The International Steam Pages

Östra Södermanlands Järnväg (ÖSlJ), the East Södermanland Railway, 2009

James Waite reports on his 2009 visit. He was previously here in 2006 (the pictures are still available) but the original notes have been revised and updated.

This 600 mm gauge line runs for a distance of 3.2 km between Läggesta Nedre and Mariefred, an old port town on the southern shore of Lake Mälaren, the large lake which extends from Stockholm westwards into central Sweden. Mariefred is a delightful town with many historical buildings including a wooden town hall and a sturdy stone church. It is dominated by Gripsholm Castle, a historically important baroque building dating partly from the early 16th century still officially a royal palace, which has become a major tourist attraction.

The railway is built on the trackbed of an old standard gauge branch line which connected Mariefred with the main line system at Läggesta. Originally opened in 1895, the branch closed in September 1964. The whole line from Mariefred to the junction just outside Läggesta station including the station buildings and surrounding area was then donated to the museum society now known as the “Östra Södermanlands Järnväg” (East Södermanland Railway). This was confirmed by a decision of the Swedish parliament on 24th November 1965. The society had been formed back in 1959 to preserve what was left of the country’s 600mm gauge railways and had operated on an old brickworks railway at Södertälje since 1959. It moved its operation to Mariefred soon afterwards.

A fairly dense freight and passenger traffic on the standard gauge main line through Läggesta station continued unaltered until 1993 when construction began of a new high speed railway, now known as the Svealandsbanan. This was opened in 1997, replacing the old route, and now the museum society has the sole use of the original Läggesta station. This is now referred to as “Läggesta Nedre”, or Lower Läggesta. The new line from Stockholm is at a much higher level and crosses the west end of the old station site on a substantial viaduct. There’s a station on the new line at the end of the viaduct which is within comfortable walking distance of the narrow gauge. Both the original, attractive wooden station buildings at Läggesta Nedre and Mariefred have been restored to their original appearance.

The society has an impressive collection of historic passenger and goods stock from all the seven old 600 mm gauge public railways which once ran in Sweden, including steam locos from four of them. There are also several other steam locos which were formerly in use on industrial lines.

For many of us the star attraction has to be “Lessebo”, a Mallet locally built in 1891 following the design of the original Mallets built by Decauville for the Great Exhibition in Paris in 1889. The Decauville system had a major influence on the development of Sweden’s 600mm gauge railways; indeed two of the Paris Mallets were exported to the country when the Paris show ended and more were built in the following few years. By the early years of the twentieth century the shortcomings of the design had become apparent and most of them were replaced by more modern machines built in the country. “Lessebo” led a charmed life, continuing to serve the Kosta Lessebo Järnväg, its original railway, until the line closed in 1948. It then moved to the Munkedals Järnväg, a much busier and more progressive railway which had a temporary need for additional motive power until it was converted to standard gauge in 1954. Lessebo was then acquired by the Swedish NRM at Gavle. It’s now on loan to the OSlJ and first steamed here in 2009. Amazingly it still carries its original boiler, now well over 100 years old.

Much of the stock has now been restored, most of it to a very high standard though there are a few unfortunate failings, notably no. 5, an OK 0-4-4-0 Mallet tank from an industrial line in the south east of the country. When it arrived in the early 1960’s it was in most respects a typical OK Mallet but over the years has been “Swedified”, a matter of regret now to many of the society’s members. No. 2, originally a standard OK 0-4-0WT has also undergone similar treatment.

The narrow-gauge line leaves Läggesta in a north easterly direction, curves through a deep cutting the line emerges to run alongside the lake, past Marielund, a small station with a passing loop, and on to the outskirts of Mariefred. As the railway approaches the town there are glimpses of the castle to the right. Entering the large station yard the line passes the extensive engine and carriage shed and works complex on its left. There’s road access to a level crossing at the northern end of the cutting which is a good spot for photos in the afternoon. The main stretch near the lake is more difficult due to the reeds through which the line runs. There are lots of photo opportunities at each terminus.

The railway also owns the old standard gauge route from Läggesta to Taxinge and work is currently under way to convert it to 600mm gauge. It’s rather more than 6km long and so the line’s length will effectively triple when the work is completed – expected in 2011 or 2012.

This is an excellent railway run by friendly and helpful volunteers and on all my visits they have been more than willing to show me around behind the scenes. If you’re there don’t miss the bookshop tucked away behind the station cafe. It’s run by Kurt Moller whose knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Swedish narrow gauge knows no limits and is a veritable treasure trove of narrow gauge books, many of which have been out of print and hard to obtain for years. Kurt has also been very helpful in supplying much of the info in these notes.

