|Termini||Trondheim Central Station
|Opening||22 July 1882|
|Owner||Norwegian National Rail Administration|
|Operator(s)||Norwegian State Railways
|Rolling stock||Class 92|
|Line length||70 km (43 mi)|
|No. of tracks||Single|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)|
The Meråker Line (Norwegian: Meråkerbanen) is a railway line which runs from Hell, outside Stjørdal, through the municipalities of Stjørdal and Meråker in Nord-Trøndelag county, Norway, to the village of Storlien in Sweden. On the Swedish side, it continues as the Central Line to the city of Sundsvall. The line originally went from Trondheim Central Station to Storlien, but the owner, the Norwegian National Rail Administration, has since re-categorized the line from Trondheim to Hell as part of the Nordland Line, thus cutting the Meråker Line's distance from 106 to 70 kilometres (66 to 43 mi).
Planning of the line started in 1870, and the route was preferred over a railway via Verdal and via Røros. The first section was finished in 1879, when the first train ran. The line was officially opened by King Oscar II on 22 July 1882. Construction cost NOK 8.9 million, and the line gave an economic boost to the communities along the valley. The line has been upgraded several times to increase the axle load. During World War II, the line was the scene of both the Hommelvik train disaster and the Meråker train disaster. Steam trains were in use until 1971, following the introduction of diesel locomotives in 1961. While the Swedish section of the line is electrified, the Norwegian section is not, though proposals for electrification have existed since the 1940s.
The line is now served by the regional train Mittnabotåget, operated by the Norwegian State Railways, which runs trains all the way to Östersund, from Trondheim, using Class 92 diesel multiple units. There are two services in each direction each day. There are also freight trains operated by CargoNet. Most of the cargo is lumber bound for the lumber mill Norske Skog Skogn and the port at Hommelvik. Previously, Elkem Meraker used the line to haul carbide, and later microsilica, to the port at Muruvik. Six stations remain in use, while seven have been closed.
Since the Middle Ages, both the Stjørdalen and Verdal valleys had been important for trade between Trøndelag and Jämtland. In particular, Levanger had grown into an important trading town for Jämtland farmers, who would travel across the Verdal Mountains. The first public discussion of a railway was launched in Levanger in 1858; the initiative was pushed by Jämtland's governor Thome, who wanted a line via Verdal to Levanger. At the time, the Trondhjem–Støren Line was about to be built, and the commercial interests in Trondheim were more concerned about getting a connection southwards along what would become the Røros Line to Oslo. In 1869, a meeting held in Sundsvall, Sweden, had proposed three routes for the line: via Verdal, via Meråker or as a branch at Røros.
During the 1850s, a road had been built up the Stjørdal Valley, and at Stjørdalshalsen it connected to a steam ship route to Trondheim. The need for a railway was driven by the export needs of Jämtland, which needed an ice-free port for export of timber and lumber. Trade from Norway to Sweden was limited, due to lack of good infrastructure, but traders in Norway soon realized that the railway would allow export of fish to Sweden.
In 1870, a committee was created to consider the railway, and was followed by on-site investigations to determine route choice. Similar investigations were carried out in Sweden. For the Norwegian side, costs were estimated to be at NOK 4.7 million[note 1] for the Meråker route. Surveys along the Verdal route deemed the route unsuitable. This presumed a narrow gauge (1,067 millimetres or 42.0 inches) railway, common in Norway at the time. Operating profits were estimated to give a 4.5% return on capital. Shares in the railway company were offered for sale in 1871; the largest purchaser was the City of Trondheim, who bought shares for NOK 1.2 million. In Trondheim alone, private investors bought an additional NOK 3.6 million in shares.
