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 ran 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 reasons, leading to a considerable loss for our colleagues at the Dieringhausen Railway Museum.
Nonetheless, there nearly would have been a restart for the tourist steam train with its 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 damage. 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 raised the alarm with the Bielstein fire-fighting unit of Wiehl's volunteer fire brigade.
Severe smoke development on the bridge
The fire fighters were able to extinguish each of the fires in a short time. In all likelihood, the fires were caused by deliberate action.
The fire fighters could extinguish each of the fires in a short time
Now some sleepers on the bridge show severe damage. The RSE (Rhine-Sieg-Railway) operating manager had to close the bridge for railway traffic until the renewal of the damaged sleepers took place.
Some sleepers on the bridge show severe damage
As a consequence, the steam-hauled runs of the "Bergischer Löwe" that were scheduled for August and September could not take place.
The Preservation Society is concentrating on solving the problem. The good news is that the Society could secure a quantity of used, good sleepers on the occasion of the renewal of the Osberghausen Agger bridge of the DB line (RB25). Replacing the longitudinal bridge baulks is a rather sophisticated task. According to the quotations from 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 politicians 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 brook can begin
The Society For The Preservation of the Wiehl Valley Railway can be chuffed about another funding from the federal state funding programme Transport-Historical Cultural Assets. The good news from the Ministry of Homeland, Municipal, Construction and Equality in Düsseldorf reached the Upper Berg County on January 22nd, 2021.
The sponsorship is for the restoration of the large Wiehl bridge next to the Bielstein brewery. It had to be closed to railway traffic last summer in the aftermath of two fires which seriously damaged some of the bridge timbers. A subsequent structure examination by an expert revealed further age-related damage 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 voluntary society - both personnel-wise and financially", said the 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 almost at the beginning of the roughly 19 miles (30 km) long line near milepost 2½ (kilometre post 3.9), currently no train service is possible on this line.
Basically, the Wiehl Valley Railway line is the only line accessible by the tourist steam train "Bergischer Löwe" with its historic steam locomotive "Waldbröl". As a consequence the closure of the bridge means severe damage for this well-established tourist attraction in the Upper Berg county.
Furthermore, the RSE have had enquiries from four companies for timber transport – all yearlong and tri-weekly 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 transport will start from Osberghausen. "But it would be better from Oberwiehl od Waldbröl", says Zienow.
After the compilation of a rehabilitation plan and the obtaining of necessary quotations from specialist companies, the Preservation Society could apply for further federal state funding. Just last December, the Regional Council of North Rhine-Westphalia increased this funding programme (originated two years ago) to €700,000 (≈ £618,450).
"At this point we wouldd like to say a big "thank you!" to Minister Ina Scharrenbach and to the Member of the Council 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 financial gap for this project. 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 (≈ £7,950) - so there still remains a financing gap equivalent to roughly €25,000 (≈ £22,087).
"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