An imaginary Branch Line on Öland
Following a holiday to Öland in 1990, and disappointed with the absence of a railway; and wanting a new theme to recreate in model form, Öland seemed a nice idea for an imaginary branch line, standard gauge and electrified; crossing the Kalmar Sound between Revsudden and St. Rör, and terminating at the island’s largest town, Borgholm. Just before reaching Borgholm, there would be a small junction station at Köpingsvik, for the line to the north, to Byxelkrok. (Farther south, there would be another junction for a branch line to the south, to Grönhögen.)
Developing the Idea
Thus a simple layout was built (imitating the then track plan at Tällberg much farther north, but with extra points for the junction element), one which would enable interesting and authentic operation. To be fully authentic, the passenger service would be provided by Y1 railbuses, and the main goods traffic would be ‘O’ wagons loaded with sugar beet. Oh, and not electrified! Instead, we recognised Öland’s significance as a primary holiday destination, and decided on electrification, and Rc-hauled (short) trains, connecting with services to and from Kalmar. At that time the line from Kalmar to Berga was not in use, and the whole idea seemed plausible if not cost effective! Goods traffic would indeed be the sugar beet trains, but various van trains also would be easy to justify. By the time that the layout had been built, a model of the Y2 railbus had appeared, and this seemed a most appropriate model (coming from Karlskrona to Kalmar via reversal at Emmaboda, and then onward from there), and we made sure that the shorter platform at Köpingsvik was long enough to accommodate that. The idea was that as a diesel train, it would reverse at Köpingsvik to take the non-electrified route to Byxelkrok! Other trains to and from Kalmar, as well as the trains to and from Grönhögen, were Rc-hauled electric trains. Later, a shortened X2-2 train appeared, but although these did work into Kalmar, running one to Borgholm did stretch the modellers’ licence quite a bit! In those early days, goods wagons were few and far between, but a shop’s stock clearance of Lima Fb-u, Gbs, and O wagons got us off to a reasonable start (as well as a few assorted others), and a few Roco wagons had started to arrive. The only shunting loco that was available r-t-r was the Lima TGOJ diesel, and thus started an interest in the TGOJ also, even though that railway was nowhere near Öland! Furthermore, our station building was a model of the one at Mariefred, quite a unique structure, and a long way away!
Köpingsvik was part of the KRBJ (Köpingsvik Röjeråsen Borensberg Järnvägar), and that story is told below. Following devastating vandalism in 1996 (one week after it had appeared at an exhibition), it was rebuilt as an independent layout (not part of the garden railway), and a new track plan was created to enable it to provide more items on the layout to be seen by the public, rather than just as they pass by. However, the plan, although adapted from an authentic layout, was not really suitable or enjoyed, and it had a security flaw (the loco shed was at the front where wandering fingers could be a problem)! With so much time and effort being spent on rebuilding the garden railway, Köpingsvik was eventually ‘expired’. Plans have existed ever since to build a new one (and even temporarily, a model of Byxelkrok), but these have not materialised.
Öland did have a railway many years ago. However it was narrow gauge (891mm), and connected to the mainland only by a ferry for the sugar beet wagons. Motive power was steam for most of the time, but Hilding Carlsson railbuses appeared for the last few years of the railway’s existence. In addition to this, there were industrial lines on the island, mostly to the smaller 600mm gauge, and part of one of these still exists today as a tourist attraction (see our links).
During the earlier days of the narrow gauge railway, Köpingsvik was called Tingsdal. At one exhibition that we took Köpingsvik to, our efforts were praised by a punter who described the layout as very authentic, and ‘just how he remembers it from when he was there’! Really?
On Saturday 25th July 1992, the KRBJ (Köpingsvik Röjeråsen Borensberg Järnvägar) was started, and opened about one year later. Ten years later still, it would reopen as the FLMJ (on the same site) following delivery of the new Park Home around which it was built. In fact, the new FLMJ identity had been established in the late 1990s following extensive rebuilding, having learned from mistakes made with the first venture into H0-scale outside.
