Railway & Engineering Club in Germany – Day 4

Guten Tag. Wie Gehts? Zehr gut, Danke.

A good breakfast set us up for the day ahead. Packing not only our Hotel supplied lunch but waterproofs – we were due to meet two representatives of Santa’s driving force Donner und Blitzen later in the day – we set off for Marienschule Opladen with good purpose and ready to take the coach.

Brimming with our experiences of Physics presentations and furthering of established friendships still buzzing in our minds – the prospect of seeing an amazing coal mine – with a UNESCO World Heritage label attached – was intriguing, why had Mr Wheadon wanted this on the itinerary? Was is because it was in Essen (also the German word for food) and was there a place nearby called Trinken (that was the Dad joke that failed to lift off the ground …)? Or, simply, that it was because we were in the Ruhr Region set in the middle of the German Industrial heartland that used the underground energy supplied by the worlds largest and, arguably, most attractive coal mine?

Well all of that and more. The place was vast. Railway lines snaked around – many in parallel – to bring empty wagons for filling at the head of the colliery. The 150+ years of the existance of Zeche Zollverein colliery had seen to a significant amount of adaptation and delivery of the most efficient way to provide coal dust to be turned into coke for use in the blast furnaces for the area’s industrial might to make steel. It was laid out before us in huge 1930’s steel-framed, brick-walled buildings that ensured a steady stream of coal dug and drilled out of the rich seams some 1,000 metres underground being taken for washing, sorting, grading and transporting. Down the years the coal mining and extracton processes were constantly being refined – there is no change on the way businesses always operate – develop a process, run it, check it and alter to improve as necessary.

An excellent tour guide explained to students and teachers alike, the daily “grind” of machinery and personnel in all locations. Dirty, back-breaking work often in an extemely noisy (upwards of 110 decibels), hot (+32 degrees C) and challenging environment that saw the life expectancy of a miner hover around 45 years in the 1920’s. It was noted that although the Ruhr was heavily bombed during WW2, it was more the Industries that were targetted and NOT the mine, after all energy would still be needed after the war was over.

At the conclusion of the tour, we headed off for some shelter from the sun in the humid conditions to eat our lunch. There was no denying an unswerving need for a Curry Wurst – attached photo – and something worth adopting for a Rugby game crowd!

Back on board our “Wupsi” (where is Michael Crawford and his donkey?) Coach we went to the Krupps dynasty “Villa Hugel” – Villa on the Hill – a spectacular late-Neoclassical, 269 room property overlooking the River Ruhr built in 1870. Sweeping views, tightly manicured lawns and a simple but imposing structure fulfilled the needs of the industrialist Alfried Krupps and his family – it was certainly away from his dirty, noisy “workshop” that funded the transformation of his family into the wealthiest dynasty of Germany, that demanded the great and good to visit – Emperor Willhelm II (last German Kaiser and King of Prussia who abdicated in 1918) stayed 9 times – he even alighted from his royal train onto a specially built railway station at the bottom of the garden !

Our Wupsi Coach transported us back to MSO, where we debussed just 3 spots of rain before the deluge and Donner und Blitzen promised earlier in the day. A BBQ was set and we had the best Wurst in a bun, with kartoffelsalat und tomaten ketchup. Ice cool still water was on the table. What more could be needed? Well, what about some cheese jokes – cheese used to hide a small horse – Marscapone(y); messy room – deBrie everywhere; you know the sort. Back to pack for our return, with a final day in MSO followed by a River Rhine cruise… what does the weather forecast have to say? Hmm, Donner und Blitzen. Lights out at 10:30


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