Ir. D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station World Heritage Site

A celebration of technology – that's at the heart of the Wouda Steam Pumping Station's machine room near the village of Lemmer in Friesland. The four double steam engines, coupled with powerful flywheels driving eight round centrifugal pumps, are all sparkling and gleaming as on their very first day. Bright light pours in through large windows revealing panoramic views of the IJsselmeer. The accurately built brick walls have their base ornamented with a frieze of multicoloured ceramic tiles on which the sets of tools meticulously attached to wooden panels look like an additional decorative element. Polished oil cans made of brass on top of four wooden cupboards evoke fine tea sets displayed on a tray. All of this started operation in 1920 and remained virtually unchanged ever since. That is all the more amazing since this apogee of steam technology is still in action - as support of electrically-driven pumping stations in case of storm and strong waves. Thus, the world's largest steam pumping station has more than earned its reputation as world heritage site. The story how it contributed to keep the polder and the Frisian's feet dry for the last 100 years is told by an innovative visitor centre right next door using all the rules of interactive museum experience.

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Ir. D.F. Wouda Steam Pumping Station World Heritage Site
Ir. D.F. Woudagemaal
Gemaalweg 1
8531 PS Lemmer
+31 (0) 514 - 561814


Incredible four million litres of water per minute pass the sluices of Woudagemaal, the Wouda Steam Pumping Station, being pumped out of Friesland's drainage channels back to the Ijsselmeer. For decades this was a matter of survival for the province in northern Netherlands, lying on average half a metre below sea level. Queen Wilhelmina celebrated the pumping station's inauguration in 1920. In doing so, she honoured a true technological masterpiece setting global standards. Its construction was supervised by the Dutch civil engineer Dirk Frederik Wouda who still lends his name to the historic complex. Basically, it includes the pumping station with boiler house, chimney and a coal storage depot. Four drainage channels, equipped with sluices, drive the water in the direction of the Ijsselmeer. Until 1966 this capacity was sufficient to manage and regulate Friesland's water level unaided. Subsequently the main share of drainage was accomplished by surrounding pumping stations powered by electricity. But whenever heavy storms would press the water of the Ijsselmeer upcountry the boilers of Woudagemaal would be heated again. Those four boilers are the only part of the complex that has occasionally been replaced and was conversed from coal to fuel-oil firing in 1967. Before that the necessary energy was exclusively sourced from coal and – in the aftermath of the Second World War – even from peat.

The steam engines and centrifugal pumps are made by Jaffa in Utrecht and still fulfil their purpose, as do the buildings. The architecture is more than a simple cover anyway. Its expressionist style that is typical for the "Amsterdam School" bestows the monumentality of a palace upon the pumping station. That applies even more to the splendid interior of the engine hall which proudly showcases technology and the belief in progress. The nearby visitor centre vividly illustrates the technical details and portrays the Woudagemaal as important historic component in a large-scale system of dykes, artificial land reclamation and pumping stations.

Recommended duration of visit:2 Hours
Duration of a guided tour:45 Minutes
Access for persons with disabilities:Available
Infrastructure for children:
Visitor centre on site:yes
Gift and book shop on site:yes

Open all year round (except January)
July, August:
Monday - Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm
September to June:
Tuesday - Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 1-5pm

Guided tours through the pumping Station start in the visitors centre.
Free audio tours available in 9 languages (incl. visitors centre).

  • Guided tours only
  • Tours in other languages