Trans Europe Express - Juli 2012
Last year, Thompski, James, Adam and I roadtripped to the Ruhrgebiet in Germany. On our return to the UK we found that we’d only scratched the surface of the industrial goodies that lay there, so immediately began planning the next jaunt... This is a roundup of some of the sites visited in our week of European travelling across Belgium, Holland, Germany, Luxembourg & France.
The trip had an eclectic, yet industrial soundtrack... mainly revolving around the German electronic beasts known as Kraftwerk.
Our prime targets were the German and French mines of the Ruhr, Saar & Moselle regions that have been left behind after the sharp decline in European coal production over the last 15 or so years.
We loaded up Adam’s Unmarked Taxi™ and headed towards the continent...
Aside from the mines that were planned, there were a few little bonuses on the way through Belgium:
An abandoned Trappist monastery on the outskirts of a major Belgian City. I couldn’t really see why it was so funny, especially with the 6 foot tall security nettles stinging the shit out of our faces on the way in.
The buildings were eerily clean in parts.
Laboratoires d’ horreur.
A former Veterinary faculty of a University in a major Belgian City. Built in a French Renaissance style, this building was beautiful, marble decked and ornate, however, it held some fairly gruesome secrets.
We’d had a little walk around here last year without fruit, however this time we managed to find a way inside. An eerily strange and somewhat disconcerting place, especially “that room” in the basement filled wall to wall with semi-recognisable animal parts preserved in formaldehyde... some have spilled... The smell is something to behold.
Leaving the smell of semi preserved animals behind, we set off towards the Netherlands.
Another former monastery near Maastricht, converted to a Children’s asylum and abandoned some time ago. Dismayed to find the majority of the buildings rather trashed by time, the ingress of water and vandals. It did hold a fairly pretty chapel though.
These brilliant chequered tiles were a theme throughout the complex.
After a day spent traversing the lowlands and getting all up in their shit, we settled into our Kampfsite in Essen for a customary evening of wursts, bier and unobtrusive light oompah music, whilst planning the next days assault on the Ruhr's mines - aka ZecheMANIA '12
First up was Zeche H, remote and in the middle of a forest. This was an extension or “consolidation” of a larger mine which closed in 2001. The primary reason for it being so remote is that the miners had followed the deposits of coal so far from the original shaft that it was becoming too far for them to travel.
This was the most economical means of getting men to the coal face, quickly. Unfortunately, the workable coal deposits here were exhausted within 15 years of the shaft being sunk.
First off, in the day of a miner here you'd go to the Kaue, a large changing room with an ingenius method of clothing storage. All of these little cages corresponded to a numbered panel in a long row of what are effectively tiny lockers. These comprise of a chain and pulley system, which hoists and lowers the cage and hooks up and down from the ceiling, where clothing and valuables are stored during the miner's shift.
It is such a brilliant system of spatial efficiency as it leaves loads of changing space in the room rather than ranks and ranks of ugly lockers.
I also think they are possibly some of the most photogenic things I've ever seen in all my years of exploring abandonments.
"Safety at Work" - Kaue - "Don't enter this room with flames and stuff or it'll go boom"
Winding engines / Fordermaschine
Next up was Zeche P (AKA Zeche Glaßfut) where poor old James injured his foot with a large shard of broken Glaß on the way out... Scheduled to be demolished imminently, this mine was in a pretty poor condition. Another winding engine and nice Kaue with miners clothing and possesions still in situ remain... but not for long.
On to Zeche Schagel and Eisen where we hooked up with our German friends Pierre and Becki. We’d visited the pit bank and surrounding buildings here last year but the delicious steam winding engine hall and modern Förderturm had evaded us, not this time.
We climbed this.
View towards Westerholt.
These were the beautiful, vintage steam winding engines. Getting into the building housing them was likened to "being born again" by one of my colleagues.
