Niederfinow Boat Lift

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We drive from berlin to the polish border and on the way we reach the small town of Niederfinow. The village is tiny and I doubt there is anything tourist vise inside the village itself – despite this a lot of tourist flock to this destination since it is home to a historic ship lift. The Niederfinow Schiffshebewerk. This is the oldest working ship lift in Germany.

Model of Niederfinow Boat Lift

The ship lift basically let a boat go inside the lift in a giant bathtub and then the tub including the ship is raised by 36 meters to reach the next section of the navigable river.

The lift was built to connect the city of Berlin with the harbor town of Stettin (now Szczecin in Poland). Berlin is a land locked city so to trade with the outside world it was necessary to transport goods along the rivers to the nearest harbor which was in Stettin. Unfortunately the rivers from Berlin couldn’t be navigated by river barges so something had to be done to make the transport easier.

Finally the new Oder-Havel Canal was opened in 1914 to let the ships sail to and from Berlin. Originally the section at Niederfinow was handled by a staircase lock with 4 chambers to let the ship slowly be lifted up and down. This was a slow solution and it quickly turned out the staircase locks was insufficient to handle the traffic along the canal.

View from the ship lift

To solve the problem it was decided to build the ship lift. The work was started in 1927 and finally finished in 1934. The lift was working at the canal for many years and it is actually still working. But the modern barge travelling along the rivers in Germany and the rest of Europe have grown in seize and are now too large for the old ship lift. In reality this made the old canal obsolete as a route for transportation of goods and now it would only be used for the pleasure boats travelling along the canal.

Looking down the ship lift

To solve the problem of the larger boats a bigger ship lifts were finally built. The decision to build the new ship lift was made in 1997 and the works started in 2006. The ship lift should be finished here in 2021 and it looked like it was ready to operate now – but I didn’t actually see the new lift in operations since there was no large ships going through when we went to the see the ship lift.

To visit the ship lift you just need to buy a ticket to go onto the hill where you can slowly walk up the hill from the bottom of the ship lift to the top of the ship lift. You can see this old construction and the canals at the top of the bottom of the ship lift. The tickets are only a few euros so it is worth going in to see the lift from the top – though you can see the construction close up from the bottom for free.

It is actually possible to get a tour on a boat as well which will take you through the ship lift so you can get to experience the workings of the lift yourselves.


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