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 boiler coal – impose themselves upon the eye. Running alongside and in between the buildings and vanishing into nowhere beneath the overgrowth are rows and rows of railway lines. The huge dimensions of the site, the density and the extent of the railway network, the mountainous tips, the sum total of four pithead towers with their shaft and engine houses and warehouses and workshops can only mean one thing; heavy industry. This site, the Wendel-Vuillemin coal pit, is now under a preservation order. For 120 years it was one of the main arteries of the Lorraine coal basin. Now a museum erected in the neighbourhood has turned its attention to the past to give visitors a vivid impression of how the colliery changed the lives of the local people and their landscape. From time to time trains even chug over the site – thanks to a reactivated engine shed.
The extensive area of forest either side of the border between the Saarland and Lorraine has a lengthy industrial history. Countless glassworks have existed here since the 16th century only to move on as soon as their fires had exhausted the local timber supplies. Petite-Rosselle, like most of the other places in the region came into existence in a similar fashion. Now the name is intimately bound up with the Wendel-Vuillemin pit, also know as Carreau Wendel. Its imposing complex of pithead towers, coal washeries, a power station and the vast network of railway lines add up to the very essence of an industrial landscape. At first sight Carreau Wendel looks like a typical coal mining site from the era between the two World Wars. Most of the buildings are framed in steel and reinforced concrete, and lined with burnt clinkers from mining waste or the slag from blast furnaces. But the history of the mine goes back along time before that. The decisive turn in its fortunes began in the mid 19th century when a dynasty of French manufacturers called de Wendel incorporated the business into the family Empire. Over the years it grew into a huge enterprise despite the fact that the Lorraine coal basin was continually changing hands between the German Reich and The French Republic. In 1945 Carreau Wendel, now finally in French hands for good, was nationalised. In the 1960s 5,000 tons of coal were brought to the surface every day and the pit employed around 5,000 coal miners. But by 1986 all available supplies of coal were exhausted and the pit was shut down. On 11 December 1998 the French government ordered that most of the overhead buildings be placed on the list of additional building monuments. A few days later the local towns and parishes in the centre and to the east of the colliery area joined together to set up an organisation to establish and run a communal coal mining museum in the immediate neighbourhood. In 2001 Carreau Wendel was officially recognised as a state industrial museum.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1,5 Hours|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Visitor centre on site:||yes|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
Tuesday - Sunday 10am-6pm