Tram

Line 16 at Pannesheide customs crossing (Photo: Stadtarchiv Herzogenrath)

On 28 May 1902, the electrified railway line from Aachen (Ponttor) via Kohlscheid to Herzogenrath was put into operation by the REKA company, which was also responsible for the power supply. This line ran along Neustrasse.

However, the origins of the railway network could be traced back to the influence of coal mining in the area around the River Wurm. In 1901, Bergassessor Stanislaus Klemme (1857-1935), municipal councillor and director of the Vereinigungsgesellschaft für Steinkohlenbau im Wurmrevier (River Wurm Coal Mining Association), submitted an application to connect the Neulaurweg and Neuvoccart mines to the railway under construction at the time, because it was desperately needed for mining operations. On 12 February 1902, the first Ponttor – Laurensberg – Richterich – Kohlscheid section of the Rheinische Elektrizitäts- und Kleinbahnen AG (REKA) was put into use. The extension to Herzogenrath via Kerkrade opened shortly afterwards, in May 1902. REKA built its tram depot in Kohlscheid, in the building which currently houses EDEKA.

The tram crossed the border twice, at the customs posts Pannesheide and Aachener Strasse. This led to an ordinance being issued on 22 March 1909 to facilitate customs clearance. Goods subject to duty were locked up at the first customs station, then reopened by customs officials at the second border crossing.

In 1914, both the Dutch and German sides placed a barbed wire fence approximately 2 metres high along Neustrasse. The tramline was now behind the border fence for the inhabitants of Kerkrade, and access was only possible from the German side.

The fence was dismantled in the period between the two world wars, but in 1939 it was rebuilt in the middle of the road on the German side. The fence ran close to the tramline on the German side.

On 5 October 1944, Kerkrade was liberated by ‘Old Hickory’, the 30th Infantry Division of the United States, The border fence was removed by residents after the liberation of Kerkrade, but then immediately rebuilt by the Allies. On 23 April 1949, the Dutch government corrected the exact position of the border. The border at Neustrasse was moved 6 metres to the east, and a 2.30-metre high fence was reinstalled right up against the tramline. This frequently caused dangerous situations, and prompted the ASEAG (Aachen Tramway and Power Company) to issue Regulation No. 44/57 on 21 August 1957:

(Euregio Tram-Revue, R. Bimmermann and W. R. Reimann)

The Kerkrade-Holz interchange with tram 6313 towards Elisenbrunnen shows how close the line ran to the border fence. The tram was at such an angle in the bend that residents often feared it would derail at any moment.

The tram at the Holzstraat intersection, around the late 1950s (Euregio Tram-Revue, R. Bimmermann and W. R. Reimann)

In the early 1950s, ASEAG introduced express lines, with trams that only stopped at important junctions. They could sometimes overtake regular trains on certain routes, and therefore ran considerably faster. From 14 October 1951, express line C (Aachen Theater – Herzogenrath – Merkstein) initially ran every hour, later occasionally every 30 minutes. Line C was renamed H in 1956 due to its destination; it only went as far as Herzogenrath.In 1953, a report by specialists commissioned by ASEAG proposed closing large parts of the regional network, and the lines were replaced by buses.Lines 16 and H, in the Pannesheide – Herzogenrath – Merkstein section, were closed on 23 November 1959. This was followed by the closure of the section of track that still served the Pannesheide – Aachen line at the southern end of Neustrasse on 24 October 1960.After the tram was deactivated, the tracks were gradually removed over the years.There are now few visible traces of the extensive regional network left; most of the routes running on or parallel to roads were used to widen roadways during road construction. Some of the former routes are also used as footpaths or cycle paths.

