There is not much left to remind one of the quantities of freight that once rolled up and down the Vennbahn between Aachen and the north of the Grand Duchy. A handful of deserted station buildings, as in Raeren, Walheim or Sourbrodt, the occasional rusting wagon, coach or locomotive, a few signals, frozen in time … these silent witnesses are all that remain of a glorious past. Some of the former stations house exhibits and relics that give insights into the history and lore of the Vennbahn. The era in which the Vennbahn was the pulsing artery of industrial development and trade between the coal fields of Aachen and the smelters of Lorraine and Luxembourg is long past. This turbulent history began under Prussian rule, when Kaiser Wilhelm I. laid the cornerstone for the start of construction in 1882. By 1889 the Vennbahn line between Aachen-Rothe-Erde and Ulflingen (today’s Troisvierges) could begin to carry traffic. The Vennbahn was a successful operation well into the 1920s, gradually losing importance as its incapacity for higher speed travel became a disadvantage and customs regulations between Germany and Belgium began to negatively affect trade. Nevertheless, the last goods trains still rolled on into the 1980s, until the line was converted as a tourist attraction in the 1990s.
In 1990, after commercial rail traffic had been definitively discontinued at the end of the 80s, the German-speaking Community of Belgium (DG) purchased the section between Raeren and Bütgenbach to operate it as a passenger service tourist attraction. Unfortunately this venture soon proved financially unviable. Thus began a search for a new use and a feasible partnership, which eventually proved fruitful in Wallonia, where disused railways were already being converted into an ever more popular network of rapid cycle routes known as RAVeL. The plan for a German-Belgian frontier route was born, an idea which was greeted with enthusiasm by the local authorities and regional partners in both Germany and Luxembourg. A financial plan in the form of an inter-regional project was drawn up to share the burden.
The total investment currently stands at 14,540,914.83 €.