"Tiefer Stollen" Visitors Guide

The City of Aalen and the staff of the visitor mine TIEFER STOLLEN (Deep Tunnel) are pleased to welcome you and hope you enjoy the tour.

1. Station: The mine train will take us 400 metres underground where we will disembark and begin the 800 metres long tour. This will take about 1 1/4 hours after which the train will return us to the surface. The temperature in the mine is about 12 °C with 96 % air humidity. Please wear your helmet during the entire tour as the roof is very low in places and do not lean out of the carriage - the tunnel is very narrow.

2. Deep Tunnel (Tiefer Stollen): All the tunnels in the mine were given names to aid orientation underground. 300 metres into the mine the train will slow down to allow you to admire the lime deposits and stalactites.

3. Slide Show: Underground the tour begins with a slide show giving a brief history of mining in the Aalen region. You will find a summary at the end of this guide.

4. Mining Tools: Showcases A and B: All the items on display here were found in this mine during the restoration work and are all over 70 years old.

Showcase C: The hammer and wedge were laid to form a cross which is the universal symbol of miners and mining. The lamps in the top half of the showcase were all used in this mine, although some are replicas of the original lamps.

Larger Mining Tools: Most of these exhibits are more modern and were not used in this part of the mine - they were used later in other workings in the mine. Only the wooden cart and the wheelbarrow are replicas of tools once used in this part of the mine. They were constructed on the basis of old sketches.

5. Stairway Shaft: There are three working levels or floors in this part of the mine. We are now at the lowest level where sandstone was mined for use in the foundry at the "Schwäbische Hüttenwerke" (Swabian Iron and Steelworks). The next floor was known as the Lower Seam (the chain indicates its original position) and the top floor was the Upper Seam. The three floors were linked by the 83 steps of the stairway shaft. On the walls of this shaft you can see the marks left by the miners' hammers and wedges and you can appreciate how carefully the miners worked over 150 years ago. Thanks to their painstaking, almost loving care, the walls and roofs of the mine are in their original condition. This will become more apparent as we continue into the mine. At this point we are standing directly below the village of Röthardt, separated by about 45 metres of rock.

6. Deep Tunnel (Tiefer Stollen): Here we can see the iron ore for the first time. The reddish brown layer of rock above our heads is the Lower Seam. There is a dark, narrow band of slate between the seam and the sandstone. As you can see the Lower Seam slopes down in an easterly direction. The Deep Tunnel had two main purposes. First and foremost it was the main haulage route, which meant that all the ore was transported to the surface via this tunnel. It was also the main drainage tunnel - all the water which collects in the mine flows out through this Deep Tunnel.

7. Junction of the Deep Tunnel and the Day Drift No. 1: The Day Drift No. 1 (another tunnel with an entrance at the surface) runs directly above the Deep Tunnel over its entire length. The Deep Tunnel rises upwards and the Day Drift No. 1 drops down to meet it at a point about one kilometre from the surface. A shaft had to be driven from the Day Drift down to the Deep Tunnel in order to drain the water away from the workings on the upper levels. This shaft is in use today and is also an integral part of the mine's ventilation system. Above your heads are pieces of the old narrow gauge railway track used here as props. They were installed here over 100 years ago as a safety precaution and are still fulfilling this function today. The water which trickles through the rock has a very high lime content. lt extracts iron from the rock giving the lime deposits their reddish brown colour. Over the years the lime deposits have formed an airtight layer around the steel tracks and have prevented corrosion. On top of that, the steel made in Wasseralfingen, known at that time as "Swabian steel" was of a higher quality than even the English steel of that period.

8. Blind Shaft: The iron ore mined in the upper workings was loaded into wagons and transported down here to the lower level using a lift installed in this blind shaft. (A blind shaft has no entrance at the surface). There used to be a wooden stairway on the left-hand side of this shaft. lt has long since rotten away, but you can still see remains of the wood on the sides of the shaft. Here are also more examples of the lovely multicoloured lime deposits.

