Early on Monday morning, April 26th, 2021, around 06:00 a.m., the loading of freight wagons with Oberberg 'beetle wood' began in Engelskirchen-Osberghausen. The chairman of the 'Society for the Preservation of the Wiehl Valley Railway', Gerhard Mansel, explains to media representatives the former importance of the former "preliminary station" of Dieringhausen: "In earlier times, Osberghausen served as the preliminary railway station for Dieringhausen, where up to 500 goods wagons were dispatched daily in peak times. Large quantities of greywacke were transported from the Wiehl valley.
Now the former freight station is to be used again - for the rail transport of Oberberg "beetle wood" to southern Germany near Passau. However, during the station's decades-long "sleeping beauty slumber", the loading track had become completely overgrown. "Three months ago, there was still forest here," Mansel reports with a laugh. Last year, a sawmill near Passau with rail network connection asked about the timber transports and it was agreed relatively quickly to make the former goods station in Osberghausen usable again for the transports to Southern Germany.
In the winter of 2020/21, extensive tree felling work was carried out in the area of the loading track - by March 2021, the loading track had been cut free by volunteers and the roots removed from the track bed. However, special work was also required (e.g. the replacement of about 70 rotten wooden sleepers and some points sleepers), which was beyond the capabilities of the volunteers. External companies had to be commissioned for this, for which the Passau sawmill provided roughly € 20,000 (£ 15,654.60). At the end of April 2021, the work was then completed and the loading track was once again usable as such.
"This is now the first opportunity in Oberberg to load and transport timber on this scale," explains Gerhard Mansel. Aside from Osberghausen, the closest rail loading facility is in Brügge near Lüdenscheid in the Märkischer Kreis.
On the morning of April 26th, 2021, the first empty train arrived in Osberghausen and the loading work began. To get some space in the station, some of the wagons were shunted with the Köf to the Wiehlpuhl area and parked there on the track.
Some of the wagons are parked in the Wiehlpuhl area
In order to enable the loading and removal of the wood in Osberghausen, several parties had to cooperate. For example, the loading ramp is located on the territory of the municipality of Engelskirchen and the place for temporary storage of the logs until loading (a former scrap yard) is privately owned.
Temporary storage of the logs until loading at the former scrap yard
Our railway infrastructure company, the Rhein-Sieg-Eisenbahn (RSE), is responsible for the loading track and also carries out the shunting operations on site. A locomotive driver from the company explains: "It's quite a shunting job. Only six wagons can be loaded at a time on the 120-metre-long loading ramp."
Transport by rail is much more climate-friendly than by lorry
The timber trains usually consist of 22 wagons that can take logs 3-5 metres long and weighing a total of about 1300 tonnes. When passenger traffic on the Agger Valley Railway line is at a standstill at night, the goods train, which weighs about 1700 tonnes and is about 480 metres long, is shunted from the tracks of the Wiehl Valley Railway onto the Agger Valley line, where it is taken over by a heavy "Class 66" diesel locomotive with about 3000 hp from the logistics company "Häfen und Güterverkehr Köln (HGK)". It pulls the train to Cologne-Kalk-North. From there, it continues to southern Germany in about 15 hours under the direction of the "Eisenbahnen und Verkehrsbetriebe Elbe-Weser". The "Eisenbahnen und Verkehrsbetriebe Elbe-Weser" also provide the shunting locomotive "Köf" (small locomotive with oil engine (diesel engine) and liquid transmission), which was delivered last week, for the shunting trips.
The Köf has arrived and is being rerailed
"This is a good opportunity to show how important the railway is for the region," says Gerhard Mansel. Twice a week (Mondays and Fridays), trains will be loaded in Osberghausen until next year. Mansel hopes that the old freight station will continue to be used for freight transport after that: "Transport by rail produces only 20 percent of carbon dioxide emissions compared to transport by lorries on the road."
