Suddenly there’s a cow standing in the room. The milking machine attached to its udders is genuine. The cow isn’t. There again the tram dating back to 1915 is genuine. It’s fully lit and appears to be ready to drive off at any moment. Just as genuine are old-fashioned telegraphs and telephones, a pit locomotive and the cigarette advertisements on the cinema screen. The hairdresser’s saloon with its bulbous hair-dryers and the lively sounds of a 1950s jukebox in the local bar are so real you might even think you’re a part of the scene. The Electricity Museum, housed in an handsome old transformer station in Recklinghausen, takes visitors back on a journey through the history of electricity. The message is clear: modern life is impossible without it. It’s a commonplace now but around a century ago it could in no way be taken for granted. In 1884 the first block-type thermal station in Berlin could deliver just enough electricity to service a few houses and street lamps. It was above all industry which recognised the potential inherent in electricity and began to exploit it at an early stage. Steam engines, later steam turbines, produced electricity for the machines in the factories. Around 1900 electric trams began to get the cities on the move. Electricity speeded up office communication and gradually lit up streets, houses, shop windows and businesses. Domestic appliances arrived at a much later stage. The first fully automatic washing machine was only introduced in 1951. The museum shows the developments and improvements by means of a tour of lifelike everyday scenes and encourages visitors to touch the exhibits and experiment with creative challenges. Children and young people can have a great time in a specially constructed electricity workshop. The Electricity Museum in Recklinghausen opened in 2000. The representative redbrick building which houses it was built in 1928 by the then United Westphalian Electricity Works (VEW). Thanks to a comprehensive programme of modernisation the transformer plant still performs its original duties today. At the same time a part of the old technology has been retained and placed under a preservation order along with the building itself. This area of the museum is still accessible to visitors and vividly illustrated the developments in the distribution of electricity.