Ship lifts are one of the most fascinating technical constructions to me. Being able to move ships like in an elevator is an amazing invention. In Waltrop-Henrichenburg in the Northern Ruhrgebiet region, you find an absolutely amazing place: two ship lifts and two ship locks are located in the same area, one of the locks still operating. During a summer trip, I explored the area, which local supporters try to turn into a UNESCO World Heritage. Enjoy the trip to the naval past and present with me!
Henrichenburg Naval Locks – Location & Admission
Waltrop-Henrichenburg is located North of Castrop-Rauxel in the Ruhrgebiet. You most easily access the area by car leaving the A2 motorway at Henrichenburg and then heading North on the B235 national route. Especially the historic lock is very popular, so that there are quite some touristic facilities close to the locks and ship lifts. A very popular option is to have ship cruises in the area, where the Dortmund-Ems-Kanal (Dortmund Ems Channel, in which in fact the locks and lifts are located) and the Rhein-Herne-Kanal (Rhein Herne Channel) are joining. There are several options to have a snack as well.
The “modern” shiplift and the two ship locks are open 24 hours and can be visited without permission (public area). Only the Historic Ship Lift is nowadays the LWL Industriemuseum Schiffshebewerk Henrichenburg (Westfalen-Lippe Region Industry Museum Henrichenburg Ship Lift with restricted entry. At the time of writing, the museum is opening Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 to 18:00 hrs. Adult admission during my visit was amazing 3.50 EUR. The museum accepts the RUHR.Topcard as well as other combined ticket. They also offer a season ticket valid for all LVR and LWL places in the North Rhine-Westphalia State.
Historic Ship Lift Henrichenburg (LWL Industry Museum)
Of course,the main reason to visit the area is the Historic Ship Lift. It has been opened by Kaiser Wilhelm II. It got too small already fifteen years later and has been replaced by a traditional ship lock in 1914. You can walk around the ship lock, but also to the top. Especially from the bridge between the two towers, you have an amazing view of the area. Apart from that the ship lift is no longer in operation (and is also not able to operate any more), you can explore all parts of the amazing construction. This also includes the water basins on the bottom, which push the ship lift up (or allow to lower it).
The original engine room next to the ship lift is still existing as well. It hosts part of the original technical appliances to run the ship lock. There are even demonstrations during visiting hours. The remaining part of the engine room serves as a museum featuring the importance of the canal for the commercial development of the region. There are also models of ships, which used to operate in the area. The engine room also includes illustrations which explain how the ship lift is in fact operating. As there are even small scale models of the ship lift, I definitely recommend to visit the engine room first – it helps a lot to understand what you are visiting when on the iconic industrial construction.
Historic Ships are part of the Exhibition
The original channels to and from the ship lift are still existing. The major part is used to display historic ships. One is located on the bottom of the lock and illustrates how a ship crew lived during the times of the Henrichenburg Ship Lift. Of course, you can also visit the key facilities of the ship like the engine room when you step on board. In that area, you can also book cruises around the area.
The majority of the historic ships in display, however, is located on the upper part of the ship lock. You more or less walk a “U” along the water, crossing it at a bridge in the middle. Apart from ships, this area also features other technical exhibits like cranes and containers, but also a small cafe and a playground. The cargo barge Ostara, which operated from 1926 til the 1970’s, was one of my favorites. You can go on board and be amazed by the huge dimensions of a comparably “small” freight ship. Last but not least, there is a building which is holding an outlet of the civil registration office of the city – if you like, you may marry with a view of the historic ship lock.
Historic Lock and Ship Canal Lift
As said, the area hosts two more historic technical constructions, which are no longer in use. Below, you see the old shaft lock, which replaced the Henrichenburg Historic Ship Lift. It operated from 1914 until 1962 and has been replaced by a new ship lift, which operated until 2005. Unfortunately, I missed to take pictures of that second ship lift in the area.
Henrichenburg Locks Visitor Center
The Schleusenpark Waltrop is very well driven. They offer a lot of information – the best about it is the visitor center which was free entry during my visit. You especially learn how the different kinds of locks and ship lifts work. For example, this helps you to understand why the locks have very different water basins. There is even a small ship simulator. Really great place to understand the importance and operation of the ship lock park better.
Operating Ship Lock Henrichenburg
Last, but not least, there is the modern new ship lock. It opened on 1989 (and thus operated in parallel to the modern ship lift for some fifteen years) and is nowadays the only way to access the Rhein Herne Canal from the Dortmund Ems Canal. I have been lucky that a ship approached the lock, so that I could take some pictures of the huge facility in operation.
Henrichenburg Naval Locks – Food / Services
There are privately driven restaurants in the area, so that you definitely won’t starve when visiting the area. The museum drives a food “truck” in a double decker. Of course, there is also a souvenir store.
Henrichenburg Naval Locks – My View
Especially on a good weather day, visiting the Schleusenpark Waltrop and the Henrichenburg Historic Ship Lift is just an amazing option. Hard to believe that they even want to upgrade the museum. It is one of the most fascinating places I visited during my time with Flyctory.com. Castrop-Rauxel might not be on the top of your bucket list – but if you are around, definitely block some time for this amazing place. I would at least go for two hours for the ship lift and 90 additional minutes for the other locks and lifts.