In 1832 coalminers in the Ruhr valley decided to do it for real – with deep-pit mining at a colliery called Neptune. Until then it was usual for mining galleries to be dug horizontally into the side of the rock face. At Neptune, by contrast, the miners dug vertically to a depth of 450 metres. This was only made possible by efficient steam engines to pump the water out of the pits and galleries which could then be dug at several different levels. This resulted in a huge increase in production. The old Nightingale mine in Witten was one of the first deep-pit mines on the Ruhr – a good enough reason for the LWL Museums of Industrial Culture to erect one of its eight sites here. Visitors can walk along a 100 metre gallery and thereby return to the start of the region’s mining history when mines were small enough to get by with just a handful of pitmen. The main attraction in the engine room is one of the oldest steam engines in the region dating back to 1887. Here you can also embark on an audio-visual journey into the Ruhr valley in the 18th and early 19th century. Fully-laden coal barges once made the River Ruhr one of the busiest rivers in Europe. If you want to get an idea of what it was like to transport coal on the river you can go aboard a 35 metre life-size replica of an original sailing barge. The museum has yet another replica construction: a small pit from which coal was hauled in buckets which shows the primitive way coal was mined immediately after the Second World War when the whole industry had to start again from nothing and there was a drastic demand for coal. By that time the Nightingale mine had long been converted into a brickworks. Visitors are reminded of this by a huge vaulted ring kiln on the site containing an exhibition on the life and work of brick makers and their families.
The Nightingale mine was first mentioned in 1714 and is part of a long mining tradition. The legacy includes a prayer house for miners and the pit and field train at the old Theresia colliery, both of which are set amidst a circular trail in the highly attractive countryside of the Mutten valley. For a time the Nightingale pit was one of the largest in the region but closed down as early as 1892. Shortly afterwards it was replaced by a steam-driven brickworks which operated until 1963. The museum was opened in 2003 and tells the story of the birth of mining in the Ruhr valley at the start of the industrial revolution.