Smoking chimneys and industrial spires towering into the heavens! Not here! The Luisenhütte in Balve-Wocklum looks almost cosy. No steel, no complicated tangles of pipes, no gigantic engine house. Instead there’s an angular half-timbered quarry-stone building set amongst quiet trees, and a nearby mansion which used to belong to the aristocratic family of the manufacturer. Visitors can also view a charcoal burner’s hut complete with demonstration kiln, an old ore gallery and the furnace pond.
The Luisenhütte is the oldest remaining complete blast furnace site in Germany. This was what an industrial plant looked like before the Ruhrgebiet stepped in to create an industrial landscape par excellence. The blast furnace is 10 metres high and three metres wide. Fuel came from the extensive stretches of forest to the west of the Sauerland region. As a rule of thumb, 30 tons of timber would make six tons of charcoal and a ton of smelted iron. This explains the charcoal kiln. Even the furnace pond had its use. It drove the furnace blowing engine via a waterwheel. Visitors to the museum can see for themselves - live - how this worked. An ancient steam engine is also still in operation. It was put into action when there was not enough water in the pond. Once the pig iron was manufactured it was poured into two narrow cupola furnaces to be used for stove tops and cannonballs.
The story of this extraordinary industrial site goes back to the mid 18th century. In 1834 the ironworks were comprehensively modernised for the first time by the then owner, Ignaz von Landsberg. The present equipment consisting of kilns, a foundry, a crane and a steam engine arrived in 1855 after further renovations. But all this was in vain. The technology was hopeless behind the times. In the Ruhrgebiet furnaces had long started using coke whose heating qualities were infinitely superior to that of charcoal. To make matters worse the Lenne Valley railway was built as a direct link between the ore reserves in the Siegerland region and the blast furnaces in the Ruhrgebiet. The Luisenhütte gradually receded into the sidelines, closed down in 1864 and has remained unaltered ever since. Since 1950 it has been open to the general public as an authentic legacy of the early industrial era.
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May to october:
Tuesday - Friday 9.30am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday, public holiday 11am-6pm