coke and ...

Musée les Mineurs Wendel | La Mine Wendel
F 57540 Petite-Rosselle, France

The Völklinger Hütte (ironworks) in Germany’s Saarland, which was shut down in 1986, can be justifiably described as an industrial dinosaur. It extends over an area of 600,000 square metres and exemplifies the combined power of more than 100 years of iron and steel manufacturing. It was the first ...

World Heritage Site Voelklingen Iron Works
Europäisches Zentrum für Kunst und Industriekultur
Rathausstraße 75
66302 Völklingen, Germany

Rumelange | Luxembourg
Helmets on, enter the mine train and off it goes into the mountain, 580 metres deep. An extensive network of tracks covering main and secondary galleries indicates how busy the iron ore mines of Rumelange must have been back then. Monumental machines illustrate post World War II mining operations ...

National Museum of Iron Ore Mines
Musée National des Mines de Fer Luxembourgeoises
Carreau de la Mine Walert
3714 Rumelange, Luxembourg

Member Sites ERIH Association

Uckange | France
Blast furnace U4 is a rusty fossil. The oldest furnace in the Lorraine coal basin stands alone on an open industrial steppe alongside the 953 main road and the River Fensch. The adjacent furnaces have been demolished one by one. The struggle to keep it in existence lasted 15 years. Since 1935 blast ...

Blast Furnace U4
Parc haut-fourneau U4
1, Jardin des Traces
57270 Uckange, France

Esch-sur-Alzette | Luxembourg
The southern part of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg from the 1860s became one of the principal sources of iron ore in Europe, and because the government dictated that ore could only be mined by companies who smelted it within the Duchy, some large furnace complexes were built in the region. One was ...

Belval Blast Furnaces
Le Fons Belval
6 avenue des Hauts Fourneaux
4362 Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg

Niederkorn | Luxembourg
At first sight the “vallée de la Chiers” looks peaceful, even abandoned. But then an old steam locomotive chugs into sight moving towards a small station. Fond-de-Gras is the name of this hidden-away place. It is situated in the heart of the Luxemburg ore basin. Not so long ago the area was full of ...

Minett Park Fond-de-Gras
2, Fond-de-Gras
4576 Niederkorn, Luxembourg


Competition between the waterways and the railways was always one-sided. From the very start the project for an inclined lift for ships at Saint-Louis-Arzviller was doomed to failure. The Rhein-Marne canal, completed in 1853, ran between Vitry-les-Francois and Strasbourg and linked the Saone, the ...

Saint-Louis-Arzviller canal inclined plane
Association Touristique du Plan Incliné Saint-Louis-Arzviller
Route du Plan Incliné
57820 Arzviller, France

There´s no steel without coke. It was only when coke began to be used in 1769 that "Minette" (iron ore with a relatively small proportion of iron) really began to pay off as a raw material for making iron and steel. In 1881 the ore surmounted another hurdle on its way to partnering iron and steel ...

Iron ore-mine museum of Aumetz
Musee des Mines de Fer d’Aumetz
Rue Saint Léger de Montbrillais
57110 Aumetz, France

Marsal | France
Marsal’s existence is built on salt. The village in Saulnois, (German: Salzgau) on the tiny River Seille was created on top of a pile of broken clay. Around 1000 BC brine from salt ponds was dried in clay pots; the resulting cakes of salt were knocked out of the pots, the remains of which were ...

Marsal Salt Museum
Musée département du Sel
Porte de France
57630 Marsal, France

Since the end of the 15th century there have been more than enough trees and sand in the north of the Vosges to be able to make glass. In 1794 a glassworks was set up, whose later reputation was linked with the name of a man called Emile Gallé. Between 1866 and 1870 he was officially responsible for ...

International Glass Center and Glass Museum
Place Robert Schuman
57960 Meisenthal, France

Lorraine iron ore was the first victim of globalisation long before this became a household word. It was known in the region as “minette” or “small ore” because of its low iron content – about 20-35% less than in "good iron", the so-called "fer fort". The streak of "minette" through the Lorraine ...

Ecomuseum of the Iron Mines of Lorraine
Musée des Mines de Fer de Neufchef
Vallée de Sainte Neige
57700 Neufchef, France

The first written record of the Münzthal glassworks was in 1586. There was enough sand, wood and bracken in the region to make glass. As early as 1781 the glassmakers of Saint-Louis were specialising in lead crystal, the production of which survived both the French and the Industrial Revolution. ...

La Grande Place – The Saint-Louis Museum of Crystal
Rue Coetlosquet
57620 Saint-Louis-lès-Bitche, France

Sarreguemines | France
The French Revolution was followed by the Industrial Revolution: in 1790 three merchants from Strasbourg arrived at Sarreguemines in Lorraine in order to exploit water, fire and earth for their own purposes. Nicolas-Henri and Paul-Augustin Jacobi set up an pottery factory here with Joseph Fabry. But ...

Museums of Sarreguemines
125, avenue de la Blies
57200 Sarreguemines, France

Bexbach | Germany
If you want to go back deep into the past, you should first climb high up in the present. The entrance to the Hindenburg tower (built in 1934) in the Saarland Mining Museum in Bexbach is situated at a height of 40 metres. From here you can get an outstanding view of the “neglected Saar area”, the ...

Saarland Mining Museum
Niederbexbacher Straße
66450 Bexbach, Germany

Düppenweiler | Germany
Coal mining is a dominant feature of the industrial and social history of the Saarland. But in Düppenweiler they used to mine copper. In 1723 a peasant came upon a lump of cupriferous rock whilst ploughing and in 1725 copper mining began. In the 19th century the copper mine passed into the ownership ...

Historical Copper Mine
Piesbacher Straße
66701 Beckingen-Düppenweiler, Germany

Losheim am See | Germany
Everything grinds to a halt if there are no viable roads or railways. The most important factor here is the return on investment. The small gauge railway belonging to the Wadern-Büschfelder Railway Company is a good example of this. It was opened in 1906 and closed down in 1987. Today it is used by ...

Losheim railway and museum
66679 Losheim am See, Germany

Coal is not the only source of power: but also water. Water power is responsible for rotating the transmission belts and driving the engines in the Fellenberg mill in the Saarland. As one of the few remaining fully functional mills in the country Fellenberg bears witness to the transition period ...

Fellenberg mill fine mechanical workshop
Marienstraße 34
66663 Merzig, Germany

Mettlach | Germany
When people talk about "cathedrals of industrial heritage", we sometimes have to take this literally. The huge buildings offered enough space to accommodate factories in the middle of the 18th century. These were the original forms of industrial architecture: a good example is the Benedictine abbey ...

The House of Villeroy & Boch
66693 Mettlach, Germany

Quierschied-Göttelborn | Germany
In Göttelborn nothing is as it seems at first sight. The mining gear and colliers’ housing settlement have changed their roles. The strictly functional, clearly visible pit headgear is an expression of the latest state of technology; yet it has already taken on a museum function. On the other hand ...

Göttelborn Pit and Housing Estate
Zum Schacht
66287 Quierschied-Göttelborn, Germany

Saarbrücken | Germany
The Velsen colliery is a typical Saarland mine. It´s history began in 1899 with the sinking of the Rossel shaft. Coal mining began in 1904. In 1965 the pit was deprived of its independence and no more coal was brought to the surface here. The only shaft remaining at Velsen was the "Gustavschacht" ...

Velsen Visitor Mine
Alte Grube Velsen
66127 Saarbrücken, Germany