I left off part 2 with us being stuck in Boden waiting for a rail replacement bus to take us to Gällivare.
To our surprise our ticket collector travelled with us and proceeded to give us a guided commentary on the journey. As bus journeys went this was not too shabby! The three-hour journey sped past thanks to the pleasant scenery of forest, lake & mountain.
Part of the journey passed through beautiful Laponia, an area blessed with UNESCO World Heritage status and home to the reindeer herding Sami people.
We also passed inside the Arctic Circle just outside the wonderfully named Jokkmokk.
We were dropped off two hours later than scheduled at Gällivare train station and soon located our AirBNB apartment near to the main church. We ventured for a very expensive burger and beer and a quick orientation tour before returning to our comfortable accommodation.
Gällivare is best known for iron ore, or malm to give its Swedish name. It is primarily mined around the town of Malmberget (Iron Ore Mountain) eight kilometres away. We decided we would take the bus there in the hope of seeing some mining activity.
The area contains 20 ore bodies spread over an underground area of around 5km by 2.5km, of which 10 ore bodies are currently being mined. Mining began in 1892 and since then over 350 million tonnes of ore have been extracted. the whole region pretty much depends on the dark gold, with the industry employing around 1,000 people in Gällivare region alone.
It was a rainy day and all we saw were some pretty bleak landscapes and a down-trodden settlement. The journey had at least been free as the bus card reader was not working. All things considered we decided to stay on the bus, which would take us back into Gällivare and on to the ski resort of Dundret.
The landscape around Dundret was more pleasant here and home to several chalets and ski hotels. As we were out of season, the ski lifts were not working, and even if they had been we would probably have passed due to the inclement weather. Unanimously we decided to stay on the bus and go back to the train station.
We ended being on the bus for the best part of two-hours and quite enjoyed our free tour of Gällivare’s suburbs.
We popped into the station hoping to see a laden iron ore train, but gave up after a soggy hour or so. If only LKAB who own the mines would publish an ore train timetable.
Across from the station stands the premier hotel, restaurant & spa in town. They also had a tenpin bowling alley and we decided to have a game. Neither of us had played for years, but both did reasonably well with a good number of strikes.
It was there that we returned later for another expensive meal.
Next day we had a few hours to kill before our train into the Norwegian town of Narvik. The free town museum was well worth our visit, telling the story of the Swedish iron ore industry and having an extraordinary display of minerals & crystals excavated in the area.
We were again out of luck spotting any iron ore trains, but eagerly awaited perhaps our favourite journey that would traverse the iron ore route to the port city of Narvik, via the ore producing town of Kiruna.
Kiruna is Sweden’s northern most town, built in the 1890’s after the discovery of ore. However, the extensive mining has caused subsidence, meaning that there is an ongoing project to move the town two-miles to the east.
More than twenty buildings of historical value will be moved in their entirety to a new downtown district set for completion in 2035. Some are to be lifted and relocated while others must be dismantled and reconstructed.
We pulled into the new Kiruna station after 90-minutes. The landscape was dominated by mining equipment, slag heaps and huge chimneys. Not a pretty sight but fascinating at the same time.
My friend Poll and I had undertaken the journey in reverse in 1987, something I repeated with another friend Hamish in 1992. We would have stopped at a different station then, not that I could remember.
We did see some unladen iron ore trucks passing by our train at one point. Not overly exciting, but I videoed it all the same.
We had a twenty-minute stop in Kiruna station for the loco to change ends so it could take us partially back from whence we had come, before branching off to take us to Norway. You can see part of the change manoeuvre here.
Next I will continue the story as we travel onto Narvik. Subscribe below to catch my posts.