By order of his Majesty

Ludwig II is not only known as the fairy-tale king. He was also a technology pioneer. The reliable partner for his steam-powered visions: TÜV SÜD

Neuschwanstein Castle: Scaffolding was erected and a steam-powered crane set up to transport construction materials.
Photo: akg images

The man-made grotto at Linderhof Palace: Steam technology powered the lighting in the royal theater of illusion.
Photo: laif

The steam boiler system in Linderhof Palace: It powered 24 generators for running the arc lamps and heated the grotto’s hot water tank.
Photo: Deutsches Museum, München, Archiv

The royal train of Ludwig II: The King requested an “open car” for his train. The train was delivered in 1865.
Photo: DB Museum Nürnberg

King Ludwig with the “Tristan,” his paddle steamer boat, on Lake Starnberg. The ship transported him to Rose Island where he could read in peace.
Illustration: INTERFOTO

Herrenchiemsee Palace: A separate turbine building was built for steam boiler equipment, a steam engine and two twin pumps for the technical system running the fountains and waterworks.
Photo: mauritius images

He seemed like he belonged to another age. While the upcoming industrialization would make giant strides in his kingdom, Bavaria’s King Ludwig II sought to recreate bygone eras with his castles. However, he did make use of the latest technology to escape into his fantasy worlds.

Nowadays, computer technology creates perfect illusions in the movie realm. Producing illusions in the 19th century was no simple task and if even possible, it was the domain of the privileged. Ascending to the throne in the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1864 as an 18-year-old, Ludwig II had dreams. Inspired by the music of Richard Wagner, the Bavarian king did everything he could to take what existed on the opera stage and transform it into a real-world setting. Technical advances came just in time for Ludwig. Locomotives, ships, and industrial factors were using steam technology, as were Bavaria’s industrial centers. Interested in this progress, Ludwig eagerly followed the innovative possibilities revealed at the Paris World Exhibition that would feed his illusions.

Steam power for Ludwig’s theatre of illusions

One example is the Venus Grotto in Ludwig’s Schloss Linderhof (a palace) in the middle of the Bavarian Alps. It replicates the scene of the first act of Richard Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” opera, specifically an artificial dripstone cave with a “royal seat” and a “Lorelei rock.” In this naturalistic stage setting, the Fairy Tale King, as he was known, loved to be rowed around the grotto’s artificial lake in a shell-shaped boat. To execute this perfect backdrop, his technicians had their hands full. Driven by a steam machine, 24 dynamos generated electricity for the cave’s lighting. Two other steam boilers powered a tubular heating system in place below the water’s surface and heated the grotto’s water to a comfortable 26 to 28 degrees Centigrade.

The Bavarian Steam Boiler Inspection and Revision Association ensured the safety of the Bavarian King’s technical devices.

Thanks to such technological innovations, Ludwig II became one of the first customers of the Bayerische Dampfkessel-Revisions-Verein (Bavarian steam boiler inspection association), which was an early predecessor of TÜV SÜD. Just a few years after it was founded in 1870, the association’s engineers inspected the steam-driven engine of the royal train in Munich, the paddle-steamer “Tristan” on Lake Starnberg, and the towing vessel for transporting construction materials to Herrenchiemsee Island. Later, they would also inspect the boilers that powered the steam-driven crane that hoisted building materials for Neuschwanstein Castle. Reports prepared by engineers Kissling and Hott in 1885 for the “external inspection” and the “periodic water pressure test” of Boiler Nos. 587 and 588 still exist.  As a side note, their findings revealed no discrepancies.

The Bayerische Dampfkessel-Revisions-Verein continued to work with the Bavarian royal family and Ludwig II’s castles over the next several decades, even after the kingdom came to an end in 1918. The technological installations of Ludwig’s projects, which nowadays draw millions of tourists to Bavaria, require regular inspections. In fact just recently in December 2015, a TÜV SÜD safety specialist inspected the electrical systems and elevators in the Herrenchiemsee Palace.