The KRBJ’s name was ‘plural’ (“Järnvägar” instead of “Järnväg”) because it was intended that each of the main stations would double-up as portable sections to go to model railway exhibitions (with fiddle-yard sections) as separate entities. Only Köpingsvik was actually built in this way, and in addition to a few regular exhibitions, it took part in a week-long display at a Museum in London, and again during the ‘Swedish Week’ at the Wembley IKEA store. It even made it into the ‘Continental Modeller’ magazine as a short article (as well as into one in the US). Köpingsvik was a small branch line station set in the south of Sweden, based on the idea of a tunnel linking Öland to the mainland. Borensberg would be a medium sized station in central Sweden, but the model was never completed as part of the garden railway, and when construction had started, the decision had already been made against making it portable. Röjeråsen was to a be a large layout, set in Dalarna, and it took up a large part of the garden, where it became the central point of interest for guests. It was not clear how this station would become portable, so it was built as a static model with a plan to rebuild it later; but although it did get rebuilt (more than once), it was never made to be portable.
As there was nowhere indoors to have the layouts, they were designed to also be part of a garden railway. Being outside most of the time, the scenery was somewhat compromised, and therefore less attractive to exhibition organisers! Röjeråsen was built on site, and with the lessons learnt from Köpingsvik, we abandoned the idea of taking this or Borensberg to exhibitions.
Köpingsvik’s story is told above, but in the garden, everything had to follow on from what had been created. So, a single line across part of the garden, leading to an area to be known as Röjeråsen was provided. It was first built on a couple of old floor-boards raised about ½m off the ground, and featuring a 90° corner where the track was not supported in the middle! Nevertheless, it got us through our first open day. Very soon after, Röjeråsen was properly developed on second-hand baseboards donated to the railway. Thus, a very large station was built all along the back fence to the garden. The name comes from Dalarna, near to the beautiful lake Siljan, and it was intended that the scenery would reflect that. The Railway operated for some time in this way, the donated baseboards later giving way to purpose-built baseboards, and more and more scenery finding its way onto the diorama. There was even room to have village scenes without a station nearby! (The ‘branch’ line from Köpingsvik was used for a long time as a long siding, and then for access to an industrial area, but its true purpose as a branch line was never realised. The other end of the station remained a head-shunt throughout its time in the garden.)
During the first rebuilding, the Railway was built in the conventional way, but using exterior plywood instead of softer woods (“Marine Plywood” was too expensive and not suitable for use with track pins). The second rebuilding of Röjeråsen introduced the use of pallets to support the plywood tops – all with the Site Owner’s permission. (When rebuilt as FLMJ around the new home, the new Site Manager invited us to rebuild the Railway, but to avoid timber as much as possible due to fire risks. This we were able to do, and the Site Manager used to shew the Railway to prospective home buyers as a means of illustrating the high calibre and quality of life at the Park. After the Park sadly changed ownership, a more belligerent attitude to the railway became apparent!)
The extension to Borensberg occurred from Röjeråsen, as that was the easiest option. The station was never properly developed; the need to replace the Park Home prevented that. Arriving into the station on quite a curve, curved points were used in multiple, and it was found that these required extensive maintenance to keep them in full working order; derailments on the tighter curve in the facing direction were too frequent! With Borensberg, the new terminating head-shunt could be identified as the section that would eventually link with the head-shunt at Köpingsvik; but also the branch at the other end would connect with the branch at Köpingsvik (thus a circuit avoiding Röjeråsen) if only a suitable route in between could be identified! Neither of these connections were built.
Destruction and Survival
During this time, however, the whole railway suffered extensive and devastating vandalism in 1996, and what remained of it was dismantled whilst better security was arranged. A new railway was designed, but the fundamental changes were that it would be permanently in the garden, (Köpingsvik was rebuilt for exhibition use only,) and that there would be nothing left out when the railway wasn’t running except for the track and station platforms. The railway remained like this for some time afterwards, clearly visible from the public path (from where the vandals had broached); shewing that there was nothing worth coming in for. After some time, a new fence was erected, blocking the railway from view, and although everything with any value still got put away, there were trees and other scenic effects added to the permanent fixtures.
It was originally intended that the KRBJ title should remain, so with the removal of Köpingsvik, Kävlinge was selected, but this never garnered much enthusiasm; so a completely new name was sought, with two essential criteria; the three locations would represent north, central and south of Sweden, and the ‘extra’ Swedish vowels would be apparent, Å, Ä, and Ö (well, why not?)! Thus came the Fjällnäs Lövhöjden Månstorp Järnväg.
