“Just like in many other companies, the hard-working West Frisians in the steam pumping station worked long days with little to no breaks. They had to, because these workers often had large families. They literally worked up a sweat to keep their heads above water and prevent the inhabitants of Medemblik from drowning.”
"Suddenly, two older ladies in floral dresses are standing in front of you. They ask one technical question after the next!" Henk Olbers smiles." Since 2013, he has been working as an engineer in the Dutch Steam Engine Museum in the West Frisian town of Medemblik. "You certainly don't expect that. Our female visitors often sit on a bench chatting together, while the men listen with interest and say: "What a wonderful smell of steam here." Then I explain that steam is an odourless gas. What you smell is the oil that is used as a lubricant for the machinery. Contrary to popular belief, you cannot see steam.
It is the vapour you see.
In the end, I always succeed in getting the women off the bench and involving them. Children are an entirely different challenge. For example, you have to make sure that your story is more interesting for first year secondary school pupils than their mobile phones. So we look closely at the target group and respond accordingly to make it a fun and interesting outing for everyone.'
Kees Jongert has always had a great love for steam engines.
What started out as a hobby ended up with a real steam engine museum. In 1973, he displayed his collection of steam engines in a goods shed next to the small station in Medemblik. They originated from ships and industry. Twelve years later, Kees moved his steam engines to the old steam pumping station 'De Vier Noorder Koggen'. This pumping station pumped water from the polder to the Zuiderzee. With the arrival of the new electric pumping station in Wervershoof, the steam pumping station was no longer active from 1975, although it still works today. It can rightly be called unique that even in the late nineties the water board still called on the old steam pumping station. For seventy-two hours, volunteers pumped out the high water.
The building, declared a national heritage monument, is a real 'eyecatcher' and boasts an impressive location on the vast IJsselmeer. Kees has since died, but his love for the steam engines lives on in the hearts and souls of the volunteers of the Dutch Steam Engine Museum. This is one of the many cultural 'secrets' of West Friesland.
The collection is an impressive sight. The thirty old steam engines are well maintained and shine at you. In addition to this collection, you can naturally also admire the original pumps and machinery at the pumping station. If you visit via the inland waterways you can tie up your boat and enjoy an ice cream or a cup of coffee on the terrace.
“Because we stoke authentically, we can show exactly how it was done in the 1920s,” says Henk. The museum's approximately one hundred volunteers take you back in time. Children can do their own experiments in a playful way, which also makes it a fun and educational day out for them. By the end of your visit, you will know all about the history, development and operation of the steam engines here. “To get the machinery running on steam takes heavy physical exertion,” says Henk. “Not everyone is fit enough for this, but there are still plenty of other jobs to do. The maintenance of the site is a chore in itself. The basis is in the boiler. Without fuel, nothing works at all.
A few years ago, an elderly gentleman visited the museum. He explained how, as a young man, he had to sit in one of the boilers and lean against the rivets. They were hammered in from the outside. This made him deaf, because the working conditions used to be miserable. Just like in many other companies, the hard-working West Frisians in the steam pumping station worked long days with little to no breaks. They had to, because the workers often had large families. They literally worked up a sweat to keep their heads above water and prevent the inhabitants of Medemblik from drowning.” We never look forward to it, but every year we all receive a bill from the water board. Many people have no idea how much water needs to be pumped out so that we can live below sea level.
The West Frisians have been fighting the sea for centuries. Once you realize this, paying your water bill might be a bit less painful and you’ll know how invaluable a pumping station is,” Henk concludes.