In the spring of 1871, the line was considered by the Standing Committee for Railways in the Parliament of Norway. The proposition was voted down at 64 votes to 42. After a local railway committee was established, parliament passed legislation to build the line on 2 May 1872. The state would receive shares in the company equal to their monetary contribution. A suggestion from Johan Sverdrup that required the company to also borrow NOK 1.4 million was voted down 58 votes to 52. In Sweden, the work was meeting resistance, and many Trondheim businesspeople chose to purchase shares in the Swedish part of the line to secure the financing of the Swedish part. In 1873, the Parliament of Sweden voted to build a narrow gauge railway from Torpshammar to the Norwegian border; there was already a railway line from Torpshammar to Sundsvall, the Sundsvall–Torpshammars Railway.
The Norwegian Parliament gave NOK 400,000 in support in 1873, and doubled it the following year. By then, the Swedish authorities had decided that all railways should be built in standard gauge, and the Norwegian Parliament chose to change their configuration to the same gauge in 1874, increasing estimated costs from NOK 4.7 to 8.9 million. This was a similar arrangement to what would happen with the two international lines in Eastern Norway, where the Kongsvinger and Østfold Lines were also built with standard gauge. Despite intense lobbying from representatives from Innherred, the Verdal alternative was finally discarded when parliament gave NOK 3 million to the Meråker Line.
In Stjørdal, there was still a question of where the route should go. The river Stjørdalselva created a barrier just north of Hell, and it would be cheaper to make the line go on the south shore of the river down to Hegra. However, the major population center was located at Stjørdalshalsen, on the north shore of the river. Locally, there were many protests against the line bypassing such a large town, but the cost of the bridge made parliament choose the southern alternative. This gave residents in Stjørdal a considerably longer route to the train, since they had to cross the river to get access to the railway. This decreased the railway's ability to compete with the steam ships and thus the overall profitability of the line. In 1902, just twenty years later, the bridge would be built anyway as part of the Hell–Sunnan Line.
In Trondheim, the existing railway station for the Trondhjem–Støren Line was built as a cul-de-sac station at Kalvskinnet. It was suggested that the railway station be located at Brattøra, a man-made peninsula that would be located just north of the city center. This would allow the station to be located next to the port. With the expansion of the southbound Støren Line over the mountains to Oslo, the Røros Line, it was decided to connect both lines to the same station. The cost of the new station was NOK 1.4 million.
The first blasting was performed during a ceremony in 1875, but the real work did not start until 1876. Construction of the last section into Trondheim, along with the station, did not start until 1878, due to disagreements about the plans. By 1878, tracks were laid from Leangen to the border between Nedre Stjørdal and Øvre Stjørdal (54 km or 34 mi). On 27 August 1879, the first train ran from Rotvoll Station, just outside Trondheim, to the national border. Before the line was finished in Sweden, the Norwegian State Railways operated a train once per week from 11 February 1880. Full service was introduced on 17 October 1881, though the line was not yet completed to Östersund; nor did Trondheim Station open until 1882.
The work paid well, and attracted many navvies to the area. Initial wages were NOK 3.20 per day, though this later was reduced. 2,500 men were employed; despite this there were more seekers than jobs, and the requirement was that a man could carry a railway track. Land owners were compensated NOK 50–200 per hectare (NOK 20–80 per acre) for cultivated land, and NOK 10 per hectare (NOK 4 per acre) for forest. Many local farmers made good money offering transport of cargo for the construction, as well as renting out annexes for navvies; others made money as traders. As with all such construction areas, many legal and illegal pubs and brothels were established. After construction was completed, some moved on, while others settled in the area; many of these received jobs with the railway company.
The official opening was on 22 July 1882. The line was opened by King Oscar II of Sweden and Norway. This was at the height of the debate on parliamentarianism and the king's right to veto the Norwegian Parliament, and the king used the opening ceremonies and speeches at each station to encourage people to support union between Sweden and Norway, and pointed out how the railway would better connect the brother nations. In contrast, in Hegra no-one from the municipal council chose to attend the opening ceremony, and no-one from Nedre Stjørdal attended the opening at Hell either.
