The ironworks, which cover some 6 ha, dominate the city of Völklingen. Although they have recently gone out of production, they are the only intact example, in the whole of western Europe and North America, of an integrated ironworks that was built and equipped in the 19th and 20th centuries and has remained intact.
The first works was established on the site by the Cologne engineer Julius Buch in 1873 to produce girder iron and railway sleepers by the puddling process from Luxembourg ore. It ceased operations in 1879 and was acquired by Kart Rochling two years later. The first blast-furnace (now No 3) was built in 1882/3, and four more furnaces were added between 1885 and 1893. A coking plant was added in 1897, and three years later the first gas-blowing engines were introduced. Volklingen was the first ironworks in the world to use furnace gas on a large scale to drive enormous blowers providing blast to the furnaces. The initial pair of engines was eventually increased to nine. By the end of the century Volklingen had become one of the most productive works in Europe and Germany’s largest producer of steel beams.
A sixth blast-furnace was built in 1903, and in 1911 the new charging platform was constructed, supplied by an electrically driven suspended conveyor system for coke and ore; this was the largest system of its kind when it was built. Volklingen was the first ironworks in the world to take dry gas purification technology beyond the experimental stage, installing the plant in 1911. The final major addition to the Volldingen complex was the large ore-sintering plant; after experimenting with ladle-type sintering, the company installed a large belt-type system in 1928-30. This pioneering plant became a model for many other similar installations throughout the world. In 1935 the coking plant was rebuilt and enlarged. From the end of World War II until pig-iron production ceased in 1986 only minor modernization and maintenance took place.
The gas-blowing engine hall, with its unique battery of machines, the dry gas purification plant, the suspended conveyor system, and the sinter plant were all pioneering installations in their day. These processes influenced pig-iron production throughout the world.