Swedish Narrow Gauge
At the peak the public
swedish railways covered a total of 16 886 km. A fairly high share of railway
lines built in Sweden between 1870 and 1920 were narrow gauge lines, mostly
with three foot gauge.
In total over the
years 18 064 km railway was built in Sweden, of which about 24 % was narrow
gauge of as much as nine different gauges.
||28 swedish inches
||2,7 swedish feet
||3 swedish feet
||3,5 english feet
||exception due to
||44 swedish inches
(on the wheels)
||4 swedish feet
||4 english feet
With Steam and Electricity
On the tracks of the
swedish narrow gauge you find a great variation of rolling stock....
Quite early attempts
were made to change from steam to electric operation. The first railway
to try was Djursholmsbanan, DjB, later a part of Stockholm-Roslagens
Järnvägar, SRJ. DjB started to operate from Stockholm to
the suburb of Djursholm already in 1895, using 600 V DC to run its electric
trains. Later the electric overhead wire was expanded to cover a big portion
of the SRJ network. Other narrow gauge railways to operate electric trains
were Mellersta Östergötlands Järnväg, MÖJ, using
10 000V, 25 Hz AC and Nordmark-Klarälvens Järnväg, NKlJ,
using 16 000V 25 Hz AC.
...from small industrial steam engines on 600 mm track like RLJ 2 A
Dahl at Risten-Lakviks Järnväg...
Photo and © Per Nilsson
...to large articulated steam engines (Mallet's) like DONJ 12, built to
haul heavy timber trains on Dala-Ockelbo-Norrsundets Järnväg.
The engine is now preserved at JTJ, Jädraås-Tallås Järnväg.
Photo and © Per Nilsson
SJ is Taking Over
All the narrow gauge
lines were built by public companies with ownership widely spread among
the public and the communities along the lines. However, in 1939 a law
was passed in Sweden requiring all railways to be nationalized. The Swedish
State Railways, SJ, started to acquire the first narrow gauge railways
in 1940, but only bought those with 891 mm, 1067 mm and 1093 mm gauge.
(Actually they already had acquired a few prior to the new law, but this
was only to save these lines from bankruptcy). Eventually, in 1954,
all 891 mm narrow gauge railways but three had been nationalized. The three
remaining were Nordmark-Klarälvens Järnväg, NKlJ, Byvalla-Långshyttans
Järnväg, BLJ, and Dala-Ockelbo-Norrsundets Järnväg,
DONJ, all three with strong industries as owners.
SJ had a couple
of good years with lots of traffic during the second world war, but after
1945 traffic on the narrow gauge dropped quickly. The rolling stock was
also quite worn and in bad need for repair or replacement. SJ started to
invest in some rolling stock, including diesel motorized railcars and small
diesel locomotives. Even a few new steam engines were built for the 891
and 1067 mm tracks.
Railcars like this Yp
DMU in Verkebäck were used all over the narrow gauge tracks of SJ
in the 50-ies to the 80-ies. Photo and © Per
Starting in 1953,
many of the narrow gauge lines were converted to standard gauge. 420 km
of 891 mm track and 230 km of 1067 mm track was converted, the last line
as late as 1987.
For the remaining narrow
gauge lines the decline accelerated in the 1960-ies, and more and more
lines were abandoned. Busses were offered as compensation, but in many
cases the decline continued and even the busses were removed. SJ stopped
passenger operation on its last narrow gauge line from Växjö
to Västervik (188 km) in 1984. Freight trains were run on the narrow
gauge a few more years.
Today the only narrow
gauge line still in daily service is "Roslagsbanan".
A few of the railways have also survived as preserved lines, such as Upsala-Lenna