9. Shunting Siding: Here the miners switched the full and empty wagons. The section of track you see here is over 100 years old and is the last remaining piece of original track in the mine.

10. Loading Station: Here the miners tipped the wheelbarrows of iron ore into the waiting wagons. We are now going to walk along the pedestrian passages used by the miners. These passages run parallel to the transport tunnels and are a particular feature of this mine. They were created for safety reasons, and were unknown in most other mines. You have seen how dark and narrow the tunnels are - there is not enough room for the wagon and a miner on foot. These passages, the extensive use of steel beams as props and strict safety measures ensured that between 1860 and 1924 there were only four fatal accidents. This was an excellent safety record for a mine at that time and would be a good record even today. The pedestrian passages lead through the Lower Seam and you can see the brownish colouring of the rocks. The deeper the brown of the rock, the higher the iron content. The passage is very low in places, so please mind your heads!

11. Mining Chamber: You have only seen transport tunnels up until this point. Here we see for the first time where they actually used to mine the iron ore. All the old mining chambers had been filled in, so this chamber had to be reconstructed a few years ago. Unfortunately it was impossible to restore the chamber completely as the mining face was originally about 160 metres long. A mining face was created by driving two headings into the rock on either side of a transport tunnel and drilling and blasting steps into the rock. Holes were drilled by hand, filled with black blasting powder and the resulting explosions brought down the rock with the iron ore. The rubble was then sorted and rocks containing enough iron ore were transported to the surface. The remaining rocks - the majority in fact - were tossed behind the miners, filling up the chamber and creating the goaf (filled-in or abandoned workings).

12. Falling-in: The roof caved in here and some parts of it were propped up using wood during reconstruction of the mine.

13. Ore Chute: All the tunnels you now see lead to the oldest mine workings which date from 1853/1860. The iron ore was brought in wheelbarrows to this hole and tipped down a wooden chute. Here again you can see the marks left by the hammers and wedges when the miners cut out the hole by hand about 140 years ago.

14. Dome: The two showcases contain various fossils, the majority of which were found in this mine. Behind the showcases is an unique dome-shaped chamber. Around 1920 the roof caved in here and formed the dome-like roof. The rubble was cleared away few years ago and we have a good view of the goaf. Three layers of rock are clearly visible:

  • the sandstone at the bottom
  • the goaf in the middle - the workings were filled up around 1855
  • the grey, clayey sand stratum.

15. Therapy for Asthma Patients: Down here, in the pure air inside the mine, we offer a course of therapy for asthmatics. Wrapped up in sleeping bags, the patients spend two hours a day for three to four weeks breathing the healthy air of the mine. This therapy has proven very successful and the vast majority of patients notice an improvement in their condition.

16. Foundry and Moulding Shop: The iron ore mined here was taken to the iron and steel works for smelting. The Schwäbische Hüttenwerke (Swabian lron and Steelworks) are still thriving in Wasseralfingen today and castings are still made in the foundry.

Casting a machine part or decorative object:

A wooden model was made of the required part. Models of this kind are on display here. The model was placed in a steel frame and foundry sand was stamped around it. The foundry sand is the black sand you can see all around you. The sand was taken from the sandstone halls of the mine and mixed with coal dust. The frame was opened and the wooden model removed, leaving a hollow mould. Once a viable number of moulds were ready, the melting furnace (which you can see in the background) was tapped. The liquid iron was poured into the mould. The half-finished figure of the caster demonstrates this very well.
The sand mould was then broken using wooden hammers and the casting removed. This is known as the dead mould or break-mould process. The casting was welded together, lacquered and varnished.

On display here are examples of artistic castings and decorative stove plaques for which the Schwäbische Hüttenwerke in Wasseralfingen are famous.

