The Henrichenburg Ship Lift

The powerful steel framework offers a truly imperial view, being flanked by elegant sandstone towers each of which is crowned by an ornamental globe, the whole construction majestically reflected in the waters of the Dortmund-Ems canal. Not surprisingly, it was Emperor Wilhelm II himself who personally opened the Henrichenburg ship lift in Waltrop in 1899. At that time the ship lift, today part of the Landschaftsverband (regional authority) of Westphalia-Lippe (LWL) Museums of Industrial Culture, was regarded as a technological masterpiece. The old engine house offers a short introduction to the technical part of the structure. After that the ship lift can be explored at three different levels. The trough into which the cargo boats were led is now accessible by foot, as is the level below containing the huge floats on which the trough was mounted. The best view of the majestic construction can be obtained from a platform stretching between two of the four towers at the top of the building. From here you can spot a cargo barge built in 1929 which is open for visitors and invites them to find out more about the everyday life and work of bargees and their families. There are more historical boats anchored on the upstream side, not to mention loading facilities and a historic vertical lift bridge. Children can join with Captain Henry and cabin-boy Jan in experimenting with a model of a ship lift or in loading ships like in times gone by.

Please accept cookies in order to use maps

The Henrichenburg Ship Lift
Am Hebewerk 2
45731 Waltrop
Kreis Recklinghausen
+49 (0) 2363 - 97070


More than 20.000 postcards were sent from Waltrop on the 11 August 1899. Probably all of them recount enthusiastically the festive inauguration of the Henrichenburg ship lift that same day. It must remain an open question what the visitor crowds did appreciate more: the guest of honour Wilhelm II or the first ship lift in the world for large barges. Within the strategy of the German emperor – "water is our future" – the industrial construction at Waltrop was of crucial importance. The concurrent opening of the Dortmund-Ems canal was not at all coincidental. In fact it sent a clear message to the public in favour of a second powerful transport system complementing the railway networks.

The technical specifications of the state-of-the-art ship lift were a sensation. It allowed to move cargo boats of up to 750 tons in weight which nearly meant a doubling of the performance of comparable constructions in England, France and Belgium. The 70-metre long and 8.80-metre wide trough only needed two and a half minutes to cover the 14 metres between upstream and downstream side of the canal. The exhibition in the old engine house shows visitors how this was done and explains, by means of working models, the theory and practice of raising ships using air-inflated submerged bodies. Moreover it gives an impression of the historical background to the construction.

Until today the old Henrichenburg ship lift is a popular place. That's far from being self-evident. In 1962 a new ship lift was opened just up the road and the whole construction was threatened with demolition when it had to close down in 1970. It was only saved after a hard-fought grass-roots campaign which culminated, after complex restoration and reconstruction works, in the opening of the museum in 1992. Along with the neighbouring modern ship lift and two locks the museum offers vivid insights into inland waterways traffic and canal life during the last 100 years.

Recommended duration of visit:2 Hours
Duration of a guided tour:90 Minutes
Access for persons with disabilities:For details see website
Infrastructure for children:
Visitor centre on site:yes
Gift and book shop on site:yes

Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm

  • Guided tours optional
  • Tours in other languages
  • Guided tours for children