Report by Adrian Allum
Whilst we have normally recorded club visits to Sweden here, it was felt that the private 2015 visit was of significance, not so much because of the ‘big’ birthday that took place there, but more because it was the 25th anniversary of the first visit, a holiday which ultimately led to the establishment of what we now know as the FLMJ. Here, the Director General shares his experiences…
The first visit was quite a culture shock for me, having not been encouraged to venture abroad before (and there was quite some resistance to this by those who no longer matter to me). Armed with a one-year travel pass (instead of a full passport) and travellers’ cheques, the journey to the Capital was quite straight-forward. On the ex-Arlanda bus, a conversation in English was overheard, and concerns about the after-effects of Chernobyl were still current. But of more interest was the road-side infrastructure, the architecture, and the layout of things.
However, the first train journey was not so easy. The Nordtourist Pass enabled the holder to board any train, but although reservations were advertised, it was not realised that in Sweden they are more essential than recommended! So Saturday afternoon’s journey to Kalmar was postponed to Sunday, and B&B in Stockholm had to be found – Hotell Terminus, directly opposite Centralstation. A tiny room on the top floor was ample; and the railway experience began in that hotel room – the whole building seemed to echo the sound of the passing T-bana trains underneath!
The journey to Kalmar was on a Malmö-bound train, where cars were detached at Alvesta, and arrival at Kalmar (from Stockholm) was without changing. Then an onward bus to Borgholm on Öland and the journey was complete. Most of the following week was spent at Öland and nearby, and this was not a railway holiday – it was just a holiday away from the usual environment. Only a weekend was planned for Stockholm (not being a great fan of cities), and accommodation was a little farther north, at Sigtuna. The Nordtourist ticket covered the fare between Märsta and Centralstation. But there was no need to use the T-bana, and the more unusual railways (Lidingöbanan, Roslagsbanan, etc) were not known about; so that time in Stockholm was again, not a railway visit (but there was a chance to meet some friends who had previously lived in England, including one who had a Märklin model railway).
For the rest of the 2-week holiday, time was spent at Tällberg in Dalarna, with trips out to Borlänge, Leksand, Rättvik, Mora and so on, but the wonderful essence of a country railway did prompt a few more railway photographs, and having been spotted doing this before getting on the train, the driver asked if I was interested in trains and would I like to ride at the front? Thus the foundation was laid. The very first SJ model to be purchased, which is still running on the FLMJ 25 years later was Roco’s model of the A7 carriage in the brown livery with yellow InterCity chevrons. Before the journey home, two Märklin coaches had been purchased also, 1930’s style A5 and B8; but although it was known that Märklin locos operate from the 3-rail system, it was not realised that the coaches would have conducting wheel-sets! These were exchanged, but due to their compromised scale length, they were eventually sold.
Just over a year later, I moved into my own home, and plans for a garden railway were started!
A plan to follow those original steps was not viable; one of the hotels (not named above) is now fiendishly expensive and another (also not named above) is in a terrible state of disrepair! There were thoughts about spending less time in Stockholm, but as far as accommodation was concerned, this was limited to one night only, at Gävle. Gävle has been home to Sweden’s national railway museum for a number of years, and this was certainly visited this time round. The available space inside is rather limited, and one could only speculate how the museum would expand as more artefacts passed into ‘Heritage’ status. Instead, however, now owned by Trafikverket, who also maintain roads, some of the trains have been taken away to make room for car displays, aviation, nautical, and a second children’s play area. For a railway enthusiast, it was a major disappointment, and a return visit is now most unlikely. The Journey from Arlanda to Gävle was with SJ all the way, but the return was with UL to Uppsala and SJ to Märsta (up and down journeys about the same in length). However, the latter was about only 30% of the fare of the former!
Over the last few years, there has been a lot of work on the creation of a new underground railway; not an extension of the T-bana, but a diversion for the Pendeltåg to get them away from the “wasp-waist” of the Swedish railway system – the double track to the south of Centralstation. When the new “Citybanan” is opened, it will spell the end of service with the X10 trains because they will not manage the gradients; but we have to wait another two or three years. In order the cover the loss of the X10, more X60 units have been ordered, but the modern technology incorporated into these trains is already obsolete, and the new units will be different and incompatible. So there will be two different train types operating on the Stockholm suburban routes, and there will need to be enough of both types to cover maintenance, repairs, and write-offs.