The iron working industry has a very long tradition in this area. For centuries the Braunenberg (Brown Mountain - where we are now) provided all the raw materials required by the industry:
$(text:the seams carrying the iron ore~the sandstone for the foundry sand~the limestone as flux for the blast furnaces~trees which provided timber for the pit props and charcoal for the furnaces.)$

17. End of tour: Please keep your helmets on until we have left the mine and remember to keep your arms and legs well inside the carriage. Thank you for visiting our mine - we hope you have enjoyed the tour and wish you a safe journey home.

A Brief History of Iron Ore Mining in and around Aalen with particular reference to the mine here in Wasseralfingen

The mining and working of iron ore has a very long tradition in the Aalen area. Smelting furnaces dating from pre-Christian and Roman times have been discovered here. For hundreds of years it was the most important industry in the Ostalb region, and even today there are companies continuing this tradition - some with a long history - such as chain manufacturers and foundries. In 1948 it was economic factors which finally ended mining in this area. The relatively low iron content of the ore (37 %) arid the increasing costs of personnel and transport made the pit closures inevitable.

One of the old mines was the iron ore pit "Wilhelm", which is now accessible via the exhibition mine "Tiefer Stollen" (Deep Tunnel).

In 1671 a blast furnace was built in Wasseralfingen to process the iron ore mined in the various pits of the Braunenberg (Brown Mountain). In 1840/1841 the Deer Tunnel was created, leading to the Lower Seam, at the same time, the Day Drift No. 1 was driven parallel to the Deep Tunnel (28 metres above it) in order to reach the Upper Seam. This made it the very first mine in Southern Germany to be planned systematically, using knowledge of underground surveying and geological factors. The mine provided access to the rock formation Jurassic, also known as "Aalenium" after the city of Aalen. Millions of years ago eight seams of ore were built up by sedimentation. Two of these seams were worth mining. The Lower Seam, 1.7 metres wide with an average iron content of 30 % and the Upper Seam with an average iron content of up to 37 % and a width of 1.4 metres. The relatively low iron content meant that the Lower Seam was worked only between the years 1850 and 1892, whereas the richer Upper Seem was worked during the entire life of the mine. By 1924 the deposits were exhausted and the Deep Tunnel was closed down. Most of the mine was bunt by hand. A tunnel or shaft was made by drilling holes in the rock with a hand drill, filling them with black blasting powder and blasting the rock face. The walls and roofs were then worked by hand with hammers and wedges. Sometimes the miners would create a pointed gothic arch which withstood pressure from above particularly well. Where necessary, they would use steel props to support the roof. Thanks to their painstaking care and skill we are able to mine in its original condition over 140 years later. Up until about 1910, when a benzene-driven locomotive was put into service, the wagons were pushed to the surface by the miners themselves. This arduous work was carried out in almost complete darkness, as the only source of light was the lamp each miner carried with him.

The importance of the industry meant that the miners were very well paid for their demanding jobs. A day's pay was about 30 Kreutzer, at a time when a loaf of bread cost 2 Kreutzer and a pound of beef 8 Kreutzer. The miners even had their own welfare system. By the mid-nineteenth century this included a miners' association, providing support for the sick and those hurt in accidents; a health insurance scheme, which also covered family members; miners' cottages with gardens; three canteens serving cheap food; a bathhouse with hot water and a school. In 1900 the miners worked an eight-hour day.

The mine has been reopened as a memorial to the generations of miners from this area and as a reminder of the centuries-old industrial tradition of the Aalen region. The town of Aalen, a Society of Friends of the Mine and many private citizens have invested thousands of hours of voluntary work to restore the mine and make it fit for visitors. As far as possible, the mine has been left in its original state. The volunteers cleared away massive piles of rubble, levelled the floor and spread chippings and redid the original guttering. They re-laid the railtracks, installed electric light and added handrails and stairways. The walls and roofs are still in their original condition, although in a few places restoration work had to be carried out copying the original.