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History of the Swiss Steam Centre

Something big is coming ...

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In 2011, more than 600 tonnes of cultural assets from the period of industrialization in Switzerland reached Winterthur. Since then, there is the most comprehensive and interesting collection of Swiss steam technology. A living exhibition that makes a variety of applications visible and tangible!

Even the birth of the steam center was adventurous: a few unwavering initiative ghosts rescued the threatened by scrapping Thuner Vaporama collection. The valuable cultural items were brought to Winterthur. There, a suitable place was found and built an association. Winterthur appeared to be the most suitable location for the construction of a Swiss steam centre because a considerable number of the exhibits were designed and built in the Winterthur workshops of Sulzer and SLM. The steam centre should be directly related to the city and its population. In fact, there were quite a few volunteers in the Winterthur area who had spent their professional lives in the Winterthur engineering industry and who now accepted "their" machines with enthusiasm, expertise and great pride.

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With the move from Thun to Winterthur, the circle has closed twice for several exhibits: These machines built in Winterthur had done their work somewhere in the world and had subsequently returned to Winterthur, where they were to be exhibited in the Technorama. But the Technorama pursued a different strategy, and so the machines were passed to Thun. From there they came back to Winterthur!

And so visitors can expect an extremely diverse exhibition of steam engines. These were once used to drive generators, as traction systems for ships and locomotives, and - in the form of a steam turbine - to power an Ariane rocket stage! On the visiting days, the Winterthur exhibition hall is full of life! The spectators are fascinated by the movements of the sometimes impressively complicated mechanics.

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In 2013, the collection of the gifted mechanic Hans Kläy was integrated into the steam center. This unique compilation of faithful models thrills young and old. Most Kläy models are operational. It happens that teenagers spend hours with these marvels of technology and can be introduced to their operation.

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Over the past five years, steam centre volunteers have expertly maintained "their" machines in countless hours. Many of the more than 80 original machines have even been revised and put into a working condition: some machines have been equipped with auxiliary drives (compressed air or electric), others can even be shown under steam again.

The Steam Centre Winterthur is not only dedicated to the preservation of machinery. Equally important is the documentation of the history of industrialization in Switzerland. This includes the founding of ETH in Zurich and the first pilot plant in Switzerland in Winterthur. Established in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Swiss pioneering companies were characterized by their innovative spirit. High-quality Swiss industrial products were then exported all over the world.

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"Future needs the past". Under this motto are the tours of the steam centre. There, it becomes possible to experience how each epoch had its technology and how its further developments are progressing inexorably. Fascinating how beautiful and elegant our forefathers have often designed machines that have survived only thanks to fortunate circumstances, with great attention to detail!

The Steam Centre is well on its way to becoming a unique place of history and inspiration. We from the Steam Centre are pleased to present and demonstrate our valuable and unique treasures to our visitors.