Another incompatibility problem exists with the Tvärbanan, Stockholm’s semi-circular tram route. The Alvik to Sickla route has been opened in stages and has transformed (in a good way) the areas that it serves. However, the continuation from Alvik to Solna is disappointing. It is in effect a different system; and passengers wishing to continue their journey have to change from one to the other. There is a new signalling system and a roof mounted ATC system. The ATC alone has failed to work (probably due to the sideways (hunting) of the car bodies causing the antennae to miss the balises); and presently, the route is worked line-of-sight and therefore with a speed restriction. No solution to the problem appears to be visible.
The same problem has occurred to the Lidingöbanan, which has been completely closed for rebuilding. Line-of-sight working is not possible here because too much of it is bi-directional single-line! I am under the impression that an older signalling system is being reintroduced so that this line can reopen, but I shall check on future visits! I did observe a new signal type; it has the appearance of a försignal, but with one yellow aspect, working in the same way as the “skull” – flashing for stop ahead, steady for proceed. They were mounted mid-platform where the starter signal was out of sight. They were the only signals uncovered and working, at the time of my visit.
On a more positive note, MTR has started operating trains between Sweden’s two largest cities. These are red and black 5-car trains (they look like a Norwegian livery, and I understand that NSB has a stake in their operation), but the curious thing about the trains is that only three of the four joins are articulated.
Shortly before my holiday, I had ordered some models from Sweden, which had arrived, and among them was a model of the Solaris Urbino 12 bus in SL livery. I had seen a press release about these being ordered for Stockholm from the Polish offshoot of the former-Neoplan bus company, but I decided that whilst I was in Sweden, I should try to get a photo of the real thing. I actually spent the best part of a whole day looking. My host made a few enquiries, and we were told that they were to be found on route 73. So we investigated route 73. The map that appears at bus-stops shews the route taken, but the timetable that appears alongside suggests a different route. I had picked up a pocket timetable earlier, and this shewed a third route! However, they all agreed that Ropsten was a starting point, so that is where we went. And we waited. Then we started to make some enquiries. Eventually, it was explained that they had all been returned to Poland because they were not up to the job; there were none to be found. Whilst we were there however – and this is probably what our informant was getting confused with – we observed and then travelled on a new Volvo Hybrid-Electric bus. A roadside device looking like an over-sized lamp-post has a pantograph, which when triggered comes down and makes contact with pick-ups on the bus roof (the bus has a specific place to stop). A seven-minute charge is enough for the bus to be able to do another journey; but if it runs out of power (on a steep incline on route 73 for example), then the diesel engine kicks in. We wondered how long the batteries will last having so many boost-charges a day; but we imagine that if the operation is a success, then more routes will gain this technology. In the meantime, the vast majority of other buses are bio-diesel, noticeable by the large rooftop tanks.
Whilst I am awaiting Jeco’s new Z65 / Z70 shunting locos, there was nothing big to spend my money on (which is nice because I don’t have a lot of money these days)! However, I have been mulling over the idea of one more Y6/Y7 railbus, of the original type (no panoramic window, and earlier ventilation and exhaust), and so that was my big purchase. Y6 764 is now on the stock register; but it is accompanied by UFV 2051 because there are quite a few of these remaining in stock, and it will be used certainly whilst 2048 is in for repair! The Z65 etc has been delayed due to production issues in the far east; they are likely to appear at the end of the year at the earliest.