As the KRBJ developed, new ideas were found, changes were made; and it is quite a complex story to track its full history. Nevertheless, as the photos shew, it was a delightful railway, with a pleasant atmosphere; and was enjoyed by the neighbours and Site Management as much as its owner and guests.
The FLMJ (Fjällnäs Lövhöjden Månstorp Järnväg) emanated from the KRBJ, which had been built on the same site from July 1992. With Köpingsvik no longer part of the garden railway, a new name was sought, and we eventually settled on ‘Fjällnäs Lövhöjden Månstorp Järnväg’. The name Fjällnäs is taken from the north, Lövhöjden from the central area, and Månstorp from the south. It was intended that as we develop the scenery, we wanted the areas around these stations to reflect the scenery associated with those areas; so the FLMJ would not represent one particular area, but Sweden as a ‘whole.’ However, all trains would operate over the entire railway indiscriminately.
Another big change occurred for the Millennium. The ‘Park Home’ around which the Railway had been built was life-expired, it reached the stage where it was uneconomical to maintain and repair it any more. So, in agreement (and great co-operation) with the landlord that the Park Site had at that time, it was replaced with a brand-new home placed on the same plot. The new home was almost a metre wider than the old one … so as you can imagine, the FLMJ needed to be redesigned and started again! It was this new railway that would be presented to the world on a new website, and in the Swedish model press. With the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the Swedish railways taking place in 2006, the Railway was tidied up and opened for invited guests, and the event included not only the official opening, but a parade of trains portraying Sweden’s railway history. At that time, we had a circuit between Månstorp and Lövhöjden, double-track one way round, and single-track on the other. There was also a double-track line leading to the Fiddle Yard, which was been named Ålunden (with a bit of poetic licence the name was a translation of the Park where the Railway was located)! The single-line ‘northern’ extension to Fjällnäs via Gärde had been postponed until certain modifications had been made to the then existing railway!
The FLMJ started as a modern railway. Returning home from Sweden each year, freshly inspired, there was a desire to recreate the railways of Sweden in miniature. However, there was also a great respect for the history of Sweden’s railways, and so there were many ‘heritage’ trains operating also! It was possible to see a steam locomotive with wooden-bodied 2-axle coaches alongside a modern X2000 set. As time went on, the modern image was changing on an almost daily basis, and the required models were not being produced, so the time clock was stopped and set back to Epoch-IV, and gradually the modern models were sold off!
Trials and Tribulations
Comment has been made about the compromised nature of the scenery. Ordinary glue will wash away when it rains. So, the obvious solution is to use waterproof glue. This causes cracks to appear (in the heat of the sun), and eventually works loose; making ballasting a virtually impossible task. No scenic materials will stick to the polycarbonate baseboards (which the Site Owner had asked us to use (or at least, not to use timber if at all possible)). Paint and powders all come loose eventually. We also hade a problem with neighbouring cats walking upon the railway, and a few trees have been brought down by them (we insert trees into small drilled holes, so they are reasonably secure, but not when two cats have a punch-up on top of the railway). High Frequency Track Cleaners (as made by GaugeMaster) are pretty good at expelling cats, but they’re not ‘on’ when the railway’s not running! Model buildings are a fair assortment, not entirely Swedish, but we have observed a fair amount of European and American influence in Sweden, and we have carefully imitated this … alongside whatever Swedish model buildings we can find! Månstorp had a model of Diö station building, and Lövhöjden had a model of Åmål. For Fjällnäs, we were thinking about the Artitec model of Nyåker, but that never happened. Road models are the really disappointing aspect of this whole diorama. Of course, many Swedes are understandably patriotic, and there are plenty of Saab and Volvo cars to be seen on Swedish roads. But there are so few models available in H0 scale! The most modern Saab is one that dates back to the late 1980s (the old shape 900), and the most modern Volvo, until 2023, was the 850 (or early V70 if you prefer)! (2019 year models of the V60 and V90 were introduced in 2023.) Lorries have a better following in the modelling world, and we had no complaints there; but ‘local’ buses are also poor in number, especially with the Scania and Volvo brands! The most unusual car you will see here, is a 1950s Volvo, also known as TGOJ 3, a PV831 modified with railway wheels; a working model built from a Swedish kit. The prototype is preserved in Sweden!
