A Bit on Swedish Railway Network

I wanted to write this post for several months since in July I finally had a chance to travel on some of the important Swedish railways.

Well, as anybody knows, I love Sweden and railways. And Swedish railways too. And obviously I’d like to ride them all and recently I’ve moved much closer to that goal.

There are this important railways in Sweden (sorry if I forgot some but this list should cover the most important ones):

  • Ostkustbanan (Stockholm—Uppsala—Gävle—Sundsvall)
  • Ådalsbanan+Botniabanan (Sundsvall—Kramfors—Umeå)
  • Norra stambanan (Gävle—Ånge)
  • Stambanan genom övre Norrland (Ånge—Bräcke—Vännäs—Boden)
  • Malmbanan (Luleå—Boden—Kiruna—Narvik)
  • Mittbanan (Sundsvall—Ånge—Östersund—Storlien—Hell—Trondheim)
  • Inlandsbanan (Gällivare—Östersund—Orsa—Mora)
  • Dalabanan+Siljansbanan (Uppsala—Borlänge, Borlänge—Mora)
  • Bergslagsbanan (Gävle—Borlänge—Frövi)
  • Västra stambanan (Stockholm—Göteborg)
  • Södra stambanan (Stockholm—Malmö)
  • Mälarbanan (Stockholm—Västerås—Örebro)
  • Svealandsbanan (Stockholm—Eskilstuna—Arboga)
  • Värmlandsbanan (Laxå—Charlottenberg, further to Oslo)
  • Kust till kust-banan (Göteborg—Alvesta—Kalmar)
  • Västkustbanan (Lund—Göteborg)
  • Jönköpingsbanan (Nässjö—Falköping)

And I want to talk about those railways and my experience there.

Ostkustbanan (Stockholm—Uppsala—Gävle—Sundsvall)

The old railway along the Swedish East Coast from Stockholm to the North. It’s essentially the main way from Stockholm to Middle and Northern Sweden. I travelled there countless times and hope to do that again.

The main problem is that north from Gävle it’s single track but at least since the opening of Botniabanan it becomes more and more important there’s hope for more development. They’ve opened a tunnel in Gamla Uppsala and made the Uppsala—Gävle route double track just last year.

The most remarkable thing on the line is probably the tunnel in Hudiksvall that goes under a house. Also Hudiksvall is the confectionery capital of Sweden and there’s a place near Sundsvall where Vasa Bryggeri is located. No wonder both my heart and my stomach are willing to go there.

Ådalsbanan+Botniabanan (Sundsvall—Kramfors—Umeå)

This is a continuation of Ostkustbanan to the north that partly replaces stambanan genom övre Norrland (that is the reason Botniabanan was built and in use since 2010) and intends to replace it in full (there are plans to prolong Botniabanan to Luleå).

The first time I saw the route in 2010 when I took a bus from Luleå to Sundsvall along the picturesque E4 and several years later I was able to ride there in a train.

It’s very picturesque with the Baltic sea coast, all the rivers flowing into it and there’s even a fountain in middle of one of them not far from the road and railway bridges crossing it.

Norra stambanan (Gävle—Ånge)

This is a railway going deep into Swedish territory instead of staying near the coast. It’s the route for trains to ski resorts near Åre and Duved and previously also for the trains to the very northern parts of Sweden (before stambanan genom övre Norrland was closed for passenger traffic).

Personally I like going to Ljusdal in winter because it’s about the right place where you can experience real winter (like -17°C and lots of snow) instead of what we have in Karlsruhe (which feels just late Autumn).

Stambanan genom övre Norrland (Ånge—Bräcke—Vännäs—Boden)

The old railway to the very North Sweden. Since the introduction of Botniabanan passenger trains run only on Vännäs—Boden part of it. But back in 2010 I was able to ride from Långsele to Boden in a night train (and Vännäs—Boden part later).

Since it’s an old single-track railway the trains can’t go fast there (so it’s like in Czechia or Ukraine). But at least the local forests and lakes are very nice to look at.

