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Station 06

Development of the Emsland

Esterwegen and the Development of the Emsland

The post-war period was a time of radical change for the rural population in the Emsland. The want and need of refugees and those displaced, the lack of infrastructure and the insufficient agricultural land made it necessary for the Federal Republic of Germany to develop the Emsland.

The Emsland Plan was passed in 1950 by the German parliament and Esterwegen profited from its measures. Because projects with large economic impact, like the peat-fired power plant and a coastal canal power plant were realised elsewhere, the Emsland GmbH, the company given the job of realising the Emsland plan, supported the cultivation of the bogs and the settlement of agricultural businesses, and also of settling displaced farmers from the East.

Agriculture was the main source of income for people from Esterwegen as well as for the village’s finances for a long time. Nonetheless, infrastructure and road construction were massively invested in as well as the development of industrial sites. This strategy was successful and in 1961 the CUNDA/CANDA textile factory opened that at times offered 200 jobs. Additionally, the federal army kept one of its depots in Esterwegen until 2001. In recent decades additional industrial areas were developed and thanks to new processing businesses and service providers the village grew to become one of the economic centres in the region. Also, future-oriented industries like wind energy, or specialised steel construction have their headquarters in Esterwegen.

Thanks to the commitment of the community, the long neglected school system in Esterwegen was restructured. A new school centre unified primary and middle schools as well as introducing an orientation level and in doing so also became a central school institution for surrounding communities. Today in Esterwegen there is a senior school, which unifies all three branches. As the seat of the joint community of Nordhümmling, Esterwegen is also the political centre of northern Emsland.

An important contribution to the research and preparation of the history of the development of the Emsland has been the Emsland Moormuseum in Geeste-Groß Hesepe. Aside from permanent exhibits about peat cutting, bog development and bog cultivation, it also has an entire room dedicated to the development of the Emsland.

Hop aboard technology that is decades old

The narrow gauge railway was one of the most important machines in the development of the Emsland. The light tracks could be laid out in the moor without additional construction because they required no foundation. The railways were used to transport cut peat to drying and processing facilities. In the Emsland Moormuseum, there is one narrow gauge railway with a breadth of 600 mm that still runs. Young and old can experience a ride in the extensive grounds.

Just like in the old days – a ride on the railway (© ELT)

Between May 1-October 31, the train runs daily at 1pm, 2pm, 3pm and 4pm. The ride is about 30 minutes long and tickets can be purchased at the front desk. Additional information can be found on the Emsland Moormuseum’s website.

Astounding: ‘The Mammut’ – in actual size

In the post-war period the bogs were dried with the help of enormous machines. Particularly the steam and deep ploughing machines of the company Wilhelm Ottomeyer were in constant service in the bogs. In 5 hours they managed to achieve what had previously taken 500 working days. The Emsland Moormuseum writes the following:

"A complete set of a two perhaps four-machine company consisted of the steam locomotives, the plough and a worker and tool wagon. In the short ploughing season of only 75-100 days the days were up to 18 hours long. At the end of the 1960’s there were still over 30 active steam plough engines."

The Emsland development plan ended in 1965 and the focus turned to attracting and settling business and industry. The time of the ‘heavy work’ was done and many of its tools and machines were simply left behind. For all those interested in this time it is a piece of good luck. The deep plough ‘Mammut’, two steam engines, and a great number of tractors can be seen in the Emsland Moormuseum .

There’s a lot to discover in the Emsland Moormuseum (© ELT)

Annual Program
All year round there are lectures, workshops, children’s days and child-friendly tours. The program can be found on line.

Special exhibition
To mark the centenary of the internationally active Klasmann-Deilmann GmbH, which among other things has a business in Esterwegen, the Emsland Moormuseum has put together a chronicle of the company’s history. From June 18 – November 3, 2013 the Emsland Moormuseum is running the special exhibition,” From the Heseper Peat-Company to the Klasmann-Deilmann GmbH.

Additional Links | Website of the Emsland Moormuseum with information regarding opening times, tours, special exhibits and displays.

Additional Articles

Emslandplan | Detailed information about the Emsland development plan is available on the district’s website.

Additional Literature

Schmidt-Czaia, Bettina (Hrsg.): Esterwegen 1223 – 1999: „Moor und Heide nur ringsum…?“. Gemeinde Esterwegen (1999), ISBN: 30000444418

Christof Haverkamp: Die Erschließung des Emslandes im 20. Jahrhundert als Beispiel staatlicher regionaler Wirtschaftsförderung. (Reihe Emsland/Bentheim. Beiträge zur neueren Geschichte, Band 7), Sögel, Emsländische Landschaft (1991) ISBN: 9783925034169

Emsländische Landschaft und Bezirksregierung Weser-Ems (Hrsg.): Die Emslanderschließung. Eine Handreichung für den Unterricht in siebten bis zehnten Klassen. Endredaktion: Helmut Lensing. Sögel (2000), ISBN 3925034315

Landkreis Emsland (Hrsg.): 50 Jahre Emslandplan. Redaktion: Heiner Schüpp; Claus Veltmann. Meppen, Landkreis Emsland (2000), ISBN: 393036509X

Wilbers-Noetzel, Annette: Die wohnräumliche und wirtschaftliche Eingliederung der Flüchtlinge und Vertriebenen im Emsland nach 1945. (Reihe Emsland/Bentheim. Beiträge zur neueren Geschichte, Band 17), Sögel, Emsländische Landschaft (2004), ISBN: 9783925034350

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