1885 Neustraße near Pannesheide (towards Herzogenrath). On the right, the narrow-gauge railway on which horses transport empty coal wagons to the Neu-Prick or Voccart mine. The colliery had already had a narrow-gauge railway with a horse-drawn tramway between the colliery site and Kohlscheid station for many years. On 9 June 1902 this was connected to the Aachen-Herzogenrath narrow-gauge railway, and from then on electrically powered freight cars were also used. (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

The winding shafts of all the mines of the “Vereinigungsgesellschaft für Steinkohlenbergbau im Wurmrevier” were connected by a 17 km long underground rail network for a horse-drawn winding system. With the exception of the Neu-Prick (NL) and Voccart (D) pits in the north. Here a narrow gauge track (555 mm wide) existed above ground and the coal wagons were transported by horse power via today’s Pricksteenweg and Nieuwstraat to Kohlscheid station. 6 – 7 horses pulled the lorries. The coal wagons were pulled by horses over the inclined stone galleries to the shaft. Above ground, the coal was screened into seven grades and then transported in a narrow-gauge railway. These “trains” consisted of one and a half metre high lorries pulled by horses (usually 6 or 7).
Transport to Kohlscheid was a monopoly affair of the three Leuchter brothers in Kerkrade, who had 35 horses in their stables for this purpose. They transported coal not only from the Neuprick, but also from the Voccart. For a “train”, usually 15 one-tonne lorries, they received 5 marks.

In Kohlscheid the coal was loaded into normal wagons and transported on to the customers. The distance to Kohlscheid, about 7 km, was covered in one and a half hours. The Leuchter family’s horse stable was located in Nieuwstraat at that time. An in-house blacksmith’s shop provided sturdy horse shoes. Besides coal, the Leuchter brothers also occasionally transported “loads” for the two mines, such as 35,000-ton boilers. This required 20 horses to get them in line.


In connection with the small fleet of wagons, underground transport was stopped at Neuprick when 50 wagons were on the move above ground. A special signal was then used to warn the Voccart to send empty wagons so that coal transport could continue normally at Neuprick.
In 1902, the electric tramway from Aachen to Herzogenrath was put into operation with a branch line to Neuprick. This meant the end for the horse-drawn tramway. From now on, the coal was transported to Kohlscheid on wide flat cars via this tram line. The 35 horses were sold at public auction.
(Source: DeMijnen.nl)

Stop Crossroads Wood between the World Wars. (Gemeentearchief Kerkrade)

The shafts of all the mines of the “Vereinigungsgesellschaft für Steinkohlebergbau im Wurmrevier” were connected by a 17 km long underground rail network for horse-drawn haulage. With the exception of the Neu-Prick (NL) and Voccart (D) pits in the north. Here a narrow-gauge track (555 mm wide) existed above ground and the coal wagons were transported by horsepower via today’s Pricksteenweg and Nieuwstraat to Kohlscheid station. 6-7 horses pulled the wagons.

Member of the Military Police at the Holz crossing, 5 April 1947 (Photo H. Herder)

Customs post Aachener Straße 1957: a customs officer waits for the tram to be inspected (Euregio Tram-Revue, R. Bimmermann u. W. R. Reimann)

Literature:

Reiner Bimmermann: Aachener Straßenbahn. Band 1: Geschichte. Schweers+Wall, Aachen 1999, ISBN 3-89494-116-2

Josef Aretz: Kohlscheider Bergwerke. 2.Auflage 1987, Herzogenrath 1986

Ottmar Krettek, Peter Herberholz: Straßenbahnen im Aachener Dreiländereck. Alba-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1980, ISBN 3-87094-323-8

Reiner Bimmermann, Wolfgang R. Reimann, Euregio Tram-Revue, Aachen – Eupen – Verviers, Verlag Wolfgang R. Reimann, ISBN 978-3-00-035974-3

Marcel Cremer-Chapé: ASEAG – 50 Jahre Energieversorgung, 70 Jahre Straßenbahn – Ein Blick in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart, Aachen 1950 (Festschrift der ASEAG)

Dieter Höltge, Axel Reuther: Straßen- und Stadtbahnen in Deutschland. Band 7: Aachen, Düren, Köln. EK-Verlag, Freiburg 2001, ISBN 3-88255-338-3

Hans Schweers, Henning Wall: Bilder von der Aachener Straßenbahn. Schweers+Wall, 2. Auflage, Krefeld/Aachen 1981, ISBN 3-921679-18-4

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