The Muskau Forest Railway was founded in 1895. This 600 mm (23 5/8″) forest railway assisted in the opening of many small factories, coalmines and other businesses in the area between Weisswasser and Muskau. The railway subsequently expanded greatly and made an essential contribution to the industrialisation of the region. After the initial use of horses steam locomotives were employed, along with many wagons, for the transport of coal and wood. The railway however never operated a passenger service.
Most of the steam engines used were obtained at the end of the First World War from the Germany Military Railways. Until the 70′s, large amounts of coal were transported to factories, mud was delivered for a heath spa treatment bath, and several brickworks and roof tile factories were supplied with clay. The WEM ceased operation in 1978, with the service being operated to the end by the ex German Military Railway steam locomotives. Only the remaining 11 km stretch from Weisswasser via Halbendorf to the clay pit at Mühlrose was taken over as an industrial railway by the brickworks. It was operated by factory owned diesel locomotives (type V 10 C), along with a few of the WEM wagons. The remainder of the track was dismantled, and the locomotives sold to enthusiasts located mainly in Western Europe.
In the mid 80′s, a few friends of the railway met and decided to preserve the remains of the WEM. Many wagons were repaired, leading to an increasing accommodation problem. In 1989 development of the current museum station of Weisswasser Teichstrasse was started. This was situated 300 m before the end of the line at the brickworks. The station has slowly been developed and improved to its present condition. When after German re-unification the brickworks closed its railway operation, the society (Waldeisenbahn Muskau e.V.) took over the line.
As the clay pit at the other end of the line was not really a feasible destination for tourist traffic, the branch line to the country park at Kromlau was relayed and opened for passengers. Many of the brickworks railway’s diesel locomotives of types Ns 2, Ns 3 and V 10 C were used. Today they form the backbone of the motive power employed on the regular museum trains. Former open clay, and ex military railway wagons, have been restored and fitted with benches and doors. The use of these open former WEM vehicles gives the passengers a real “forest railway feeling”. Closed carriages have also been built out of old goods wagons for use in bad weather.
Since 1995 the original “main line” of the WEM between Weisswasser and Bad Muskau has been rebuilt and opened for tourist traffic. A former WEM steam locomotive (99 3317) had since 1979 been preserved on a plinth in Weisswasser. In 1990 this ex military railway 0-8-0T, built by Borsig in 1918, was returned to the railway. Having been given between 1993 and 1995 a full overhaul in the Görlitz railway works, 99 3317 was available to initiate the steam services. A further steam engine (99 3312), which had also worked on the WEM, had been preserved on a plinth in Oberoderwitz in Upper Lusatia. This engine, again an 0-8-0T, had been built by Borsig for the WEM in 1912 and given the name “Diana”. It was returned to Weisswasser in 1994. In 1997/98 it was repaired in the railway works at Meiningen and is now also available for service. At weekends during much of the year the line runs diesel hauled trains to both Kromlau and Bad Muskau. On one weekend of the month, as well as on other special occasions, the diesels are replaced by steam engines.Translated by David Makin