On May 3rd, 2021, a team from WDR Lokalzeit Köln (West German Broadcasting Corporation Cologne) visited Osberghausen station and shot some footage of the timber train. Board member Jörg Seidel from our Preservation Society, Fabian Pinzke from the Rhein-Sieg railway and the local forester gave info on the timber loading. The report was broadcasted on Monday, May 10th, 2021, around 7:50 pm. We would like to thank the 'Lokalzeit' editorial team for their kind permission to include the report here on our website (Sorry - report is in German language only).
What is "Beetle wood"?
"Beetle wood" is wood infested by the "bark beetle" that must be quickly removed from the forest. But beetle wood is not waste! Beetle wood is basically just as good as freshly cut wood. If an optically flawless wood is desired, the colour-changed wood areas are removed in the sawmill. The increased waste reduces the economic value of beetle wood by at least 30 % compared to healthy wood.
(The following text was taken from the German website https://stark-inspiration.de/aktuelles/news/04-aber-was-ist-eigentlich-kaeferholz-7190343/ and translated to English)
Bark beetles love it warm and dry. The long summers of recent years therefore provided optimal living and growing conditions: the inconspicuous beetles were able to fly out early in the spring to open up new breeding grounds and were still active long into late summer.
Who is the "bark beetle"?
Bark beetles are only five millimetres in size and visually quite inconspicuous. The small insects look like oval balls, equipped with two wings, six legs and two antennae. At first glance, therefore, they are not very threatening. Nevertheless, the bark beetle is responsible for the death of many spruce forests weakened by climate change and causes millions of dollars in damage.
How does the bark beetle work?
Once the bark beetles have conquered a tree, they penetrate through the bark and begin busily building vertical tunnels and chambers along the trunk. A "beetle tree" is recognisable at first glance, even to the layman, because the spruces try to heal themselves and seal the pierced bark with small, optically-visible resin droplets. The prevailing dryness of the hot summers leads to an increased lack of moisture in the trees. They lack energy and vitality. In addition, the "beetle highway" interrupts the flow of nutrients between the roots and the crown, which is vital for the trees. The trees die.
A forest full of beetle wood - what to do?
Bark beetles are quite active and like to spread quickly. If it has taken root in individual trees, the trees (and surrounding trees) must be felled as quickly as possible in order to protect the remaining, still healthy trees and to contain further damage.
Since bark beetles can fly, the storage site for the infested wood must be at least 500 m away from the forest.
What is meant by beetle wood?
Bark beetles settle directly under the bark. The busy beetle only builds its worm-like tunnels on the surface of the trunk. Thus, it does not cause any "technical damage" because the wood of the tree is not affected.
However, due to symbiotic fungi, an infestation of bark beetles can cause discolouration of wood when used outdoors. These colour changes, such as blue stain in pine and spruce wood, do not reduce the strength and quality of the wood in the slightest, but merely represent an optical devaluation.
Beetle wood is not waste!
If an optically flawless wood is desired, the colour-changed wood areas are removed in the sawmill. The increased waste reduces the economic value of beetle wood by at least 30 % compared to healthy wood.
Although a forest owner plagued by the bark beetle has to cope with the loss of value and accept visual changes, the beetle wood is still far too valuable for waste.
Trees are natural climate protectors. As they grow, they extract the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air. The carbon is stored in the wood, and chemical reactions turn water and CO2 into oxygen, which is released back into our environment. Using wood as a building material increases the climate protection effect of the forest. As long as wood is used as a material and does not burn or rot, one m³ of wood binds one tonne of CO2. Houses made of wood thus act as carbon reservoirs like a second forest. Since beetle wood is not structurally impaired, it is an excellent building material. Used in construction projects with high visual demands, such as machines, warehouses and stables, forest owners have the opportunity to productively utilise their beetle wood and create an economical and environmentally friendly solution.
This video in German language demonstrates the devastation caused by bark beetles in the forests of the upper Berg county