Lichtenhain Waterfall – Kirnitzschtal, Germany - Atlas Obscura

Lichtenhain Waterfall

Kirnitzschtal, Germany

A small man-controlled waterfall powers an Art Nouveau elevator and is accessed via narrow gauge, solar-powered tramway. 


Apparently, the Lichtenhain Waterfall just wasn’t good enough. A small waterfall in Kirnitzschtal in South Saxony, the original waterfall was improved in the 1830s by adding a “weir,” a small overflow dam used to raise the level of a stream, and in this case improve upon the looks and profitability of the waterfall.

Operated by a “water-puller” the “weir” or gate, they installed gave the operators another advantage: they can show off. While the Lichtenhain Waterfall was normally low flow, when enough tourists gathered, and paid the operator of course, the “waterfall-puller” pulls the gate and the water reservoir is emptied all at once. The normally calm waterfall became a rushing torrent to the delight of all around. Today, it is much the same, though you no longer have to pay the operator,The gate is pulled every two hours , and is timed to be in time with accompanying music.

The improvements weren’t entirely cosmetic, as the falls were also later used to power the Bad Schandau, a steel frame 171 foot tall (52.26 m) Art Nouveau elevator built in 1904.

The Lichtenhain Waterfall can be best reached by the Kirnitzsch valley tram, a narrow gauge old electric tramway, in operation since 1898 and now powered in part (roughly 20%) by solar panels, from Bad Schandau. Once dropped off, it is only about 100 meters to the waterfall.

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