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Cyclists at Zwanenburg / Halfweg, 1920s | by letterlust
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Cyclists at Zwanenburg / Halfweg, 1920s

The photo is made in the 1920s just outside Halfweg, on the Zwanenburg site (Halfweg and Zwanenburg are a twin village).


Precise location

We are looking at the corner Lindenlaan / Zwanenburgerdijk. Behind the people there is indeed a canal: the Ringvaart, with a metal swing / swivel bridge.

Areal photo of the situation.


Who are these people?

It is very likely that among the people on this photo there are members of the Halfweg Sport Club (HSC) De Bataaf. Or people who will start that club in 1923.


The bike at the right, of the smoking man with a hat and watch chain, has brakes and is of Dutch built. The three in the middle have no brakes, which makes them racing bikes. I am not totally sure if the bike at the left has a brake or not. Probably also not .


The cyclist in the middle, in the darker suite, is my grandfather Frits Wiersma.



In the background you see the RK Church of Halfweg at the Kerkplein (Church Square). The church was demolished around 1931 and later the square was renamed 'Doctor Baumannplein' (a local G.P.).


December 2010 it was in the newspapers that the new RK Church, build at the same square in 1929, also has to disappear. The deferred maintenance alone is estimated at 1.6 million euros. And for ordinary maintenance, and improving the foundation is no money. So, of the three (typical) churches in the village, only 'De Kleine Kerk' (= 'The Little Church') will be left.


The chimney is that of the steam powered pumping station Rijnland .


The buildings you see at the right are shops, not a factory, with cafe Greeven on the corner right. You could drink Amstel Beer over there.


A bit more about Halfweg

The little village Halfweg lies about 8 km east of Haarlem, approximately halfway between Haarlem and Amsterdam in the Dutch province of North-Holland.

In 1632, the Haarlemmertrekvaart, a canal from Amsterdam to Haarlem, opened for passenger traffic by towed barges (trekschuit). At the halfway point the passengers needed to disembark and change boats.

In the 1860s a sugar beet factory opened in Halfweg. It closed in 1991. Silo's of the factory are now in use as office buildings.


About the Ringvaart

The Ringvaart (short for 'Ringvaart of the Haarlemmermeer Polder' and Dutch for 'ring canal') is a true circular canal surrounding the Haarlemmermeer polder. It was completed in 1845.

It forms the border between Halfweg and Zwanenburg.


About pumping station Rijnland

A pumping station with two large Babcock and Wilcox steam boilers. It is the oldest still operational steam-powered pumping station in the world.

It was built in 1853 and served as the pumping station for the basin of the polder, pumping excess water from the belt canal of the Haarlemmermeer to the IJ and later from there to the North Sea Canal. This took place at the rate of 25,000 liters a second ! I suppose that the pumps & boilers made quite some noise.


About 'H.S.C. de Bataaf'

The Cycling Club De Bataaf started in March 1923. The name 'De Bataaf' refers to all the day labourers which worked in the sugar industry in and around Halfweg. Most of them came from Brabant, a province in the South of The Netherlands. Strong people with much love for and knowledge of the cycling sport.

These Brabanders came from the South just like the Batavians (Batavieren) in the Roman Times, the founders thought. That's why they choose the name 'De Bataaf'.


In the early days of De Bataaf their members did more racing on cycling tracks ('the oval') then on the road. In the 1920s they even built a wooden, noisy track in Zwanenburg with the nickname The Blown Down Fence ('De omgewaaide schutting').

So it is not strange to see some track bicycles on this photo.


A special thanks to all the people at '', and a specially Gerard van der Bijl. They identified the place where this photo was taken behind any doubt. It took them less then two months!


I keep looking for answers to questions like:

- Who everybody is; and

- Why & When this photo was taken.

October 2008


Private Photo




Original capture

1920s. Industrial environment. Chimney with crosses. Church tower. Several caps with a badge. Different badges. Badge of the 2th biker from the right shows a lion. Could be Germany, Belgium or France. Not The Netherlands is my feeling (I don't know why).


Update September 2008

There is water between this group and the factory, probably a canal or a port. Behind the people at the right you can see the mast of a ship.


There are indeed characters on the roof (the blacker spot directly above my grandfather). They seem to be of different sizes and partly underlined.


The motor cyclist left is recognized as a sportsman regularly driving around Assen, a town in the Dutch province of Drente.


There is an other photo with the man at the right behind the motor cyclist in the collection of my grandfather dated summer of 1920.


That makes the number of known Dutchmen three. So Andre, plus a Dutch bike I think you are right: this must be The Netherlands.

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Uploaded on February 19, 2008