Unusually for one of these trips I start at an airport, not at a railway station. Out of the seven Fedecrail youth exchanges I’ve participated in so far, only three of them have involved flying, Netherlands 2014, Budapest 2015 and Sweden 2018 being those three. As the journey by land would have taken two and a half to three days, flying seemed like the lesser of the two evils. Myself and another participant decided to pool our resources and fly out together, departing from London Gatwick Airport at 09:20 on the morning of the 3rd of August. Completely by coincidence we discovered that one of the other participants was also travelling on this flight, so we decided that we should meet up in the departure lounge and have breakfast and a pre-flight pint together.
This year we were to be based at two locations, The Uppsala – Lenna Railway and the Museispårvägen Malmköping with half of the week spent at each, and as usual the trip would be a mix of working days, cultural days and visiting days. The Uppsala – Lenna Railway is a narrow gauge (891mm) heritage railway between Uppsala (approximately 60km north of Stockholm) and Faringe, a distance of 33km. The line was primarily built to serve the former ironworks at Länna and forms a part of the once extensive Roslagen network, but now operates a mix of heritage steam and diesel trains primarily for tourists. The Museispårvägen Malmköping is a heritage tramway running along a short section of a former branch line through the small town of Malmköping, approximately 80km west of Stockholm.
Anyway, our flight made it to Stockholm on time, arriving at 12:40, and after waiting nearly an hour for our luggage to come through, we hopped onto a commuter train to Uppsala with literally seconds to spare, arriving shortly after 13:00. The plan was for the group to meet up at Uppsala Östra station at 16:00, so we were a little early. Luckily some other participants were there already so we caught up, had lunch and waited for the others to arrive.
The rest of the group filtered in as and when, and eventually we all got together at Uppsala Östra station for our formal introductions and a safety briefing. After which we boarded a vintage bus for the short journey to our accommodation, which was to be some rather pleasant log cabins at a campsite in Fjällnora, approximately 15km east of Uppsala. When we arrived and had settled into our cabins we all gathered back together for dinner, followed by a swim in the nearby lake.
Saturday, our first full day together. This was to be a working day. The way it was organised was that half the group would be doing “technical” and the other half would be doing “traffic” with us swapping over the next day. I spent the Saturday stripping and repainting a goods shed at Marielund station, which is roughly halfway between Uppsala and Faringe, and is also the main crossover point for the trains. Another group was working at Faringe refurbishing an old railcar, while the rest were in traffic (more on that later).
After a few stops for rain showers (and most importantly, lunch), we eventually finished the wall of the goods shed that needed painting, and we boarded the last steam train of the day for Faringe, where we had a barbeque dinner and a tour of the engine sheds.
Sunday was also a working day, but to add some variety we swapped over, with the groups doing technical work going into traffic for the day. We travelled on the first steam train of the day to Uppsala, hauled by the beautifully turned out No5, Thor. Upon arrival at Uppsala, those of us doing traffic were assigned duties. Most of the group would be assigned as conductors, checking and selling tickets under supervision. I however as a fully qualified train guard was assigned directly to the Train Commander, the local equivalent of a guard. My duties on top of those of the conductors included operating signals and level crossings, coupling and uncoupling the steam locomotive, ensuring the safety of the train and it’s passengers and managing the team of conductors.
The train we were working was the same train we travelled to Uppsala on in the morning, made up of Thor, 4 passenger coaches and a brake/luggage van. The line was challenging for Thor, with heavily loaded trains, steep hills and sharp corners, the sound was unbelievable. The full might of Thor’s hammer was certainly cast down that day! We did one and a half round trips that day, finishing up at Faringe where we were relieved and put the train away. After which we boarded the last train to Uppsala and went out for Pizza at a local restaurant.
On the Monday it was planned that we would be going on an excursion to visit a couple of places, the first of which was the roundhouse at Krylbo which hosted a small collection of locomotives and rolling stock used primarily on mainline charters, owned by the Stockholms Kultursällskap för Ånga och Järnväg (Stockholm’s Cultural Society for Steam and Railway).
In the afternoon we visited the Main Swedish National Railway Museum at Gävle. It is currently closed for a few years for a massive refurbishment program, but they let us in for a special private tour. The Swedish National Railway Museum has one of the finest collections in the world. Having been started as early as 1915, there are items dating back from the very early days of rail transport in Sweden. There are over 100 locomotives, 150 carriages and hundreds of other items of assorted rolling stock. The museum is spread out over two sites in Gävle, and has been located there since 1970.
During the tour we had a rather unusual experience, which was taking a railcar, owned by the museum between their two sites, along the state railway, through Gävle’s main station, to the bewilderment of the passengers waiting for their trains.
We had a slightly earlier start on the Tuesday. This was because we would be relocating to our next destination at Malmköping. But on the way we stopped off in a few places. The first of which was a visit to Stockholm’s tram network.
Trams in Stockholm had a long and complicated history. The network was once very extensive, and served a wide area, but unfortunately, in the 1950s and 60s closed down due to a combination of falling passenger numbers, a new metro system and Sweden changing from left hand to right hand traffic. Moving forward to 1991, a section of the former line 7 was reopened as a heritage line (in some cases by simply scraping the tarmac off the old rails and rebuilding the overhead lines), and extended in 2003 and 2014. With modern trams arriving on the line in 2010, it has slowly converted itself from a small heritage line to a major part of Stockholm’s public transport network.
