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Pipeline History: first modern pipeline commissioned 400 years ago

Pipeline History: the first modern pipeline was commissioned 400 years ago (Copyright: Museum Salz & Moor / Adrian von Riedl)

400 years ago, the first modern pipeline was put into operation in Bavaria, Germany. It transported salt from Reichenhall to Traunstein. The last parts remained in operation until 1958.

To build a pipeline from Reichenhall to Traunstein, 31 kilometres long, with a height difference of 250 metres was a great venture in 1617.

It took Hanns and Simon Reiffenstuel all their courage and skill to carry out this work within only two years and at the same time to build a saltworks in Traunstein. The necessary pumping stations make the first of the Bavarian brine pipelines a record-breaking wonder of the world: the world's first modern pipeline.

Why all this effort? In Reichenhall, saline springs have been known since time immemorial. This brine was boiled over wood fires until the free-flowing salt remained. Salt was a very valuable commodity in earlier centuries. But fresh water diluted the Reichenhall brine springs, so that a lot of wood was needed to fire the boiling pans. Wood was scarce because the Bavarian city was surrounded on three sides by foreign territory.

So the plan to lead the brine to places where there was enough wood was carried out. All the necessary techniques were known: Pipelines had long been available, and pumps driven by water wheels had also been tried and tested. Hanns and Simon Reiffenstuel's main achievement was therefore to combine pipes and pumps into such a long pipeline for the first time. In addition, the planning of the pipeline layout is admirable from today's point of view, because the contemporary land surveying was not supposed to deliver exact maps until centuries later. Nevertheless, it was possible to define the pipeline route in an ideal manner in difficult terrain and to place the pumping stations at suitable locations.

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The article is very informative in the present times

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