Monday, 27 August 2012

West Eifel Railway

Neuerberg Tunnel Northern Portal
 This year for the first time with our children we headed to the Eifel Region of Germany, a small rural corner of the country that borders Luxembourgand has a continuation of the Ardennes hills that characterise this part of Europe.  The Ardennes had a very important role in World War II, for it was here that the German Army launched a counter-offensive in the last winter of the war, with disastrous consequences as far as casualties were concerned.  It is difficult to believe now, for this area is very peaceful and full of picturesque villages among the rolling wooded hills and fast flowing streams.  It is also a good area for the railway walker to explore, for many of the old lines that once served many of these towns are long since defunct, but thanks to German efficiency have been turned into wonderful cycle tracks.

Inside Neuerberg Tunnel

In order to get a taste for what was on offer we walked a very short stretch of the former Neuerberg branch line, which once ran to this small village where we were staying from Prüm.  Prüm seems to have been something of a railway hub in days gone by, but virtually all the lines that radiated from here are now closed, although there is a preserved railway that still serves the town where the trains run to Gerolstein nearby.

Neuerberg Level Crossing
Our walk though began at the other end of the line in Neuerberg (translated as Newcastle).  The line finally succumbed to closure in 1969 to passengers and 1989 to goods traffic.  Sadly there is no trace of the former station as the flat piece of land on which it was located was just too valuable to leave derelict in this narrow valley.  The station area is now occupied by an Aldi store, but the area must have been quite large when it was an operational railway for there is plenty of room for the store and associated car park.  Pictures of what it once looked like can be found at,5406223.

Nicely surfaced

The trail itself starts immediately north of the store and the reason we even discovered it was because of the rather obvious and decorative tunnel mouth!  We thought it would be rather fun for the children to walk through the tunnel, which was on a slight curve therefore not allowing sight of one end from the other.  Although they were initially a bit apprehensive when they got inside they soon realised that it was alright as it was lit throughout.  Of course echoing shouts also helped with the entertainment value!

Picnic Areas

On the other side of the tunnel we initially walked through a heavily wooded section of track, shielded from view of the village.  The track was asphalt – no mucking about with crushed stone or any other kind of rough surface that seems to be the norm for such paths in Britain.  In fact this railway path seemed to have had a significant amount of money lavished on it.  As a result it was undeniably popular on this hot July day, with plenty of families passing us en route.
Enz Valley
We crossed the main road by level crossing protected by gates.  This must have held up the traffic when the cleared line was operational but now it would be us waiting our turn to cross.  On the other side the line took a route high above the River Enz and we were pleased to see that the trees on the river side had been allowing views of the sweep of the valley.  There was an obvious incline as the line headed northwards, which must have been a struggle for steam engines when the line first opened in 1909.

 All along the track were wild flowers and we enjoyed looking at the different shapes and colours.  Some of the flowers we recognised as they were the same as British ones, while others were new to us.  The air was full of the sound of buzzing bees and hoverflies, all servicing the myriad of flowers. 

Typical Eifel Scenery
At various intervals picnic areas had been created, making this truly a tourist attraction in itself.  We were mightily impressed – I think our next visit to this part of Germany might have to include bicycles in our luggage so that we can make this for a more comprehensive trip than the little taster we had.  We walked only about four kilometres along the track, turning back principally because we were very hot and bothered but also to ensure that the little legs of the children still had enough stamina for the return journey!  We needn’t have worried – they were too busy telling us stories to notice the distance!

End of the Line For Us