The railway holds several special events each year and if you’re planning a visit it’s worth checking their website at (bilingual Swedish/English) for details of them. A pretty regular fixture is the end-of-season steam up on the last Saturday of September which we visited in 2009. There’s an intensive service of trains throughout the day and a line-up for night photography during the evening.

Mariefred is easy to reach by train from Stockholm. Another really fun way of getting there is by the town’s steamer “Mariefred” which was built in 1903 and has been sailing between Stockholm and Mariefred ever since, in recent years from Tuesdays to Sundays during the summer. It arrives at Mariefred around 13.30 and leaves at 16.30 allowing plenty of time to visit the railway, the castle and the town. In its early years the railway built an extension to the harbour and trains connect with the steamer. This is James' 2006 picture:

More prosaically the town is an easy 50 minutes’ drive on the motorway from Skavsta airport, a Ryanair destination and a day trip from Stansted is an entirely feasible proposition for anyone living in south east England.

The last pictures I (RD) saw of a double headed Mallet were at Cibatu in Java, 'Lessebo' and No. 5 are a lot smaller!

Nos. 4 and 9 on the Mariefried harbour branch:

These show 8 on the Mariefred harbour branch.

Nos. 4 and 9 leave Mariefried with a mixed train, then 4 leaves on a normal passenger train:

Nos. 5 and then 4 approaching Laggesta.

'Lessebo' on the turntable at Läggesta:

The two 'Ugly Ducklings' (James' description not mine), nos. 3 and 5 as much modified by OSIJ...

Loco list

No. 1 (OK 6620/1913). A standard 1913 OK 20hp loco, one of their earlier products to be fitted with Walschaerts valve gear. Originally bought by the SJ for double-track grading work etc. Sold to a feldspar mine in the late 1920s/early 1930s. Acquired by the OSlJ in spring 1959, named “Lotta” (a common nickname for small contractors’ locos in Sweden) and became the first operable engine on the brickworks line at Södertälje in June 1959. More recently the loco was on loan to the Swedish Museum of Science and Technology at Stockholm and it returned to the railway for display during the society’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 2009.

No. 2 (Motala 272/1901). One of half a dozen extremely well-built little 2-4-2 well and side tank 12-tonners from Motala Works, between 1894 and 1904 and now the only surviving one. The design had its origins in the need to replace the Decauvulle-type Mallet tanks on the Swedish 600mm gauge as their shortcomings became apparent. Supplied new to the Stavsjö Järnväg but sold by them as early as 1918 to Ballangen iron ore mine near Narvik in northern Norway. Reboilered in 1938 and acquired by the OSlJ in 1965. The loco has always been named “Virå” after the upper terminus of the StJ. Kurt Moller writes “a gem, YES; everybody´s darling engine here. Steams beautifully and runs like an angel - better than any of our coaches do. Our max. permitted speed on the ÖSlJ is 15 mph - VIRÅ does 35 easily...” 

No. 3 (OK 7443/1918). Originally similar to no. 1. Ex-Strå Limestone Works no.1 at Dylta, near Örebro. Given to the society in 1960 and rebuilt into a 0-4-2 well and side tank in the 1970s. Regularly used in traffic early and late in the operating season and named "Dylta”. 

No. 4 (Motala 520/1914). Built for the Nättraby - Alnaryd - Elmeboda Järnväg in Blekinge on the southern Baltic coast. The design was an enlargement of the Motala 2-4-2T’s. Worked on the NAEJ until the line closed in 1945 when it was sold to Aspa pulp mill at the northern tip of Lake Vättern. The Aspa mill was a major buyer of stock from the public 600mm gauge railways of Sweden as they closed from the 1930’s onwards and was the source of much of the society’s collection. The mill’s railway was closed in 1951 and the loco was put into store. After preservation locally for some years it was acquired by the society in 1967 and returned to service in 1975. The loco still has its original boiler and firebox and will need a new one fairly shortly. Fitted with both well & side tanks. Like most of the NAEJ locos it carries a Latowski steam bell Has always been named “K.M. Nelsson” after one of the leading lights in the NAEJ. 

No. 5 (OK 930/1902). One of only a dozen Mallets in Sweden, three of which ran on the 891mm gauge DONJ line northwest of Gavle and the rest on the 600 mm gauge. Originally the works engine at Separator Inc. works (now Alfa-Laval) outside Stockholm which operated a 7-8 km network and sold to a limestone works in 1948; saved from scrap in 1961 after a chance discovery with about a week to spare. Operated by the OSlJ in rather rundown condition for a number of years and received a major overhaul, a new boiler and several modifications in 1984. Named "Hamra" after the experimental farm which was (and still is) a part of Separator´s establishments. “Hamra” is a sister engine of Kosta Lessebo Ry. No. 3. These two were the only German-built Mallets in Sweden. Apart from “Lessebo” (see below) three of the country’s other six 600mm gauge Mallets came from Decauville and three from Bolinder´s in Stockholm. This is James 2006 picture:

No. 6 (Hanomag 10194/1923). Ex-PKP no. Tx4-559, a more or less standard German 0-8-0T, bought from Poland by one of the railway’s supporters in the middle 1970s; operated in decaying condition until 1985 when it was dismantled for a complete overhaul which has never been completed as the boiler was found to be beyond repair. Named "Christina Hjelm" after the donor’s daughter. 