On our visit we travelled around the heritage circuit on a vintage tram from 1915, followed by a tour of the main depot, and lunch consisting of Swedish meatballs, mashed potato, cream sauce and lingonberries, on board the cafe tram, going around the circuit a couple of times.
After lunch, we travelled to Östra Södermanlands Järnväg in Mariefred with the intention of a train ride, but unfortuantely due to staff shortages, they weren’t able to run. We did however get a tour of the workshops and the opportunity to see some demonstration shunting in Mariefred station area.
The Östra Södermanlands Järnväg is a 600mm gauge railway built on a former standard gauge alignment, and is dedicated to the seven passenger carrying 600mm gauge railways that ran in Sweden, with a collection of locomotives and rolling stock dating primarily from 1890 to 1925. The line itself is approximately 11km long and runs between the towns of Mariefred and Taxinge, with a reversal halfway along at Läggesta.
After our visit we travelled to the Museispårvägen Malmköping’s Hosjö station where we boarded one of their trams to take us to Malmköping proper, where we were given a full tour of the museum where we would be spending the rest of the trip. Our accommodation here was the museum’s main boarding house, where their volunteers stay while they are working at the museum. The house is very central to the site, and was very comfortable and homely feeling.
Wednesday 08/08 and Thursday 09/08
Wednesday was another working day, and as at Uppsala, we were split into traffic and technical. I opted for technical on this day which consisted of various jobs around Malmköping’s main station and yard. These jobs included repainting some of the fences, clearing vegetation from a currently disused siding and working on the restoration of some of the trams.
On the Thursday I was doing Traffic, which similar to Uppsala consisted of acting as the conductor under supervision, with responsibilities including checking and selling tickets etc. The group who were in traffic on the Wednesday did technical work around Malmköping.
On the Friday, we travelled to the Nyköping area to visit the Femörefortet, Föreningen Sörmlands Veteranjärnväg and Nyköping itself. In the morning we visited the Femörefortet (The Femore Fortress) near Oxelösund, which is a former top secret cold war bunker and military installation, constructed in 1966 to protect Sweden against a possible Soviet invasion. It was closed in 1998, but re-opened to the public in 2003 as a museum, showing a collection of various cold war era Swedish military equipment. After a fascinating guided tour, we travelled to our next destination for the day.
The Föreningen Sörmlands Veteranjärnväg in Oxelösund is a relatively new society, having formed as recently as 2010 and runs heritage trains along the branch line to Oxelösund. The line is fully electrified, which allows the society to run steam, diesel and electric trains.
In the afternoon we travelled into Nyköping for some free time and to do some shopping for souvenirs etc
Saturday was our last day together, and the Museispårvägen Malmköping had something special planned for us. We were all to have a go at driving the trams, on their mainline, in between the normal service trams. Before we did that, my group were asked to do what they call “Tour 90” which is a working trip around the line, doing light maintenance jobs and preparing the line for the day’s service.
There were two trams that we would be driving that day, Helsingborgs Stads Spårvägar class F1 no 43. which was the first one that I had a go with. This tram was built by ASEA in 1948 for the former tram network in Helsingborg which opened in 1903, and closed in 1967. The F1 class (also known as Mustang) is one of a class of 5 trams constructed for the network, and is operated similarly to a traditional tram, except that the driver has a seat and instead of a power/brake handle, has a wheel instead.
The other tram that we were driving was AB Storstockholms Lokaltrafik class A30 no 302. This was a much more modern tram, which was built for the once extensive network in Stockholm by Hammarby between 1983 and 1988 for the Nockebybanan, a line which is still open to this day, and operates as a segregated suburban line on the edge of Stockholm. This tram follows the more modern practice of giving the driver a seat, and has a joystick based control layout with a deadman’s feature. This tram is similar in control layout and operation to modern trams operating today on most tram lines around the world.
In the evening we had our formal farewell dinner and speeches, which consisted of a 3 course meal in the tram shed, illuminated by the lights from the trams themselves, which made for a fantastic spectacle.
It was time to go home. Due to a slight error in judgement, our flights left a little bit earlier than everyone else’s, so we had to be the first to leave. We had to be at Flen station (the nearest to Malmköping) by 09:15 for our train to Sala, where we would pick up an intercity train that took us direct to Stockholm Arlanda airport, with only one stop inbetween. Uppsala.
We noticed that the Uppsala-Lenna railway was running on that day, but sadly as we passed Uppsala we did not see one of their trains. We did discuss (half-jokingly) whether to abandon our travel plans and just have another go on that railway. But alas, London was calling to this far away town, and we had to return to our real lives at home.
Our flight was a little delayed when we got back, but it was air travel, and delays are to be expected. It was a good job that my travel companion had purchased open tickets to get home! As I was in no rush to return home, I decided to bite the bullet and join my companion on the first leg of his journey home, the Thameslink train from London Gatwick to Bedford. This was my first time on the new class 700 EMU, which despite being mired in controversy ever since it was first ordered, was pleasant, clean and on time. I have certainly had worse experiences on that line in the past.
To conclude, I am extremely thankful to Fedecrail for inviting me on these trips, and to all of the organisers at the various places that we visited during our time in Sweden. This year has been fantastic.
Since I first came on one of these trips, all the way back in 2012, I have experienced places and things that I would never have imagined going to, met some absolutely fantastic people. People that I consider to be close friends, and almost family. As I am now 24, there is a chance that this could well have been the last time I go on these trips, as depending on the country hosting, the maximum age is either 24 or 25. If I am unable to go next year, I think I have ended on a high, but it would be nice to go next year as one final encore before I have to start taking normal holidays instead, eugh.