The Vennbahn is a former railway line that was built partly across what was then German territory by the Prussian state railways, but is now entirely in Belgium, because the trackbed of the line, as well as the stations and other installations, were made provisional Belgian territory in 1919 (permanent in 1922) under an article of the Treaty of Versailles. This had the effect of creating about five small exclaves of Germany on the line's western side (the exact number varies according to source).
The line, which was standard gauge, ran for some 75 kilometres (47 mi) across the High Fens (Hautes Fagnes, Hohes Venn) to the south of Aachen in a roughly southward direction from Eupen via Raeren (the site of the depot), Monschau (Montjoie) and Malmedy to Trois-Ponts, with a 20 km (12 mi) eastward branch from Oberweywertz to Bütgenbach and Losheim. At Eupen it connected with the line to Welkenraedt where it joined the Brussels-Cologne main line. At Trois-Ponts it connected with the Liège-Luxembourg line.
Until the end of 2001, the Vennbahn line operated tourist services, some of which were steam-hauled. These were withdrawn for want of funds to maintain the line. Part of the track between Kalterherberg and Sourbrodt is now used by railbikes.
It was reported in 2008 that, with the Vennbahn no longer operational, Belgium might have to surrender the land where the line passes through Germany, causing the exclaves to no longer be exclaves. However, the foreign ministries of Germany and Belgium have since confirmed that the trackbed, even though disused, will continue to be Belgian territory and that the German exclaves will therefore remain.
By December 4, 2007, the dismantling of the now disused line had started; by September 2008, the track had been completely removed between Trois-Ponts and Sourbrodt.
The line was built to carry coal and iron. The section of the line from Aachen to Monschau was opened on 30 June 1885. The section from Raeren to Eupen was opened on 3 August 1887. The link to Walheim was opened on 21 December 1889.
On 18 May 1940 Adolf Hitler ordered that the area be re-annexed by the German Reich and the Vennbahn was triumphantly returned to service as a wholly German line on 2 June 1940. However, after the defeat of Germany in 1945, the pre-war situation was re-instated.
|Mützenich||12.117||An enclaved part of the German city of Monschau; at one place at the edge of the enclave, a German road crosses beneath a viaduct of the Belgian Vennbahn.|
|Roetgener Wald||9.98||An enclave consisting of the western part of the German municipality of Lammersdorf and the southern part of Roetgen, including blended forested area (wald). From 1922 to 1958, the center portion (between Grenzweg and a boundary with three turning points west of the Schleebach creek) was Belgian territory. Because the road connecting the two outer German portions was German territory until 1949, the German land formed one enclave.|
|Münsterbildchen||1.826||An enclaved part of the German city of Roetgen; the northernmost German enclave, mainly populated with industrial and warehouse businesses.|
|Ruitzhof||0.937||An enclaved part of the German city of Monschau; the southernmost of the Vennbahn enclaves (Hemmeres had been southernmost until its 1949 annexation by Belgium).|
|Rückschlag||0.016||An enclaved part of the German city of Monschau; the smallest German enclave, consisting of one inhabited house with a garden.|
- German exclaves in Belgium
- Railbike des Hautes Fagnes (German)
- Tagesschau.de: Belgien könnte Staatsgebiet an Deutschland verlieren (German)
- Deutsche Presse-Agentur (2008-01-09). "Belgium may lose land to Germany due to disused railway line". Monsters and Critics. Retrieved 2008-02-22.
- WDR.de (2008-01-10). "Belgien behält seine Exklaven in Deutschland". WDR.de. Retrieved 2008-03-09.(German)
- Wallorail.be (French)
- "The Vennbahn: Belgium’s railway through Germany". avoe05. 2000-02-03. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
- "Vennbahn (German enclaves within Belgium)". Enclaves of the World. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
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