Jeco has produced two rather nice bus models. One is for left-hand traffic (pre-1967) but has a metal body and is appropriately priced. The other is the Scania CF in plastic, for right-hand traffic, and a similar price to any Rietze or similar model. Three of these are now at the FLMJ, the most popular being the one in SJ livery, which will be seen at various locations around the railway at different events. The Wasatrafik livery version was purchased due to the delay with the preferred models – if they didn’t arrive (as with various other Jeco proposed models), then we would have one to repaint. This is not now necessary, and it will appear from time to time. More for Heritage situations is the SL version; which is nice to compare alongside other SL buses. Other SL buses are increasing in number and these already include two that are no longer in traffic. The Citaro Hydrogen Cell experimental bus is one of those (I think there were only three), and the Solaris Urbino 12 (mentioned above) was short-lived due to the many problems encountered with them! The model was produced by VK-Modelle, who also made the Landskrona Trolleybus model. The other two SL buses are still in traffic, and they were both produced as limited editions to be sold through the Spårvägsmuseet – models of the MAN buses that pass outside their front door, a single red bus on route 55 and an articulated blue bus on route 2; both destined to Sofia, nearby. An SL Outing to the FLMJ will probably be required at our next Open Weekend!
Modern Sweden is quite well catered for in H0 scale with lorries. It seems that the main manufacturers are keen to stay up-to-date, and Swedish liveries do appear on a number of tractor-trailer combinations. Also, of course, both Scania and Volvo have large slices of the truck market so models of these are not ignored. But these are no longer desirable at the FLMJ. Whilst the FLMJ is “Heritage” and so modern artefacts can appear, it is desired that even the road models are of a heritage status. So Brekina’s recent Scania L110 and Volvo N88 models are very welcome, and at least three Volvo lorries were purchased, including, naturally one in ASG livery.
My love of Sweden is in respect of much more than their railway system. In fact, on the grand scale of things, the railway is only a small part of it! This visit marked 25 years since my first visit, and my 50th birthday. Both birthdays (25th & 50th) were celebrated in Stockholm. Sweden is covered with lakes, canals and rivers, and I spent quite a lot of time on them. The trip on part of the Göta Kanal was actually a birthday present. After driving to Bergs Slussar (NW from Linköping), we took a cruise to Borensberg, through many locks. Arrival at Borensberg revealed one of the buildings that featured in one of the “Göta Kanal” comedy films; but thankfully there was no evidence of “Wacky-races” that day! I have often seen the tourist boats plying their way through the Stockholm canals, so I decided that it was time to do the same. Being in May, only two of the routes were operating, but a trip around Södermalm and another around Djurgården were most enjoyable, and informative – despite 25 years of visiting Stockholm, there is still much to learn! On my last day, I took a trip out into the Archipelago; not quite as comfortable as the other trips, but another activity to finally tick off as “done!”
My Birthday dinner (on the day) was another opportunity to sample something Swedish, and I’m not referring to just the food. The Gästgiveri is an interesting (and soon to be modelled on the FLMJ) Swedish experience; whereby the lower floor of what was probably once a private house is made over as a restaurant – sometimes, I’m told with accommodation also. I had sampled one of these in Östervåla a couple of years previously, and this time we were at Edsviken. It is a wonderful exclusive experience; far away from more commercial environments.
But what about the City that floats on Water? Stockholm has changed very much since my first visit. In 1990 it gave the appearance of a clean and organised city, somewhere that was safe for children to go about unsupervised (seriously), and I felt inspired to be there in a thriving city. Now, of course, it is overrun by beggars, making it look desolate and unclean. The only free-range children seem to be the ones who try to pick my bag and pockets. The quantity of beggars (mostly Roma) has fallen a little due to local youths setting off fire-crackers and other unpleasant things, but it seems that the politicians are not in sync with the public. Nevertheless, Stockholm thrives as a business and tourist location, and the recently introduced Congestion Charge (like in London) is being extended farther out, but will include the Essinge Highway, which is the main artery around the City. If it encourages traffic off and onto the side streets, it will be a home-goal. There is a plan to introduce a new farther-out bypass, from Häggvik in the north to Kungenskurva in the south, passing under Ekerö and mostly as a tunnel. The astronomical cost of this proposed project makes the Citybanan look like a cheap budget project, but it is early days yet.
After my return, and after Sweden won the Eurovision for the sixth time (Abba – Herreys – Carola – Charlotte Nilsson – Loreen – and now Måns Zelmerlöw), I met a friend from Småland who had travelled to London for a few days. I have now been invited to that southern part of Sweden, maybe next year, but it will certainly feel like a holiday!
All photos A. Allum unless otherwise credited