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Museum // Review: Skånska Järnvägar St.Olof

Opmerking: dit artikel is alleen beschikbaar in het Engels.

A couple of months ago I read in a Swedish magazine called Tågsommar about a preserved steam railway in southern Sweden. The Skånska Järnvägar, which means "Railways of Skåne" (that's the part of Sweden this railway is in, hence the name) is run by volunteers who try to recreate the running of a small steam operated branch railway around the 1950s.

Steam train Skanska Jarnvagar

The 13,4 km (8,33 mile) long historic line between Brösarp and Sankt Olof was part of the Ystad - Brösarp railway and was originally opened for passenger traffic in 1901. In 1971 after 70 years of service the branch was closed. In summer '71, just after closure, the Skånska Järnvägar Museum Association began operating the railway with steam locomotives, being the first standard gauge (1435 mm) preserved railway in Sweden. Along the preserved line are four stations: Sankt Olof, Vitaby, Ravlundabro and Brösarp. The latter is the biggest station where the rolling stock is maintained.

During my vacation in Skåne on July 7th 2011 I paid a visit to the Sankt Olof station where I was kindly welcomed and shown around the yard by Erik Andersson, railroad signal engineer in training and volunteer at the Skånska Järnvägar. He explained that the signalling practice used on the line is very simple. It mainly relies on telephone contact and two semaphore home signals. For instance: when the steam train has arrived in Sankt Olof the signalman operates a lever frame to put the Sankt Olof home signal back in the horizontal "stop" position and telephones the other end station which is Brösarp to confirm that the line is clear again. When the train is ready to depart from Sankt Olof the signalman calls the Brösarp signalbox to inform that a train is ready to depart and the track is occupied. Then the signalman secures the nearest railroad crossing by electrically activating the gates and the usual flashing lights. This is the only electrically operated railroad crossing. Other crossings along the line are secured by crossing guards lowering the gates by hand.

Skanska Jarnvagar

After the crossing is secured the train driver is given permission to depart in the Brösarp direction and the train leaves. The signalman then opens the crossing gates and fills out a form stating at what time the train left, confirming all necessary calls have been made and if the train was followed by a motorized lorry (more on that below). Then he awaits a call from the Brösarp signalbox stating the train has arrived and the line is clear again. This cycle of procedure is followed throughout the day ensuring a safe running.

Sparks which may originate from the steam train's exhaust pipe or wheels can easily start forest fires, especially during dry summertime. Having the motorized lorry following the train at a distance is just a matter of precaution. This way fires are detected early and can be extinguished immediately.

Erik also showed me the switches in Sankt Olof station which are all operated by hand. They added direction pointers to indicate the switches' position. A very surprising detail was hidden in the crossing gates' electrical circuit. A simple push on a button switched the flashing railroad crossing lights into "war mode" which means the lights are dimmed making the railroad harder to spot at night. Everything was thought of back in 1901! This feature has never been used actually. Another nice details was that the alternating flashing of the crossing lights was achieved using a mercury switch.

Visit the Skånska Järnvägar here: www.skanskajarnvagar.se

I can really recommend visiting the line if you are into steam locomotives, railway history and/or signalling.
Many thanks to Erik Andersson for his excellent explanation and the special behind the scenes tour!

[Visited: 07-07-2011 by Felix]