In 2020, for the first time since the 'Society For The Preservation Of The Wiehl Valley Railway' resumed traffic on the Wiehl valley railway in 1999, no train drove on the line! Essentially this is due to the impact of the Corona pandemic. The 'Bergischer Löwe' had to stay in the shed due to regulatory action, leading to a considerable loss for the colleagues of the Dieringhausen Railway Museum.
Nonetheless, there nearly would have been a restart for the tourist steam train with it's locomotive 'Waldbröl' in summer 2020, but after two fire-raisings on the big Wiehl-bridge in Bielstein the bridge had to be closed for railway traffic because of the damages. More on this in the next chapter.
Infrastructure Of The Line
Aside from the corona pandemic, two sleeper fires on the big Wiehl bridge in Bielstein (on June 24th and on August 5th) are counted among the annoying occurrences of the year 2020.
The big Wiehl bridge in Bielstein
Due to severe smoke development local residents startled the Bielstein fire fighting unit of Wiehl's volunteer fire brigade.
Severe smoke development on the bridge
The fire fighters could extinguish each of the fires in a short time. In all likelihood, the fires were caused by fire-raising.
The fire fighters could extinguish each of the fires in a short time
Now some sleepers on the bridge show severe damages. The RSE (Rhine-Sieg-Railway) operating manager had to close the bridge for railway traffic up to the renewal of the damaged sleepers.
Some sleepers on the bridge show severe damages
As a consequence, the rides of the "Bergischer Löwe" that were scheduled for for August and September could not take place.
The 'Preservation Society' is concentrating on solving the problem. The good news is that the 'Preservation Society' could assure a bunch of used, good sleepers on the occasion of the renewal of the Osberghausen Agger bridge of the DB line (RB25). Replacing the bridge baulks is a rather sophisticated task. According to the quotations of two railway construction companies, the replacement of the specially adapted sleepers could cost a mid-five-figure number. Money that the 'Preservation Society' does not have. So regional politics has been asked for help.
Good news: Once again federal state funding for the Wiehl Valley Railway - restoration works on the railway bridge across the Wiehl rivulet can begin
The 'Society For The Preservation Of The Wiehl Valley Railway' can be chuffed about another funding from the federal state funding programme 'traffic-historical cultural assets'. The pleasant news from the ministry of 'homeland, municipal, construction and gender mainstreaming' in Düsseldorf reached the 'Upper Berg County' on January 22nd, 2021.
The sponsoring is for the restoration of the big Wiehl bridge next to the Bielstein brewery. It had to be closed for railway traffic last summer in the aftermath of two fires which seriously damaged some of the bridge baulks. A subsequent structure examination by an expert revealed further age-related damages of the basically over 100 year old steel bridge.
"It quickly became clearly recognisable that the restoration of the bridge would exceed the capabilities of a friendly society - both personnel-wise and financially", said club chairman Gerhard Mansel.
However, a rapid restoration of the bridge is highly desirable. In consequence of the Wiehl Valley Railway line being single-track, the closure of the bridge, which is situated quite at the beginning of the roughly 19 miles (30 km) long line near milestone 2.5 (kilometre stone 3.9), currently no train service is possible on this line.
Basically, the Wiehl Valley Railway line is the only line within reach for the tourist steam train "Bergischer Löwe" with its historic steam locomotive "Waldbröl". Insofar, the closure of the bridge means a big damage for this well-established tourist attraction in the upper Berg county.
Furthermore, the RSE got enquiries from four companies for timber transports - year-long and triweekly is the current plan according to Walter Zienow, General Manager of the RSE and vice chairman of the 'Preservation Society'. Until the bridge is open to traffic again the transports will start from Osberghausen. "But it would be better from Oberwiehl od Waldbröl", so Zienow.
After the compilation of a rehabilitation concept and the obtaining of according quotations from specialist companies, the 'Preservation Society' could apply for another federal state funding. Just last December, the Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia increased this funding programme (originated two years ago) to €700,000 (≈ £618,450).
"At this juncture we'd like to say a big thank you to minister Ina Scharrenbach and to the Member of the Landtag Bodo Löttgen from the upper Berg county for supporting the Wiehl Valley Railway", Gerhard Mansel emphasizes.
The funding was comfirmed at the right time to start everything necessary for the restoration of the bridge.
Despite all the delight about the funding - there still is a financing gap for this measure. Only 70% of the calculated total costs of €115,000 (≈£101,602) will be funded (roughly €80,000 or ≈£70,680). The 'Preservation Society' can contribute about €9,000 (≈ £7,951.50) - so there still remains a financing gap equivalent to roughly €25,000 (≈ £22,087.50).
"We hope very much that we succeed to motivate many generous donors to make a contribution towards the restoration of the bridge", the chairman of the 'Preservation Society' optimistically states.
Donations towards the restoration of the bridge with reference "Restoration railway bridge Bielstein" please to one of our accounts for donations:
Volksbank Oberberg e.G.
IBAN: DE 55 3846 2135 1005 5550 15