German journal "Industriekultur" 3.20: Industrial heritage in the Harz Mountains

Germany's northernmost highlands, the Harz Mountains, are considered the country's oldest continuous industrial region. It is traditionally dominated by mining, dating back as far as the Bronze Age and focusing on the extraction of silver, copper, lead and iron ores. The German magazine Industriekultur devotes its latest issue to the Harz region. In line with the main subject, ERIH portrays various tourist attractions that bear witness to the Harz's industrial history.

First among them is an ERIH Anchor Point: the Rammelsberg World Heritage Site, probably the only mine in the world to have been in operation for at least 3,000 years without interruption. Around the year 1000 the silver mined here prompted the German Emperor Henry II to build an imperial palace in nearby Goslar, which his successor Henry III extended to make it the longest secular building of its time. Even in the 19th century, the Rammelsberg galleries, some 600 metres deep, accounted for almost half of the silver mined in Germany. Today the museum and visitor mine, now installed here, recalls more than 1,000 years of mining history – on the surface and underground!

In order to drain the extensive adits, during the 16th to 19th centuries the mining industry in the Harz Mountains created the world's most significant pre-industrial water engineering system ever used for mining purposes. 143 reservoirs, 500 kilometres of ditches and 30 kilometres of underground waterways illustrate the immense scale of these facilities, vividly demonstrated to visitors on guided tours provided by the Upper Harz Mining Museum in Clausthal-Zellerfeld.

Another part of the Harz industrial heritage is Europe's largest continuous railway network, with steam trains still running on a regular basis. The metre-gauge tracks of this Harz narrow-gauge railway cover a total length of around 140 kilometres. This includes the "Brockenbahn", a railway line that takes you up to the highest peak of the Harz mountains at 1,141 metres. The region's iron smelting history is illustrated by the Glass and Ironworks Museum in Wieda, a district of Walkenried, and the Thale Ironworks Museum, tracing the development of the local iron industry from a modest metal sheet mill in 1686 to a major 20th century industrial plant.

ERIH report in "Industriekultur" 3.20 (German, pdf)