The River Dhünn doesn’t look powerful enough to drive a factory. But it did just that for exactly two hundred years. And what a factory it is! The transmission wheels alone are gigantic. And the machines themselves are even more formidable. Heavy drop hammers whose incessant pounding seems to shake the whole valley. It still happens today. On demonstration days in the Leverkusen suburb of Schlebusch the red brick walls of the Freudenthal Scythe Hammers Industrial Museum quiver and shake as they have done for centuries. Heavy hammer heads thunder down onto red-hot metal and the murky forging house comes back to noisy life. Visitors also feel as if they have travelled back in time on the grounds outside: workshops, workers’ dwellings and manufacturer’s villas are only a stone’s throw away and make up a self-enclosed world in which anything and everything has its appointed place. The hydraulic power plant is also still there, complete with weir, pond, upper and lower reaches, not forgetting later additions like turbines and generators.
Sickles, scythes and heavy knives - the Schlebusch factory began to specialise in quality products for agricultural and forestry purposes at a very early period. The Bergisch Land region enjoyed an excellent reputation in this area and a good many scythes were even exported abroad. The Freundenthal Hammers went into operation in 1779. After 50 years of constant changes in ownership the Kuhlmann family took over the reigns of the firm and steered its destiny for the proud total of 150 years. During this time the factory equipment with its hammers, anvils, grinding attachments and drilling jigs scarcely changed. Only the driving technology was modernised. At the end of the 19th century turbines replaced the traditional water-wheels, and not long afterwards a steam engine and generators were added to make electricity. At that time the firm employed more than 70 workers and produced around 200,000 cutting tools a year. But demand for scythes had drastically sunk by the end of the 1950s and in 1987 the Hammer factory ceased operating for good – only to change into an industrial museum which graphically illustrates the transitional period from manual to factory production.