Knackered, dusty and euphoric, we retired to our temporary digs to once more imbibe pure German lagers and encapsulated tubular meats smothered in extremely hot mustard.
The next day we were joined by Swiss/American John Salomon who bravely led us through the rusty deathtrap that is Thyssen Sinterei in Duisburg. It was curiously busy, with a pornographic photoshoot and a copper thief both beavering away in their own respective, degenerative manners. Bypassing them, we tramped around in the dust pulling immortal poses at every opportunity until a massive electrical storm forced us to take cover under trees for what seemed like an age.
“Set the Audi to warpspeed AutobahnKREUZ Herr Salomon...” next destination: Zeche E and moar headstocks and steam winders.
Rudi der Prinz.
Yet another headframe.
Changeable weather, STAU and shit derps on the journey down to the Saar meant that we arrived at our primo destination of Kohlenwasche GeeGee rather late on. Far and away my favourite site of the trip...
Schacht 4 (the larger, more modern stock on the right) at 90m is apparently the tallest headframe in the world. We climbed the 32 storey internal staircase with glee after contorting our way through a coal conveyor. The prospect of standing atop this monster was within grasp... only to be met with a very firmly locked door at the top. Some swearing and gnashing of teeth later, we climbed his baby brother instead... (pictured far left)
“There’s a mine over there duck”
This had closed a week previous and had an almost identical headstock to that at Zeche Schlagel and Eisen - We rolled into the car park and found that, alas, there was still much activity on site.
Once again we crossed frontiers, this time into France and on to Mine W. This was already massively trashed and our headstock climb was aborted due to staircase failure.
The French also have a different design for their Kaue cages which were shot at ISO 25600 due to a classic noob error.
Crossing into Luxembourg (AKA the land of bargain diesel) we had Powerplant AD in our sights. Situated in a (very) live Steel works site, this required some dodging about.
The main draw of this site is a 1920’s era steam turbine (not my picture) - Unfortunately the building is undergoing renovation and was full of blokes banging pipes. We had to make do with the Derpy boiler house which was a bit meh.
Back then to rural France in the pouring rain to check out a Gros Ouvrage of the Maginot line. Almost thwarted by a wild platoon of SecuriVACHES we tumbled our way 7 stories down into this maze of tunnels under the remote French countryside.
Built to defend La France against the potential threat of German invasion following the first world war, this network of defensive bunkers weren’t all that effective against old Adolf in WW2 as the French had failed to predict the advances in vehicular mechanisation meaning that the Germans flanked these bunkers and pretty much walked in the back door.
Shortly after taking this photo there were a few unexplained happenings including noises and voices (that weren't ours) and unknown movements.
Parameters including: "WTF was that..." - "We're fairly far out here fellas" and "We're not really prepared for this" equated to the conclusion "GTFO... and quickly"
Back on the surface (thankfully) and before heading back to our base in Germany, we rolled by Laverie PR, which held some unexpected bonus trains alongside the massive abandoned mine complex.
This was a Coal washery, which crushed and sorted coal into usable sizes for industry, rail and homes.
It was a mass of pipes, walkways and rust.
Returning to base, we licked our emotional wounds from the thoughts of being trapped underground with undesirables and soothed them further with more beer and a German doner kebap (delicious, and nothing like its British counterpart.)
The next day consisted of setting off back towards where people drive on the correct side of the road via the decomissioned coal Power Station IM - I wasn’t too taken with this place, I was knackered and we'd hit everything too hard without enough sleep. I seem to remember not even looking through the viewfinder for the majority of these photos... However, I expect if we’d started the trip here it would have been much more impressive.
... and home, where there was a band of beautiful weather that seemed to hover over the Channel, leaving horrible rain either side.
This trip was sponsored by:
It also employed methods: “point a wide angle at all the things” - “massive raging aperture” and “ISO 3200FTW”
Cheers for looking and sorry for the massive post.
Thanks to: Pierre, Joel, Earthmagnified & Mortaldecay