Summer freight in Arctic Circle’s midnight sun
THIS summer will see steam-hauled freight trains run at midnight high up in the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden.
The train will start running at five minutes to midnight and continue through the night, as we know it. It might not seem as daft as first thought, because at this high latitude, this time of year the sun never sets.
According to the Swedish Railway Museum’s website: “This summer the Swedish Railway Museum will be partnering with mining company LKAB to operate historic steam-hauled freight trains north of the Arctic Circle on part of the Malmbanan, a Swedish iron ore line. Two thirds of the Malmbanan is north of the Arctic Circle.
“We encourage anyone who has an interest to experience this unique midnight event. We want to show that our historic locomotives can do what they were once built to do – haul iron ore trains at full wagon weight”. The entire event is free.
The reason behind the venture is because the Swedish Transport Administration is installing a new ERTMS signalling system and wants to run real ore trains with the museum’s locomotives one last time. They also want to celebrate the 120-year anniversary of the northern section of the ore line, and the event coincides with the Kiruna Festival.
During the lightest hours of the midnight sun, two historic ore trains will run along the Kiruna-Vassijaure route. The trains are running at night because trackwork is taking place in the morning on the northern section of the iron ore line and traffic is low at this time.
Hauling the trains will be SJ (Statens Järnvägar State Railways) R976, a 0-10-0 built by Nydqvist & Holm AB in 1909 for hauling ore trains on the demanding Abisko Östra to Riksgränsen line near the Norwegian border, and will in effect be a homecoming.
The load will be 1400 tons, its design load. Modern ore wagons will be used due to the difference in couplings.
Timings on July 2 are Kiruna ore rail yard 11.55pm, passing through Kiruna station; Torneträsk 2.28-3.25am for water and coal if needed; Abisko Östra 5.08-6.38am for water, coal and crew change; and arriving at Vassijaure at 8.42am. There are other workings on July 3 from Vassijaure to Abisko Östra.
The ore trains will continue to Narvik harbour in Norway for transhipment. Narvik Station is the most northerly standard gauge station in the world.
At Kiruna there are lunch trains, free daytime trains, and railway exhibitions from June 30 to July 2.
The locomotive belongs to the Järnvägsmuseum (railway museum) in Gävle and has been recently restored. It will take two to three days to get the locomotive there from Gävle towed dead and similarly its return.
The steam train will be followed by another ore train hauled by one of its electric successors, Nos. Dm3 12461248 that operated on the iron ore line up to 2013.
To find out more about the event, visit www.jarnvagsmuseet.se/en/ trains-trips/current-programme/ historic-train-tours-on-the-iron-oreline