The first years
By 1880 the railway had six locomotives at its disposal. No. 1–2 were Class 14 that were intended as helping power to get trains up the steep climb from Gudå to Storlien. No. 3–6 were Class 9 locomotives that would do the main haulage from Gudå into Trondheim. In 1883, NSB's other two Class 14 locomotives were transferred from the Smaalenene Line. The initial fleet consisted of 24 passenger and nine breaking cars, all from Skabo. The line featured the first bogie cars in the country, with a single entrance at the end of each car, instead of individual doors for each compartment. There were also bought 37 closed freight cars, 40 lumber cars, 20 boxcars, 100 flatcars and three milk cars. At first all trains were mixed freight and passenger.
In addition to the trains heading for Sweden, there was also a commuter train that ran, first from Hommelvik, then from Hegra, into Trondheim in the morning, and returning after work in the evening. Since there was no depot at Hegra, the locomotive had to return without cars to Hommelvik for the nightly overhaul. The 854 km (531 mi) route from Trondheim to Stockholm initially took 57 hours 48 minutes. By 1904, this was reduced to 26 hours, mostly due to reducing the length of the layover between trains.
On 24 June 1884, the Røros Line was connected to the Brattøra Station, and a common maintenance depot was introduced for both railways. The Meråker Line's locomotives were then renumbered, starting at 51, to keep them distinguished from the Røros Line's. From the same year, the Meråker Line was assigned two Class 8 locomotives. From 1896, Class 15 locomotives were used, and two years later supplemented by the Class 17.
By 1900, the revenue of the line was at NOK 533,306 per year, most of which was from the freight traffic. This gave a return of capital of 1–2%. Freight traffic increased about twice as fast as passenger traffic, and in 1904 a new daily train was put into service to Storlien. In 1902, the first section of the Hell–Sunnan Line opened to Stjørdalshalsen. It was gradually expanded to Verdal and Sunnan. At first the trains along the Hell–Sunnan Line were decoupled at Hell Station, but from 1909 on direct trains to Trondheim started operating.
The Meråker Line was of great economic and social importance for the villages it passed through. It allowed much quicker transport into Trondheim, and the station buildings became centers of community life. For the first time these places had telegraph stations and daily post deliveries. The quick transport meant that many more people chose to travel into Trondheim, which gained an advantage over other towns, such as Levanger and Stjørdalshalsen, in becoming the regional center for trade. Stjørdalshalsen especially lost much of its importance for the villages up the valley Stjørdalen. For farmers, the railway made it possible to sell fresh dairy products to Trondheim, and even to Sundsvall. New markets, combined with good income during construction that allowed for investments in machinery, increased the revenue and profits for agriculture along the line. By 1900, 68 people were employed by the railway in Meråker alone.
Storlien, just on the Swedish side of the national border, grew up as a resort, with the first hotel established just after the railway arrived. Trade between the two countries increased, as Jämtland had easy access to the Trøndelag market. However, the freight rates were so high that it was cheaper to send some products to Trøndelag from the Swedish east coast by ship around Scania.
Meråker saw in industrial boom due to the railway. There was already a copper mine and smelters at Kopperå, and they saw the railway as a possibility to change from locally produced charcoal to imported coke. In 1887, a pulp mill was opened, but it burned down in 1912. The most important industry was the carbide factory that opened in Kopperå in 1900—Meraker Smelteverk. Though located close to the hydroelectricity sources in Meråker, the import and export of raw and finished materials would not have been possible without the railway. A port for the plant was built at Muruvik in 1918.
