Another testament to the Dutch conquest of their watery homeland, Wouda Steam Pumping Station is the largest installation of its kind and has been in operation for almost a century. Recognized by UNESCO as the engineering and architectural masterpiece, it can still carry out its functions of managing the excess water in the surrounding areas.
Here is a shot of the station from a distance…
… and a closer perspective.
The visitor center offers a couple of movies to introduce what station is all about. The shorter movie that provides operational overview is nearly impossible to follow with Dutch sound and English subtitles. The longer one – a dramatization of turning the station on during heavy rains – has mild entertainment but little educational value (also in Dutch with English subtitles).
Accompanied by a tour guide, you can then walk around the station and spend some time inside its main machinery hall. Unfortunately, not many non-Dutch speakers come to visit; your guide will attempt to give you some information in English, but for each 5 minutes of fluent Dutch you will get maybe 45 seconds of limited English. You can download a full tour in English (or several other languages) onto your smartphone for free, but listening to a recorded narration alongside a live guide’s presentation might be a bit awkward.
Nonetheless, the visit is quite worthwhile if you enjoy the feats of engineering. The tour guides exhibit immense pride for Dutch ingenuity in dealing with forces of nature, and even if you come away with just a sketchy understanding of the pumping process, you will still appreciate what this place represents.
The visit should take under two hours (probably less so if you speak Dutch and the guide can stick to only his native language). The station is a little bit less than an hour and a half away from Amsterdam by car.