Also these three lines form the route for the Arctic Train that goes from Stockholm to Narvik and obviously it takes some time too! My train trip from Arlanda airport rail station to Gällivare with a short connection in Boden lasted 13 hours. Since Gällivare in 1313 km from Stockholm it’s still faster than 500 km by 12-hour night train Kharkiv—Kyyiv(—Zhytomyr) that I still try to forget.

Malmbanan (Luleå—Boden—Kiruna—Narvik)

One of the most remarkable railways in the whole world. Since its main purpose is to transport iron ore from mines around Kiruna and Gällivare, it employs the most powerful locomotives in the world—and they’re named after Eeyore (really!). Also because the ore trains are heavy, they use automatic couplers SA3 (short for Soviet Adapted Willison Couplers). And because the loaded trains go mostly downhill they manage to regenerate enough energy for their trip back (and also I heard that sometimes they generate a surplus that makes Malmbanan a quite unusual power station).

Another fun fact to mention is that some of the stations there have very literal names. There’s Riksgransen station (literal meaning: state border) located next to state border and there’s Polcirceln (literal meaning: the Arctic circle) located next to the village of same name (located a bit to the north from the actual Arctic circle). And of course there’s Sjisjka station that has the state rail operator (SJ) mentioned twice in its name—and it’s serviced only by Norrtag.

There’s Kiruna which is remarkable in two aspects: it’s next to the northernmost rocket range that launches real rockets—weighing over 12 tons instead of 750kg or less rockets launched from other Arctic sites. And the fact that Kiruna is moving (because of mining operation the ground is sinking down so they have to move the houses). When I got there in 2010 I stayed at the hotel next to the station and when I got there this year it’s a completely different station in a completely different location because the old one was in dangerous zone and had to be closed.

The route from Kiruna to Narvik is spectacular and though Swiss mountains are closer I’d rather go there again.

And another fun fact about Malmbanan. The Norwegian part (called Ofotbanen) is single-track with no passing loops (while Malmbanan has lots of those) and despite being only 42 km long it carries more cargo than the rest of Norwegian railways (and it’s the only rail connection for Narvik so Norway has to send all goods there including food via Sweden) and (at least when I was there this year) looks like all passenger trains there are operated by SJ (including local train from Narvik to state border).

Mittbanan (Sundsvall—Ånge—Östersund—Storlien—Hell—Trondheim)

This is a railway that goes across the whole Scandinavian peninsula, from Baltic coast in Sundsvall to Norwegian Sea coast in Trondheim.

The most remarkable things there are ski resorts in Åre and Duved and of course the Norwegian town with proper name—Hell. Yup, the real Hell is located there and it was colder there this summer than in Karlsruhe (and by much!).

Also I’d like to notice that while Norway is supposedly richer country than Sweden and has a lot of cheap hydroelectricity, it still has not electrified the Meråkerbanen (Storlien—Hell—Trondheim). Looks like it’s the same with all railways connecting to Norway: Swedish part is much better developed than Norwegian one.

Inlandsbanan (Gällivare—Östersund—Orsa—Mora)

This is more of a museum railway but since you can easily buy a ticket for it at SJ site like for any other destination. It is so long (Gällivare—Östersund track is about 750 km, Östersund—Mora is about 330 km) that actually it’s being serviced in two parts as well. Also Gällivare—Östersund part has only one train pair per day (train depart around 8AM and arrives at about 8PM with meeting point in Sorsele) and during Summer only. Gällivare—Mora is serviced by the same train that goes from Gällivare to Mora and back during the same day but at least it operates in winter time as well.

Oh, there is part they formally call Inlandsbanan that goes from Mora to Kristinehamn but it uses different railways for that since the original Inlandsbanan on that part was mostly closed and rails were removed too. But maybe one day I’ll try it too.

Since it’s a museum railway I shan’t tell much about it—go there and see for yourself, it’s definitely worth it. I’ll just mention that nature there is more than impressive and that it has a weird connection to Karlsruhe. Inlandsbanan goes via Vilhelmina and Dorotea, two places renamed after Friederike Dorothea Wilhelmine von Baden, a wife of Gustav IV (no points for guessing where she is from).

