The Voccart and Prick Mines

In the background the Voccart Mine, on the right the narrow gauge rails which were also used for coal transport until 1914. (Photo: Siemens Historical Institute)

The Voccart Mine was a colliery in the Herzogenrath district of Strass, right on the edge of the coal mountain located there The mine was opened in around 1830, and operated by its owners James Cockerill, Christine Englerth, Karl Winkens, and Hauche Corne. After the founding of the Vereinigungsgesellschaft für Steinkohlenbau im Wurmrevier (River Wurm Coal Mining Association) on 3 May 1836, partly financed by James Cockerill, the mine was operated by the Association from about 1840, it later became the property of the Eschweiler Bergwerks-Verein from 1907 until its closure in 1932.

Voccart was located directly on Neustrasse on the German side. The Prick Mine, just over a kilometre up the road on the Dutch side, was also owned by the Association. The mines are often referred to in literature as Neu-Voccart and Neu-Prick, because mining in and around the Wurm Valley goes back much further in time, so there were older and newer shafts.

Both these mines were connected by a horse-drawn tram to Laurweg Mine in Kohlscheid, which was owned by the same company (for more information, see the ‘Tram’ chapter). The two mines were also connected underground. Neuprick had only one shaft, Catharina, with a vent partition to bring fresh air into the mine. However, Prussian mining laws demanded that at least two shafts always had to be dug before a mine could be opened. Neuprick had significant problems controlling ventilation, so after prior approval from the Dutch and Prussian mining authorities, a transverse corridor was constructed under the national border to connect Neuprick Mine to Voccart Mine. This connection was also used to drain mine water from Neuprick to Voccart, from where it was drained into the River Wurm.

However, the route was also used for a less legitimate purpose for a time; a flourishing trade in various smuggled goods from the Netherlands to Germany, and vice versa. The date 5 November 1856 has become an important landmark in the history of Dutch mining, On this day, two barred doors near the border in the passage were officially closed and sealed on both sides by senior customs officials. The keys were deposited with the state tax collector in Kerkrade. In the meantime, mining operations in Neuprick were run from Voccart. Due to the sharp increase in mine water which had to be drained, keeping the Neuprick mine became increasingly expensive, and the mine eventually closed definitively in 1904. The mineworkers found new work at Voccart and Domaniale, among others.
In 1912, an underground connection between Voccart Mine and neighbouring Laurweg Mine was completed, marking the end of independent mining in Voccart. After this date, the shaft was only used to transport miners to the coalface and for ventilation. Voccart had previously made use of the coal preparation plant at Laurweg. The full coal wagons were transported to Laurweg over the Aachen tram line with special train bogies that were compatible with the narrow gauge of the old horse-tram line.

In 1932, mining at Voccart ended. In 1968, the last external mineshafts at Voccart were demolished, and the shaft openings were backfilled.

A REWE supermarket, among other things, now stands on the site of the mine, with only a small monument in the shape of a coal wagon commemorating the industrial past. The street names Voccartstrasse in the Herzogenrath district of Strass, Voccartstraat in the Kerkrade district of Bleijerheide, and Pricksteenweg and Prickbos in Bleijerheide/Kerkrade also honour the memory of the two mines.

Topographic map “Pannesheide – Old Shafts” with the section of the Voccart mine (Grube Anna Bergbauinformationszentrum e.V.)

Working across the border

There was a lot of commuting in the cross-border mining industry; Dutch miners worked in German mines and vice versa. Special terms arose during this time, such as the guildermen. This term originated during the time of the great inflation (1914 – 1923), when German miners worked in Dutch mines for economic reasons. However, they were only allowed to spend half of their wages to buy food in the Netherlands. However, the remaining wage was worth nothing in Germany due to inflation. Cross-border payments between Germany and the Netherlands also developed underground. Smuggling coveted goods, such as coffee and cigarettes, in the underground routes presented itself.

“Because of the close connection between the Voccart mine in Prussian territory and the Dutch Prick mine, a frequent change of workers was unavoidable, even on the part of the miners’ board. If members of the miners’ union on this side were transferred to the Prick mine in Holland, these workers could not be deprived of their acquired rights. In the course of time, this led to the situation that almost all workers at the Prick mine belonged to the Wurm miners’ association. (Simons 1890)

Connection plan for the mine railway 1902 – Neu-Voccart 1901, Neustraße was called Provinzialstraße at this time until about the 1930s (Geoportal der Städteregion)

Source:

Literature:

Matthias Kaever: Die nicht erneuerbaren Energieträger zwischen Rur und Maas. LIT Verlag, Münster 2004, ISBN 978-3825874247

Wolfgang Voigt: Kohlebergbau im Aachener Revier, abgerufen am 24. Februar 2016

Josef Aretz: Kohlscheider Bergwerke. 2.Auflage 1987, Herzogenrath 1986

Grube Anna Bergbauinformationszentrum Alsdorf e.V. – Friedrich Ebbert

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