The FLMJ was designed primarily as a working railway (priority over scenery), and work was ongoing to extend the line to Fjällnäs, as well as install overhead power cables (catenary) and a fully working and interlocked signalling system. (The signalling system intended was CTC based, designed as a computer program by one of our club members, as a project for his University Degree in Computer Science. We are pleased to report that he got the highest grade attainable.)
The railway was operated with a person at each main location, controlling all the local track sections and points. To run a train from one area to the next, we had Block Signalling apparatus, home-made, and suited to the nature of this railway. (We had been using Block Signalling apparatus purchased from the former ‘British Rail,’ but this was not suitable for our requirements!) We used the conventional 12v dc system, as DCC is not appropriate for us. Being out in the garden, High Frequency Track Cleaners were an essential way to keep the railway working (and we could isolate them if owners of visiting models don’t like them), but these are not compatible with DCC. Further, with a number of Junior members in the club, the old system allowed us to teach basic railway electrics to them, and if anything goes wrong, they have a good idea of how to fix things with only a basic electrical knowledge; something that DCC does not cater for.
The railway was open for invited guests to enjoy the wonderful atmosphere that the outdoor nature of the railway provided. The long-distance running in real weather conditions was very popular and photographs were naturally lit. (Well, the weather was sometimes a nuisance!) Living circumstances on the Park Site deteriorated from late 2016, and a relocation was inevitable. Nevertheless, the Railway was properly maintained and operated right up to the last day, the end of the Summer 2018 timetable, The Railway closed, therefore on October 1st, the 100th anniversary of Sweden’s worst ever rail-related accident. The locomotive involved, F-class 1200 was rebuilt and returned to service, and is preserved today. With an omen like that, we can be reasonably confident that a new FLMJ-inspired railway will arise.
An imaginary Branch Line Terminus in Halland
This model railway layout was designed and built by one of our friends to provide a home for his collection of rolling stock, and was based on the period 1930-1987. It was intended to be a circuit, but space constraints led to an end-to-end design being built instead. As the design of the layout still has traces of a through line, the two station boards were incorporated into the new design and a degree of historical and geographical justification was needed. This was achieved by changing the geography of western Halland by creating a peninsula and large mountain between Halmstad and Falkenberg. The actual design is based on Anderstorp on the former Halmstad & Nässjö Railway (HNJ) with a quayside area based on typical local practice. Swedish railways were generally developed by the state constructing the main lines and private companies constructing the branch lines. Nationalisation began early and was effectively completed by 1950. The nature of the country with a small scattered population encouraged the use of railbuses from 1912 with lightweight machines coming into service by 1937.
When the railway came to Halland, the main line came down the coast from Göteborg to Malmö. The main line inland was the HNJ (Halmstad to Nässjö). Secondary lines ran inland from Falkenberg and Varberg. This left the Västra Hamn peninsula and Västra Åsen mountain without a line. The result was the Westra Hallands Järnväg (WHJ), running from the main line at Harplinge to Västra Hamn with a branch to the mountain via Steninge. The line up the mountain proved uneconomic and difficult to maintain, and was cut back to the small port of Steninge, from which a bus service runs up the mountain. The fictional history concludes with nationalisation in the 1940s and closure in 1987, when subsidies encouraged the replacement of many secondary lines with bus services. Then, in the 1990s, the line was upgraded and reopened by the local transport authority in liaison with a preservation group, who operate the line at weekends. Upgrading included the removal of a cross-over, and the replacement of a semaphore signal with Radio Block signalling!
The original builder of the layout later built a new Swedish railway, Strömstad, to replace Steninge, and later, the Småtorp layout also. In 2003, ‘Adnalms Järnvägar’ bought the Steninge layout for exhibition use until such a time as the ‘club’ could build a replacement for their life-expired model of Köpingsvik. Although no new layout has been built to replace Steninge, it was sold in 2008, after Adnalms Järnvägar had proudly demonstrated the layout to His Majesty, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.