Lumber export was one of the main driving forces for building railways at the time, and the Meråker Line was no exception. In both Stjørdalen and the vast areas of Jämtland and Northern Sweden are huge amounts of woodlands. The Meråker Line ran straight through this area, and was seen as a new possibility to export lumber to the continent, where there was high demand for it. Before the railway was built, there was a small sawmill in Hommelvik. In 1881, the Scotsman Lewis Miller bought huge areas of woods in Jämtland, as well as nine sawmills in Sweden. All the produce from these were then sent to Hommelvik for processing and shipment. At the most he employed 100 men, and exported up to 183,000,000 m3 (6.5×109 cu ft) of lumber each year. Also located at Hommelvik were two wharfs owned by NSB, and one of the major imports was coal for the Swedish State Railways.
World War I and beyond
World War I proved to be a boom for the Meråker Line. The line suddenly became a transit corridor for shipments from Russia, as well as from Sweden, to the ports in Trondheim and Hommelvik. To cope with the increased traffic, NSB had to both rent equipment from Sweden and acquire ten new Class 21 and Class 35 locomotives between 1913 and 1918. Four of these were from other lines, while the others were new. With the new locomotives, the dimensioned axle weight needed to be upgraded to 14 t (14 long tons; 15 short tons), which mostly involved improving the bridges. The bridge at Funna was dismounted and sold to be used on the Gråkallen Line of the Trondheim Tramway. Class 35 was used on the Gudå–Storlien section, and replaced the aging Class 14. They remained in service until 1929, when they were transferred to the Ofoten Line.
From 1927, the first pure through-passenger trains started operating in the summer, towards Sweden in the morning and back during the evening. From 1933 it operated all year. Through the 1920s and 1930s, many shorter distances received extra trains, and passenger and freight trains were gradually separated into separate trains. The traffic through Trondheim–Hell increased; commuter trains terminated at several different stations. From 1930, multiple units were also put into use on the line.
World War II
During the German occupation of Norway from 9 April 1940, traffic continued in ordinary fashion until 14 April, when a telephone message was misunderstood, and Norwegian military forces shot at a train they thought had Germans on board. After this, traffic on the line was halted. On the Swedish side of the border, 1 to 2 kilometres (0.62 to 1.24 mi) of track was broken to hinder the Germans from using the line to access Sweden. Local traffic to Kopperå started again on 25 April. On 17 May, a multiple unit ran to Storlien with a general to discuss reopening the line. The answer was negative, but on 24 May, an agreement was struck. At the same time, military trains were put into use, from Snåsa and Steinkjer to Storlien, and onwards to Narvik. After transport on the Ofot Line to Narvik (via Sweden) was officially reopened on 2 August, there were regular trains from Trondheim via the Meråker Line to Narvik, with up to three trains a day.
On 19 November 1940, a train with workers from Trondheim to the airport collided with the local train from Kopperå just east of Hommelvik Station. The Hommelvik train disaster killed 22 people. The trains were supposed to have passed at Homnmelvik Station, but the engineer thought he had seen the other train, and had left the station. The accident occurred at 08:03, and was caused by there being virtually no light to see with, since all outdoor sources of light were covered. On 23 January 1941, a coke and coal train from Sweden lost its braking between the border and Kopperå. The six back cars plus the caboose derailed just west of Kopperå Station, while the locomotive and 17 other trains continued their wild flight. The train derailed at Meråker Station, and the Meråker train disaster killed both the engineer and the stoker.
The railway and its personnel were an active part of the Norwegian resistance movement during the war. In particular, Swedish newspapers and literature were smuggled into the country, primarily by stokers, who hid the material in the coal. Also, people who were not able to flee to Sweden via the mountains, or needed to get out in a hurry, were sometimes smuggled on board the trains, primarily on German trains. Illegal documents and microfilms were also smuggled out. For German transport trains, track-side employees tried to create "delays".
After the war there was limited resources for new rolling stocks and upgrades to the line. Multiple units gradually took over passenger trains, and by 1957, no passenger trains to Storlien were locomotive hauled. Freight volumes remained high throughout the following decades, and in 1961, the new Di 3 diesel locomotives were put into service. The last steam engine was taken out of service in 1971. Hegra, Sona and Flornes Stations were made unmanned in 1970. By 1980, cargo volumes were up to the level seen during World War I. The Norwegian National Rail Administration, who owns the railway, has changed the definition of the railway lines so that the Nordland Line now runs from Trondheim via Hell to Bodø, while the Meråker Line branches off from the Nordland Line at Hell.
