Tuesday, July 21, 2015

North of Sweden: Malmbanan

Days 7-8 of my trip is exploring the last part of Malmbanan (Iron Ore Line) all the way to Norway.
July 2014 was the hottest month on record with average high temperatures of 23,8C. This was during a significant heatwave affecting most of Scandinavia. Unfortunately to me, this was not repeated in July 2015, instead I had to experience some very rainy days on my trip. Here is Abisko turiststation. 
In Abisko, Kungsleden (The King's trail) has its starting point. It is a 440 km long hiking trail between Abisko and Hemavan and is considered to be one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world. This time I could not verify it.
LKAB Iron Ore trains are passing here with high frequency.
The longest Iron Ore train has 66 carriages and it is 750 m long.
Abisko turiststation is a train station created for the Swedish Tourist Association (STF). The station was opened 1903 when STF took over buildings from the railway builders and it is since then using them as accommodation for the hikers. There is also a restaurant and a shop.
Aurora sky station is during the winter considered to be the best place for viewing the northern lights.
During summer it offers great view of the area. In my case it was just white.

Vassijaure station. Selma Lagerlöf who was finishing her book "The wonderful adventures of Nils" when she was visiting Abisko turiststation used a goose Yksi who was from Vassijaure. Hopefully she had better luck with weather than me, otherwise I don't know how this book could have been ended.
Vassijaure station is one of three other identical stations (Torneträsk and Abisko) created by Folke Zettervall.
Riksgränsen (National Border in Swedish) is the last stop in Sweden. Since 1952 it is one the most famous ski resorts in Sweden.
Due to the avalanches the railway is covered with protection.
In Riksgränsen the locomotives were switched between swedish and norwegian, for that purpose there was a roundhouse. Since 1923 it was abandoned and is now a ruin.
It is very easy to cross the border here.
From Riksgränsen the Malmbanan (Iron Ore Line) is named Ofotbanen (Ofoten Line) all the way to Narvik. It is just 43 km long and has no connection to other railway lines in Norway.
This part of the railway is the northernmost in whole European Union. The northernmost railway in the world is in Russia and it is Obskaya-Bovanenkovo Line used by Gazprom.
22 Iron Ore trains per day are passing here.
The average speed is 60 km/h.
Malmbanan is a very expensive railway in terms of maintenance and exploitation, and is also used to be called Formula 1 railway for that reason. The railway is manually inspected 5 times per year.

Each IORE train is named after a station along the Malmbanan. Here is a train Sjisjka, which is named after a station 28 km south of Kiruna. The only way to reach Sjisjka is by train, there are no car roads. There are 2 people living in Sjisjka. Sjisjka is the only station name with two SJ's.

After spending some time in Riksgränsen, it is time to get further down to Narvik. Riksgränsen is at 520 m above the sea level, and from here the train is doing roughly 40km down to the sea level (Northern Atlantic Ocean).

Few Norwegian stations are on its way.
This part of the Malmbanan is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Just be sure to sit on the right side of the train.
Be sure to take the cable car to 656 m above the sea level.
If the weather is allowing, the view can be breathtaking.
Here is the point where the Iron Ore is loaded from the train to the boat for further transports to Europe, Africa and Asia.

Worth to mention is that besides Iron Ore and passenger trains, the Iron Ore Line is also used by the ARE (Arctic Rail Express), a 1950km line between Oslo and Narvik that takes 26,5h. It was started 1993 and it is operated by CargoNet company transporting cargos to the northern part of Norway.

Narvik is sixth largest city in northern Norway.

Narvik central station.

NSSR? I was guessing what it stands for until i found Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue.
On the way back to Kiruna, the weather could finally be enjoyable.
Passing by Torne Träsk, the sixth largest lake in and second deepest in Sweden. It is covered by ice from December until June.

White architects office in Kiruna, they have the privilege to design the new Kiruna town. Check out their vision for new Kiruna.

Back to Stockholm by plane. Kiruna airport offers 2 daily flights with SAS and Norwegian.

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