Former Railway Embankment Feldkirchner Tangente

Feldkirchner Tangente—Munich’s “wild east”?

Just past Johanneskirchen there is an unremarkable railway embankment. Bordered by a racecourse, garden plots, and a gravel mine, the old rail line crosses the Hüllgraben canal on the way to Feldkirchen. This stretch of track was built during the Second World War to facilitate freight transport to Munich.

Aerial photo taken by the Allies between 1945 and 1949: Parked freight cars are still visible.

But this bypass route was only used for a short time by the trains. For a long time, since the tracks were dismantled, many others have wandered along this path. Endangered fauna move about undisturbed, rare plants establish themselves, and local people go here for recreation and relaxation.

Half wild: although partially overgrown, the railway embankment is still clearly recognizable.

At first glance, the former railway embankment seems wild and abandoned. In contrast to the planned and tended urban green spaces, the embankment is overgrown with trees and bushes. In places, deadwood blocks the dirt path. But is the nature in this eastern corner of Munich really so undisturbed? And will it remain undisturbed as the city continues to grow and develop?

The brief life of a railway route

Afraid that bombs would strike the central station and the connecting railway lines within the city, the German Reichsbahn planned to build a bypass route that would divert freight traffic around the outskirts of Munich.

Munich was an important center of the National Socialists and therefore a target of many air raids. The photograph shows the Munich Siegestor in 1945 in the aftermath of an air raid.


The heavily damaged Siegestor in Munich after an air raid.


As part of the expansion of the northern ring line to the east, an eight-kilometer-long embankment was built up between Johanneskirchen and Feldkirchen. In 1941 the singletrack line was put into service. But the end of the war also meant an early end to the use of this route. By 1949 the tracks had already begun to be dismantled and the bypass became abandoned land.

Flora and fauna were able to settle here without interference, and in the 1980s the city declared this space to be a “protected landscape element.“

In the 1990s, the former railway embankment was mostly left to itself. The thermal power station Oberföhring can be seen in the background.

Today the Feldkirchner Tangente and its history has been almost completely forgotten. There are no signs recalling how it was once used.

The former railway embankment reaches a height of four meters. The former track bed is still visible.


Today, several maintenance measures are in place in order to sustain the ecological conditions.


Although the freight transport needs of the Nazis were the reason the embankment was built in the first place, this stretch of land only blossomed and came into its own after the track had been abandoned.

For decades, the former railway embankment had been left to itself. In order to be able to use it as a habitat and as a hiking trail, human intervention was necessary. Starting in 2012, the lower nature conservation authority carries out regular maintenance measures: they cut trees and bushes, mow the grass, and document the biodiversity. Without this interference, the balance between the free spaces and the forests and bushes would not remain. Wilderness still has its place: one-third of the embankment area is being left alone. 

An area of urban development in the northeast of Munich: The map highlights the areas in which housing for up to 30,000 people could be created. The former railway embankment marks the northern end of this area.


Much flora and fauna can be found on the former railway embankment. Some species are, however, endangered or even on the brink of extinction. The city regularly checks on their status. A list of the species can be found here (in German).

During the Ecopolis München 2019, one of the stations raised awareness of this unique part of Munich. 

About the curators

Anne Dietrich

Anne Dietrich.


Anne Dietrich completed her master’s degree in social and cultural anthropology at LMU Munich in 2019. She joined the Environmental Studies Certificate Program at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in October 2016. In addition to urban environmentalism and civic engagement, her research interests focus on individual strategies of negotiating environmental problems and ecological calamities in daily life. Taking these interests further, the topic of her master’s thesis was “’Disasters are only known to man.’ Negotiation processes and coping strategies of those affected by the June 2016 flood in Lower Bavaria. A critical cultural study of natural catastrophes.” Anne is currently working at DOK.fest München/Internationales Dokumentarfilmfestival München e.V.

“And where is that again?”—I was asked this question time and again when I told others about the Feldkirchner Tangente and our research. I found it really fascinating to become an explorer of an unknown and seemingly abandoned, historical place within my own city, even—in part—battling my way through the thicket.
—Anne Dietrich

Maike Jebasinski

Maike Jebasinski.


Maike Jebasinski is enrolled in a master’s degree in intercultural communication at LMU Munich and partakes in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. During the studies for her bachelor’s degree in European studies at the University of Passau, she focused on English and history. After a year at the University of Warsaw and internships in Italy and London, she finished her degree with a thesis analyzing how Europe is being depicted in the British Daily Mail newspaper.

When I was researching the old railway embankment, the question whether wilderness like I imagine it can even exist came up again and again. There are very few truly pristine places left in the world.
—Maike Jebasinski

How to cite: Dietrich, Anne, and Maike Jebasinski. “Former Railway Embankment Feldkirchner Tangente.” In “Ecopolis München 2019,” edited by Katrin Kleemann. Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2020, no. 2. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society.