This line was intended to be more modern than the previous railway lines in the Oberbergische Land. The line from Hermesdorf to Morsbach was opened in 1908 and,  with a length of 7.1 km has almost no level crossings, the bridges were made of then state-of-the-art mass concrete and Kömpel tunnel, with a length of 786 m, is exceptionally long for a branch line.

New life on the line

Today, over a century after its opening and more tan two decades after the last train run the line has come back to life. In 2008 the Rhein-Sieg-Eisenbahn was granted a 50-year licence to operate this line by the courts. Already today the line is accessible by maintainance trains up to the terminal station. Our goal is tourist and freight traffic on this line and local public transport, of course. A ride on a new, environmentally-friendly railcar will take nine minutes from Morsbach to Hermesdorf and another five minutes to Waldbröl. This way the line would be as up-to-date again as a century ago.

The line as a “bridge”

The line not only provides interesting bridges, but is a bridge in itself: once it linked the "Wissertalbahn" (Wissen (Sieg) - Morsbach; opened 1890) to the "Wiehltalbahn", which was opened in 1906. From that time a continuous route between the Agger and the Sieg was established. But only in the twenties of the last century had the line been of real importance for transit traffic when, after the Great War, France and Belgium had occupied the Ruhr and also the Rhineland was under their regime. Back then so many rerouted freight trains went via Dieringhausen, Hermesdorf and Morsbach to Wissen that public transport had to be reduced.
On October 1st, 1908, the raiway line Waldbröl - Hermesdorf - Morsbach was officially opened. By this the last gap in the railway network on the North-South route through the Berg County between the rivers Ruhr and Sieg was closed. Already in 1890 Morsbach had been connected to the international railway network by the line to Wissen (Sieg).
The construction of the line from Hermesdorf to Morsbach was no easy task because of the topography. The ridge between Geinigen and Kömpel had to be overcome by a tunnel with a length of 786 metres. During the construction in 1905 - 1907 also at first Italian immigrant workers were involved. Moreover, five bridges and viaducts were required to span valley crossings.

Pioneer concrete structures

These concrete structures are of special interest from a structural engineering point of view. Concrete back then was already known and used but just like a century earlier with iron and steel  experience with this construction material was lacking. The basic static principles had not been understood until 1900 and it is only since then that concrete buildings have become more common. The bridge constructions between Hermesdorf and Morsbach are counted among the pioneer buildings of mass concrete construction in Germany. This pioneer work parallels the work done by “Concrete Bob” McAlpine on the West Highland Railway in Scotland.
The viaduct near Heide, designed and built using the mass concrete construction method, during its construction phase 1904/05.

Structures and track listed

Even today one feels reminded of the national transport infrastructure development period by the listed station building in Morsbach. It was built in 1898 and listed as a historic monument in 1982 because of the stylistic features that once were a common feature of the Royal Prussian Railway. The preservation order states: "The preservation of this building is of public interest because of its locally influenced design of the uniform Prussian station building type and also because of its special roof design."
The District Council at Cologne had placed the entire railway line under a preservation order in 2003. From the explanatory statement: "The Wiehltalbahn including the Morsbach branch, as part of the industrial and economical history of the Oberbergisches Land, is of relevance for human history and for the development of the working and production conditions. The preservation of this monument is of public interest because of artistic and scientific, but especially because of architectural, technical and local historic reasons." 
Das Empfangsgebäude in Morsbach zählte zu den ersten Bestandteilen der Wiehltalbahn, die unter Denkmalschutz gestellt wurden.
Inzwischen steht die Strecke in ihrer Gesamtheit unter Schutz - samt aller Bauten, Dämme, Einschnitte, des Tunnels und der Gleise.
The Morsbach station building was among the first parts that were put under the preservation order. Meanwhile the line in its entirety has been listed - including all constructions, embankments, cuttings, the tunnel and the track.
If you look at the line from an industry-historic angle it served initially (aside from public transport) the mining industry with iron ore transport and later timber was transported. In addition, goods produced in Morsbach such as site caravans, containers and iron products were carried.

The “Cut-off Republic”

The Heide viaduct (built 1905) was blown up by the retreating German army on the approach of the American army in 1945. Until its repair in 1949 the trains from Waldbröl had to end at a temporary platform before the viaduct. As the railway links and the road links to Wissen and Waldbröl were broken because of the war, Morsbach was virtually cut off from the outside world and so got the nickname "Cut-off Republic"
Public transport between Waldbröl and Morsbach was closed in 1960. The "Doorfdeuwel" (dialect for “village devils”) paid their last respects to the last train in their own way with a funeral wreath. Since then just nostalgia trains like the Trans-Europe-Express have approached the Morsbach railway terminus in the 1970s and 1980s. The last freight train on this track ran in 1994.

Top-class visit: the erstwhile type 601 TEE (Trans Europ Express) as "Dicker Sauerländer" in Morsbach.

 A mixed freight train in the Morsbach railway terminus - transporting site caravans amongst other things.

Despite opposition the railway got an operating licence 

The intention of our preservation society (founded 1994) to use the line in co-operation with the Wiehltalbahn for modern public and freight transport, as well as for tourist trains, was vehemently fought by most of the politicians that were in power back then. They could imagine a lot of things - but no railway traffic. So the towns and communities (in whose areas the Wiehltalbahn and the Morsbach branch are situated) were able to buy the lines for next to nothing. The Morsbach muncipality paid just one symbolic Euro for their part of the line!
The German federal railway organisation went along with the application for declassification of the Morsbach muncipality in 2007, meaning the route was no longer a railway. But the RSR (Rhine-Sieg-Railway) and we - as the preservation society of the Wiehltalbahn - took legal action against this.
Meanwhile (on August 28, 2008) the NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Department of Transportation granted the RSE  permission to operate the railway line between Hermesdorf and Morsbach until 2058 against which, in turn, the Morsbach muncipality appealed.
Finally this case was dismissed. The line from Hermesdorf to Morsbach will remain what it is: A railway line.
Onto a new life!
Only recently has it been possible to pass again through the tunnel: a work train of the Wiehltalbahn in Kömpeler Tunnel in September  2008. (photo Ulrich Clees).