Ofotbanen - The Ofoten Railway
History - the making of a railway
The Ofoten Railway is a significant ingredient in Narviks existence.
For more than 250 years ago, the sami people found the treasure of iron ore in Swedish Laplands. We are talking about seriousely rich deposits. It turned out to be one of the world's richest single deposits of iron ore.
But one thing was localizing the treasure, another thing was to get hold of it. From 1764 reindeer was used to transfer the ores from the inlands to the coast. In 1827 a suggestion with horse transport to Ofoten was rejected by the king. And in 1869 railway transportation was suggested.
In 1898 the Parliament adopted a decision that the Ofotbanen should be built as a state line, presupposed that it was finish on the Swedish side at the same time, and that the shipping on a yearly base exceeded 1,2 mill tons.
Intinerants, also called navvies, built the railway. They came to Ofoten from all over the Nordic countries. The conditions for the workers was incredibly hard. The long winter made it only possible to work within the tunnels, and the lack of daylight caused major problems. The work was extreme and the payment was poor.
Along the line small communities grew. One of them was Rombaksbotn, 8 km from the Swedish border. All neccesary equipment could be transferred by ship and then transported up in to the mountain. All along the roads small shops were established, and soon there were bakeries, hotels, liqueur shops and dealers and bars, the latter with somewhat unfortunate reputation.
The construction period was soon over, and already the winter of 1902 the 2 railways on either side of the border could be connected. An official opening commenced the summer of 1903.
The preparatory work for electification started in 1919. Access to electricity was no problem, as the construction of power stations happened just near by. So already in 1923 the railway had electrical power, and is still the world's northern most line with electrification.
The red painted stations along the line are as beautiful as the land scape is dramatic. They were designed by the Railway's own architects. Katterat station is surrounded by several residentials from the time when Katterat was a small community for the employees of the railway. All together up to 40 persons including their families lived here. Today the old houses are used as cabins. Katterat was depopulated when the shunting became automated in the 1960's.
Rallarveien - The Navvy Road
The old construction road takes you from Bjørnfjell or Katterat down to Rombaksbotn. The area was in 1997 awarded as Norway's outdoor recreation area. Rallarveien - The Navvy Road - passes through fair mountains from Abisko in Northern Sweden to Rombaksbotn in Norway In the summertime hiking in the footprints of the Navvies is recommended. The Rallarveien is a cultural and historical walk with traces from the navvies.
Iron Ore transportation
The most significant function of Ofotbanen is transportation of iron ores. The ore trains are in traffic 24 hours a day, all year around. For more than 110 years the railway traffic has great regional and national impact both in Sweden and Norway. And it is the large iron ore transport that makes Ofotbanen very special in Norwegian and European context. More than 1 billion tons of iron ore has been transported on the railway up to now, and with the planning of extra lines and crossing tracks at several of the station areas, we will see a lot more in the future.
Travel with Ofotbanen
The tickets can be bought on the Railway station in Narvik, from the ticket machine - or online www.sj.se. You can chose to disembark at any of the stations along the line, or you can travel to Riksgrensen and take the corresponding train back to Narvik. Or if you like, you can join all the way to Stockholm and then continue your journey out in to Europe.