Located directly on the Kiel Canal by the Holtenauer floodgate lies the Maschinenmuseum Kiel-Wik. A piece of lively Kiel industrial history does not only captivate Kielers here. From large engines and steam engines to their small scale model images, the museum team brings everything back to life.

The idea of founding an industrial museum began with an industrial ruin of the Kiel public utilities and two technology enthusiasts. . Which, strictly speaking, is not entirely correct, as museum director Peter Horter explained to me in an interview. The Kiel Council had overturned  the plan for an urban industrial museum in the mid-1990s . “The money was already spent on the rehabilitation of the Kiel schools, a museum of industrial history was, in their eyes, a luxury.” Then the 74-year-old former head of the vocational technology school, together with one of his students and a lot of idealism, took the matter into his own hands, “that was very naive,” he admits.

In the beginning only a ruin

Faint black and white photographs in the exhibition rooms bear witness to the beginnings of the museum. A steam engine in a dilapidated building. An infinite amount of sweat was shed until the 7.5-ton steel colossus – a locomobile – shone again in its old splendor and even the steam boiler hissed again. When asked when the museum was concretely founded, and was therefore allowed to call itself a “real” museum, Mr. Horter recalls, “that was during the Kiel Cultural Summer in 2000, when we were asked if we would do an opening day. Up until then we had secretly tinkered by ourselves for 15 years more or less. As the owner of the site, the municipal utilities prohibited access for visitors”. Only students had come to enjoy private tours from their teacher.

Mr. Horter proudly points out that the museum project has been organized in the form of a non-profit community foundation since 2005 . The concept and the considerable collection of exhibits convinced the Kiel Ministry of the Interior. Finally, the foundation was able to buy the land with the three buildings – known then as they are today as the clock house, compressor hall and engine shed – from the public utilities, hire a museum assistant and provide daily opening hours. Thus creating a cultural company with a steep track for success.

Many hard-working hands

Today around 20 people work in the museum on a voluntary basis, mostly trained professionals, but also high school and university students with a good mix of both men and women, except for the administration, unfortunately  that is only men. Women are also welcome in the workshop.. Women are also welcome in the workshop. In the meantime, the museum benefits from its fame, because there is no shortage of potential employees. “There are significantly more inquiries than work,” says Mr. Horter. This is mainly due to the motto “experience historic machines in operation”, which attracts around 17,000 visitors per year. At the same time, the passion for historical technology can be felt down to the smallest detail. Each machine is lovingly restored in the museum’s own workshop and brought back to life, to finally delight the visitors heart to witness the motto in operation.

Once a month – on the third Sunday in this case – the museum opens its doors and offers visitors very special delicacies. “On these theme Sundays, we are addressing a specific chapter in the history of technology. Then the people here partly run the doors for us “. With lectures about milestones of technical development and company history of traditional Kiel companies, Mr. Horter is also able to inspire technical laymen. The coworkers scurry back and forth between the onlookers, answer questions, explain this and that or hold a chat.

The attraction runs on diesel

In March, I visited the museum and was able to experience a special moment: the start of a marine diesel engine of the former Kiel engineering firm Bohn and Kähler, which until 1968, influenced the Kiel industrial landscape. At the former engineering school Legienstraße he had served as a teaching tool and should have started his last walk to the junkyard in 2000. It took four years for the three-cylinder engine – 2.3 tons, 90 hp – including the dynamometer to be ready to go again. There was a lot of attention to detail here too: Photo walls document the restoration of the machine, saved from scrapping and disassembled into their individual parts. A presentation on the topic completes the program. Between old newspaper articles and photos, the numerous visitors immerse themselves in a slice of Kiel’s industrial past and in between enjoy the atmosphere over coffee and cake. The passion for old machines unites many and welcomes  a lively exchange. Even the little guests are not too small to participate. They build in the craft corner small rattle boats, which are driven by a candle. Satisfied and exhausted, Mr. Horter finally enjoys a cup of coffee.

In addition to the Sunday events, the museum also offers a special program for groups, as Mr. Horter designs tours and events for school groups or company outings individually. ” The children are especially  enthusiastic when I get the experiments out of the closet”. In the display cases  some of them are sleeping and waiting for their assignment. In view of the collection, some physics teachers could become jealous. Companies can rent a seminar room, which has been stylishly moved into the historic industrial building as an open mezzanine level.


Maschinenmuseum Kiel-Wik
Am Kiel-Kanal 44
24106 Kiel
Tel. 0431/5943450