Dalabanan+Siljansbanan (Uppsala—Borlänge, Borlänge—Mora)

Another railway that I’ve travelled along countless times, quite often with a train 42 Stockholm-Mora. It is the line that goes to Dalarna which is the real heart of Sweden (i.e. you cannot get more Swedish than Dalarna). The famous wooden horse? From Dalarna. The famous Mora clock (Sweden is the famous neutral land of mountains, cheese and clocks after all)? Dalarna. The famous Hagström guitars? Dalarna! The liberation of Sweden from Danish rule? Started in Dalarna of course. So no wonder I went there and would like to go again and again.

Bergslagsbanan (Gävle—Borlänge—Frövi)

Another fine railway that goes through picturesque and widely varying scenery—from sea coast in Gävle to Bergslagen known for its mines (even the most famous brewery from there is named Kopparberg—Copper mountain—after the town where they mined copper) to the lake Mälaren.

Berglsagen has quite well-developed rail network so there’s still a lot left for me to travel to.

Västra stambanan (Stockholm—Göteborg)

One of two major lines, it connects the two biggest cities in Sweden. It’s not remarkable though except for a curve (near Flen IIRC) that really shows why tilting train technology (at least in form of SJ X2000) is awesome.

Södra stambanan (Stockholm—Malmö)

See above but replace “two biggest cities” with “the first and the third biggest city”.

Mälarbanan (Stockholm—Västerås—Örebro)

A nice line that goes along the northern shore of lake Mälaren. Also it serves as a backup line when there’s a problem in Stockholm and train can’t go directly to the south from Stockholm C.

It’s scenic and the rail network around Västerås and Örebro is quite diverse with lines connecting them to Ludvika, Fagersta, Sala, Avesta, Hallsberg and many other places. I need to go there more.

Svealandsbanan (Stockholm—Eskilstuna—Arboga)

A nice line that goes along the southern shore of lake Mälaren. I can’t remember anything particularly remarkable about it though.

Värmlandsbanan (Laxå—Charlottenberg, further to Oslo)

I think I took it when I went in a night train to Oslo and back to Stockholm in 2009, that’s all.

Kust till kust-banan (Göteborg—Alvesta—Kalmar)

I’m yet to visit it.

Västkustbanan (Lund—Göteborg)

I tried it first in 2009 when I took Öresundståg from Göteborg to Kopenhagen. Since it was at night I did not see much. A year later I tried Malmö—Helsingborg part again (with a stop at Lund of course). Since then they’ve opened a new tunnel around Helsingborg to make trains go faster and a new tunnel in Malmö to make trains go directly via Malmö instead of arriving to Malmö C and reversing. And they’re working on tunnels in Göteborg for the similar reason. So I hope to re-visit this railway later.

Meanwhile the most impressive things there are Lund, city hall in Helsingborg and of course one of the stations gave name for the best mineral water in the world—Ramlösa (the best mineral water, not the best marketed water).

Jönköpingsbanan (Nässjö—Falköping)

This is a rather short line along the southern shore of lake Vättern that goes through Jönköping including Huskvarna—and I need to visit them instead of just passing through.

Okay, that should be it. I’m biased and prefer Norrland to Southern Sweden but I’d still try to explore Southern Sweden too. Funny how most places I want to visit there start with K: Kil, Kristinehamn, Kalmar.

Next time I talk about railways it’ll probably be about Rheinland-Pfalz.

2 Responses to “A Bit on Swedish Railway Network”

  1. Wabuu Raccoon says:

    Someone found the Arischa The Little Witch DVD I posted on the “Early Years” post, uploaded it to The Video-Sharing Website That Shall Not Be Named and allowed everyone to view it in its entire glory (and went as far to call himself/herself “Wuschel Squirrel”). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfZmGVNOOio

  2. Kostya says:

    Thanks, my next post should be about it then.