The North Atlantic port of Narvik is right at the end of the Iron Ore/Ofoten line from Lulea on Sweden’s Baltic Coast. You can read parts 3 & 4 of my tour to read about our journey there.
My fourth visit to the strategically important town was my first from east to west, with my previous three arrivals being by bus from Fauske in ‘89, ‘92 & 2018.
That’s not strictly true actually as back in 2018 Mrs Wilbur and I had taken a round trip from Narvik to Abisko just inside Sweden to experience part of the line in the snow.
Narvik is high up in the imaginary Arctic Circle, a region of wild beauty and the ethereal (but elusive to me ) Northern Lights.
It hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons during WWII. Both the Allies & The Nazis eyed the port for its iron ore imported from Sweden and stockpiled due to the conflict.
The ‘precious’ metal was coveted for the production of tanks, guns, planes & munitions. Control the ore and the train line from Sweden, and you would be at a huge advantage.
The Nazis also saw the Norwegians as perfect specimens to mix with as part of their ideological Aryan master race. It was therefore no surprise when they invaded, meeting up with the Allied force off the coast of Narvik. More of the skirmish that followed in a bit.
Back in ‘89 when I last traveled their with my mate Poll we had stayed in the youth hostel and found the prices eye-wateringly expensive. This time we stayed at a lovely central apartment in the centre overlooking the busy port, and still found the prices eye-wateringly expensive.
Having had the most expensive burger & chips ever the night before (£22 for a meal containing 14 fries), we found the cupboard bare next morning. No worries for Poll who promptly (and happily!) chomped on a red onion procured in Finland. There will be a link to a short video of this ‘feat’ at the end of the post.
We had one full day in Narvik and had four missions. To see some monster iron ore trains, walk around the port area, and to visit the War & Railway Museums.
First up trains. There is a bridge in town that offers great views through a wire fence of the 8,600 tonne train sets of double loco and 68 trucks laden with 6,800 tonnes of ore.
We made a beeline there, highly amusing locals as we charged to the bridge as we heard the thunder of a train approaching.
We stood transfixed for a good hour as full trucks arrived and disappeared into huge unloading sheds, and empty ones departed again to Sweden to be refilled. More video at the end of this post.
Next up, the War Museum. Primarily focused on the Battles of Narvik, a naval and land conflict in 1940.
The two naval battles in the Ofotfjord on 10 April and 13 April were fought between the British Royal Navy and The Nazis, while the two-month land campaign was fought between Norwegian, French, Polish & British troops against German mountain troops, shipwrecked Kriegsmarine sailors and German paratroopers.
Although defeated at sea off Narvik, losing control of the town and being pushed back towards the Swedish border, the Germans eventually prevailed because of the Allied evacuation in June 1940 following the Battle of France.
The naval battle saw twenty ships sunk, all of whom remain at the bottom of the ocean. Many more were badly damaged, whilst casualties amounted to over 300, mainly Germans.
The museum also covers the wider Nazi occupation of Norway after they had been forced out of the greater Narvik region.
I am not a great museum fan, but this one fascinated me with its story telling and memorabilia.
After a fishy lunch break (soup for me, pickled herring for Poll), we headed for our second museum, set in the former HQ Norwegian Railways.
The Narvik Museum tells the story of the amazing Ofoten Line construction and its growing operations from its debut in 1902. The line was electrified in 1923 and has been progressively altered and strengthened over the years to enable the giant metallic snakes to slither back & forth. Right up my street!
Outside the museum stands a loco that worked the line for many years, which you are free to clamber around to get a feel for the lot of an iron ore train driver.
Last up for our action-packed day, we walked down to the port area in the hope of seeing some heavy duty working. We could not get as close as we wanted, but enjoyed the dockside ramble all the same.
After all that exertion and with a 7am departure we decided an early night was in order. We dined in on pizza & salad, with Poll deciding to drink four very strong beers as we played geographical quizzes until past midnight. I wondered whether we (especially Poll) might regret our evening next morning!
I will leave you with a few shots of Narvik and those videos. Coming next will be our bus and train journey to Fauske and on to Bodo.
Video of an incredible iron ore train HERE.
Video of Poll eating an onion HERE.
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