Visiting an abandoned steel factory in Liège (Luik)

Today we visit an old abandoned steel factory in the province of Liège (Luik), exploring the assembly lines, control rooms and more.

Liège (in Dutch, Luik) was an epicenter of steel industry, starting from the 16th century Liège has had countless steel factories. The river Meuse flows directly through the city, making it easily accessible by water. Since the fall of the economy after World War II, and the decrease in interest of mining, many steel related businesses were put out of business. Leaving behind empty mines, factories and train yards. Over the years, these structures have been forgotten (or demolished) and taken over by nature. As of now, there are many reconversion projects going on, or planned. So we decided to visit one of these places before they are lost forever.

blast furnace in liege

It is king’s day in The Netherlands, which means that most of our team has the day off (except for our Belgian friends). Once again, we are with four people. We intend to explore the factory for the entire day, so we took a lot of equipment with us. After driving over 250 kilometers, we arrive at our destination.

Before we go exploring, we decided that it is a good idea to scan the area for entrances, security and possible demolition projects that may be going on at the factory. We drive around for a while until we find a hole in a fence. We deploy our drone to scan the terrain of the factory, making sure that there is nothing going on. Luckily, there is zero security. The drone did spot a group of two people roaming, with cameras. Must be other explorers, all good!

We parked our car in a nearby street. After grabbing our equipment, we made our way down the road to the fence we saw earlier. It is a bit of a challenge, because like any other ‘protected’ structure, there is a ton of barbed wire which you have to go through. A bit of a hassle, but we’re inside. The first thing we notice is that nature has taken over a part of the factory, with trees and plants growing everywhere. The second thing we notice is that just like any other abandoned structure in or near a city, vandals have trashed the entire place.

a photograp of a torpedo wagon in an abandoned steel factory

Ignoring the vandalism, this place is a beauty. Due to the lack of maintenance, all the steel has started to rust. But with rust also comes great danger, metal tends to weaken when rusted. Which means that we have to carefully look where we walk.

We start at the main hall, which is mainly intact. Since this is a dry area, all the rust you come across is from oxidation. And rust from oxidation leaves behind a lot of dust, and when I say a lot, I mean it. Luckily, I was smart enough to bring face masks, probably the best decision of the day. There’s dust everywhere, and in the air too. I don’t feel like breathing that in.

a photograph of hoppers inside a steel factory in belgium, the hoppers used transport coal dust
a photograph of a conveyor belt inside an abandoned steel factory called hfb. the conveyor belt is rusty

Making our way through the main hall, walking past meters of assembly lines. One thing is clear, copper thieves have been here and taken everything that even contains the smallest traces of copper. But nonetheless, it is a beautiful piece of industry. Looking up, there is a lot to explore. We decide to stick together, because it is a really dark place, and I was the only one smart enough to bring flashlights (that last longer than 30 minutes). Walking around the different levels and assembly lines, you start to realize how big this place actually is, and this is only the beginning of our journey! We make our way down to the end of the hall, where the wall is completely gone (if there ever was one). Once we get outside, there are these massive other structures, so much that you can’t explore it in detail in one day.

After some discussing, we decide that it is probably the best idea to walk through the entire place and note some points of interest. One member of our team isn’t the most enthusiastic about heights. So this seemed like the best idea. We walk around for a while, take some pictures and mark our POI’s. After walking around we decided that we definitely wanted to visit the garage, second hall, main hall office and the checkpoint near the entrance. Leaving the huge blast furnace and front office unexplored for now.

outside view of the blower house in an abandoned steel factory in belgium

We make our way to the second hallway, which contained many machines and electronic panels. I’m assuming this is some sort of power plant or blower house for the blast furnace. There wasn’t too much to see other than the tubes, electronics and some generators.

a photograph of the interior of a blower house at a blast furnace
a photograph of transformers inside the former blower house in belgium

After the second hall, we make our way to the garage first, realizing that it has been completely cleaned out, one of us spots a few papers on the ground. None of us can read French properly, but there are some images too. Walking through some doorways, there’s not really anything special. We make our way up to the first floor, which is used as a storage room for reserve parts. The second floor was inaccessible, so we skipped to the third floor. Which contained a lot of lockers and a classroom (completely vandalized).

a photograph of a box containing several mechanical parts
abandoned classroom

Next up is the checkpoint near the entrance. This building too contains a lot of lockers. There’s a small cafeteria and remnants of what once was a toilet. I’m guessing this was mainly used for logistics to see what was coming in and going out. The two front rooms (little office and cafeteria) have been trashed, but made room for some nice pictures.

a photograph of a decaying chair in a former steel factory in belgium

Finally, we make our way back to the main hall. In search for the stairs, we get spooked by a loud noise. It was the wind blowing against some plastic flaps. We made our way to the exit where we stumbled across the stairway, up we go!

Spoiler alert, all floors have been trashed. So I will skip some because there wasn’t anything worth noting. On the second floor, we come across the room where the cables go. There are tons of rubber on the floor, the thieves only took the copper.

a photograph of cable holders, all the cables have been stolen by copper thieves

The next floor contains the control room for the main hall, there’s one huge panel with a chair and the rest of the room is filled with more electrical controls. Several rows of exactly the same equipment, but each for a different part of the assembly line. I’m guessing this is where they control the power for the machines.

a control room in a former blast furnace in belgium

Next up is more electronics. I guess this floor contains everything that steers all the different types of machinery that is inside the hall. There are tons of buttons and gauges.

a photograph of the electrical network in a former steel factory, the photo shows many fuse boxes and buttons

The next two floors contain the offices for the workers that work in the main hall. There are tons of lockers, papers and more. We even found a room where the windows were still intact. There is even a bathroom and a kitchen. These floors also grant access to the high catwalks. We’re probably up 40 meters and even on these floors there are still massive machines.

a photograph inside the top of the former steel faxtory usinor in liege

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. It is 18:00 so that means time to leave, we still have a long drive ahead of us. We make our way down the stairway and head to the fence that we used to enter the factory. One last look and then we leave. Another successful exploration, worth every minute. Since we didn’t get to fully explore the factory, we will be coming back another time.