In the late 1950s, the Swedish Air Force built a NOK 32 million storage area for aviation fuel at Muruvik. The terminal would be a reserve in case of an attack on Sweden, and the Meråker Line was to be used to transport the fuel into Sweden. The depot was sold in 1988 to Petrofina, following the Royal Norwegian Air Force's quest to build a pipeline to the NATO-base at Trondheim Airport, Værnes.
The establishment of the paper mill Norske Skog Skogn in 1969 created a new freight train route between Jämtland and Skogn. In 2005, the line had 400,000 t (390,000 long tons; 440,000 short tons) of cargo, of which half was for Norske Skog, and 130,000 t (130,000 long tons; 140,000 short tons) was for Elkem Meraker, the smelter. After the latter closed the following year, freight amounts went down, but up to 100,000 t (98,000 long tons; 110,000 short tons) may be recaptured from truck transport on European Route E14 for Norske Skog. In 2006, the line received a major overhaul for NOK 60 million. The maximum axle load was increased from 18 t (18 long tons; 20 short tons) to 22.5 t (22.1 long tons; 24.8 short tons), equivalent to the standard on the Swedish side, and the maximum speed for freight trains increased from 50 to 80 km/h (31 to 50 mph) for freight trains, and from 100 to 130 km/h (62 to 81 mph) for passenger trains. By 2007, the line had carried 5,300,000 t (5,200,000 long tons; 5,800,000 short tons) of lumber to the mill.
A new tunnel is being built west of Hell, to be finished 2012. It is called Gevingåsen Tunnel and will be 4.4 kilometres (2.7 mi) and will shorten the travel time by 5 minutes and allow a capacity increase.
Plans for electrification of the line have existed since the 1940s. The Swedish side had already been electrified, and at the time Norway was performing a massive electrification of the railway network (motivated by the high cost of steam train operation), but other projects received higher priority. When the mass electrification was finished in 1970, all unelectrified trackage was allocated to diesel operations. The matter of electrification comes up regularly in public debate. Norges Statsbaner has stated that they will be retiring the current Class 92 trains around 2015, and that they hope that the Trøndelag Commuter Rail could be electrified at the same time. If new diesel stock is bought, it could be 2050 before electric operation on the dieselized sections is realized. An electrification of Trondheim–Steinkjer would probably include the Meråker Line as well.
Norges Statsbaner (NSB) operates two daily round trips between Trondheim and Östersund in Sweden. Using Class 92 trains, travel time from Trondheim to Meråker is 1 hour 19 minutes, to Storlien 1 hour 44 minutes, and to Östersund 3 hours 56 minutes.
Timber and transit containers are the most common freight products on the Meråker Line. CargoNet is the dominant transporter, using Di 8 and CD66 as haulage. In particular, timber is transported to the port at Hommelvik and to the paper mill Norske Skog Skogn. From 2006 to 2008, the timber trains were hauled by Ofotbanen.
|Name||Distance[note 2]||Time[note 3]||Elevation|
|Hell||31.54 km (19.60 mi)||42 min||3.2 m (10 ft)|
|Hegra||42.20 km (26.22 mi)||49 min||12.8 m (42 ft)|
|Gudå||72.02 km (44.75 mi)||1 h 10 min||85.3 m (280 ft)|
|Meråker||81.08 km (50.38 mi)||1 h 19 min||219.6 m (720 ft)|
|Kopperå||88.30 km (54.87 mi)||1 h 27 min||328.5 m (1,078 ft)|
|Storlien||105.97 km (65.85 mi)||1 h 44 min|
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