Cologne Lighthouse

In 1870, the electric light and telegraph company Barthel Berghausen and Cie was founded in the then independent industrial city of Ehrenfeld. On 31st July 1884 this became Helios AG. The factory location on Venloer Straße No. 387–389 was also selected due to its proximity to the horse tram route to Cologne and the railway station of Ehrenfeld on the Cologne-Aachen line.

At the turn of the century, the Helios factory, named after the Greek sun god, was one of the most innovative companies of its kind. It manufactured complete electricity plants with the new alternating current system that was put into operation throughout Europe. The products exported to Europe and worldwide included generators, transformers, light bulbs and lighting technology for public spaces. The construction of beacons and lighthouse towers also belonged to the product range. Helios therefore provided the equipment for Borkum (small lighthouse), Sylt (Kampen), Wangerooge and the navigation lights at the mouth of the Weser, as well as the ocean signalling technology of the Kiel Canal.

The Helios factory also operated and equipped the electric trams that were sold throughout Germany and Europe. On the premises of the plant there was a test circuit for these vehicles, which, depending on demand, could be operated with alternating or direct current. In 1891, the company was represented with a trade fair stand at the historically significant International Electrotechnical Exhibition.

After the turn of the century, a slowing demand and the loss-making acquisition of the Berlin Bank for the electrical industry in 1899 finally resulted in the restructuring of Helios AG: Siemens and AEG joined the company in 1904 in order to oversee the liquidation of the company from 1905 onwards. The gates of the plant were closed for the last time at the end of liquidation in 1930.

The current lighthouse replaced a first, less representative test and pilot system for lighthouses three years after the commissioning of the factory. Its 12-metre high base building, built in the Historistic style, has a square floor plan and was positioned on the north-western corner of the large manufacturing hall.  The actual tower made from red brick stands on the base. It is circular in shape and tapers as it rises up. The shaft supports a cantilever platform, on which a trial beacon stood until the Second World War. In 1996, the lighthouse was restored with an iron/glass construction based on the original design and glare-free continuous lighting, but without any optics. An iron spike serves as a lightning conductor. In today's street guide, the tower is located at Heliosstrasse, which marks the limit of the former Helios site to the northwest. Since 1986, the tower has been under monument protection.

It can be assumed that the Ehrenfeld lighthouse was also designed to attract attention and serve as a landmark for Helios AG. The construction and the equipment of lighthouses and beacons was just one branch of Helios AG. It used its technology to realise the lighthouses at Red Sand, Borkum, Kampen and Wangerooge, among others. The complete ocean signalling technology for the Kiev Canal, consisting of 20 lighthouses, came from Cologne-Ehrenfeld. The tower still acts as a landmark today – reminding the people of Ehrenfeld of the time in the 19th century when the suburb, as it was then, was characterised by large industrial companies.

In addition to the Moritzburg lighthouse and the Neue Lindauer lighthouse, the Heliosturm is one of the few inland light towers in Germany. Any function for inland shipping on the Rhine, some six kilometres away, which is often attributed to the tower, is unlikely.

The Heliosturm is not accessible to the public. Since 2001, it has been fitted with an antenna system once a year by radio amateurs as part of the International Lighthouse and Lightship weekend. Under the international lighthouse designation FED-107 and the call sign DE0011, the tower is then connected with over 300 participating lighthouses all over the world.


Source: (Status: 24.08.2018)


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