Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow – Niederfinow, Germany - Atlas Obscura

Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow

Niederfinow, Germany

This giant, 83-year-old ship elevator is an engineering feat to behold. 


In the September 1930 edition of Popular Science Monthly, the magazine described a technological marvel in the making at Niederfinow, Germany, calling it “The greatest ship elevator in the world.”

The machine, which was a replacement for an older staircase lock, had been under construction since 1927, and was finally ready for use. The massive contraption, which stands till today as Europe’s largest functioning ship lift, allows ships as tall as 275 feet to be transported from the Oder-Haver Canal to the Old Oder river towards Poland.

The machine consists of an upper and lower deck, as well as the central lift, and bridges leading ships in and out of it. For 83 years, it has served as a crucial piece of infrastructure, allowing vessels of different shapes and sizes to smoothly overcome a height difference of 118 feet between the two water levels, a task that takes roughly 20 minutes to complete.

Now, with traffic on the waterway on the increase, a new and more powerful lift is under development nearby, scheduled to open in 2025. Until then the current one remains in use, and visitors can watch ships been lifted from a special deck set up for this purpose. Its operation is a feat of engineering, and the location attracts thousands of tourists every year hoping for a view of the stunning sight.

Know Before You Go

By car, it is accessible through the A11 (Autobahn) to Niederfinow.

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