No. 7 Hudswell Clarke 346/1889. A tiny 0-4-2ST, the first 600mm gauge loco in Sweden and the oldest preserved HC loco of any gauge. Spent its working life at Eds Paper Mill and has always been named “Helgenäs”. Retired in the 1950’s and given to the society in about 1965. In limited service from about 1970 until about 1990 when the boiler was condemned and the loco was dismantled. Sadly the society’s current need is for larger locos to work the Taxinge extension and there’s little prospect of this loco being reassembled in the foreseeable future - see below 10 for a picture.

No. 8 (Hartmann 4290/1919). A standard 0-8-0T Heeresfeldbahn loco, sold new to Emsfors Paper Mill in about 1920, one of two of these locos which worked there. The loco arrived at Mariefred about 1971, was named “Emsfors” and has been one of the railway’s most reliable locos ever since. The Ohs Bruk Järnväg, a 15km preserved line in southern Sweden, has its sister engine (Hartmann 4183/1919) which now carries the same name. There are pictures of 8 above and more in James' previous report.

No. 9 (Motala 568/1915). A similar loco to no. 4 and supplied new to the Jönköping - Gripenbergs Järnväg where it worked until the line closed in 1935. Freight traffic from the Huskvarna machine factory (of chainsaw fame) for transhipment to the standard gauge at Jönköping was an important source of revenue for the line and doubtless no. 9 carried its fair share of this. The loco moved to the Aspa pulp mill in 1935 where it was joined by no. 4 (above) in 1945. The loco was acquired by a museum at Skärstad, near Husqvarna after the closure of the Aspa mill’s railway. It’s now on loan to the OSlJ from the museum under a sharing arrangement and steamed for the first time in public in preservation on 26th September 2009. 

No. 10 (OK 10548/1923). A C class six-coupled OK loco and the only one of this design surviving anywhere. Supplied new to the Doman, the Swedish state forestry service, and used on a 7km forestry railway on the Hunneberg, a table-top mountain in the west of Sweden connected with the outside world by an aerial ropeway down the steep mountainside. The line was dismantled in 1938 and in the later 1940’s the loco was sold to the Avesta steelworks in central Sweden. Moved to the OSlJ in 1983 after negotiations lasting no less than 25 years. Currently awaiting tube replacement. Has been called “Avesta” for many years but the society intends to rename it “Hunneberg” after its first home.

KLJ No. 2 “Lessebo” (Munktells 27/1891). Supplied new to the Kosta Lessebo Järnväg (see above) and now on long-term loan from the Swedish NRM at Gavle under an agreement which allows the loco to operate on a limited number of days each year. First steamed after restoration early in 2009. Kurt writes that Munktells only produced a few locos but were “famous for their locomobiles, good lathes and glowball-ignition tractors...”

The railway has also been associated with several other steam locos. For the sake of completeness these include :-

0-4-0WT "Blixten" (OK 10747/1923), the first steam loco to be donated to the railway. It was used as an exchange for no. 5 and scrapped in 1960.

0-4-0WT "Smedjebacken" (OK 11970/1929) acquired in 1968 but considered too small and sold in 1977 to the Ohs Bruk Järnväg where it still is.

0-6-0ST "Tyr" (NOHAB 906/1908), a standard gauge loco from the Marma-Sandarne Järnväg acquired and used as an exchange in order to acquire no. 4. It's now at Bergvik och Atlas Industrimuseum in Hälsingland.

0-4-0WT "Fenman" (OK 7274/1916), a 700mm gauge loco donated to the OSlJ in 1970 as a source of spare parts. Used as an exchange for a restored carriage and now at Kosta Glasbruk, a tourist railway in Smäland.

Finally a couple of old Volvos. This one has steel wheels! Its body was built in 1930 and fitted in 1937 onto the frame of a 1934-built railcar for the 802mm gauge Hallesfors-Fredriksbergs Järnväg in central Sweden. It arrived at Mariefred in 1970 and was overhauled in the late 1980's. It retains its original 6-cylinder side valve petrol engine and its original transmission. Meanwhile, James's other half and ever tolerant travelling companion Margaret feigns indifference.

This is more conventional and was spotted in the car park at Mariefred.

Rob Dickinson