Through the Land of a Thousand Lakes
TO many people, Finland may seem a very remote country, hidden beyond Scandinavia and crouching under the wing of European Russia. In a sense it is remote, though less so than the uninformed may imagine. The cities of Hanko and Turku or Abo (pronounced as “Oboe”) are within a night’s journey from Stockholm, Viipuri (Viborg) is close to the Russian frontier at the other southern corner of the country, and the capital, Helsinki (Helsingfors), is situated roughly halfway between. Opinions are only half-
For the most part, Finland is flat, except in the north-
The whole country, with a total area of about 150,000 square miles, contains a little over 3,400 miles of railway route,
of which by far the greater part is owned and worked by the State. Naturally, in a country such as Finland, a dense railway system is not expected; the mileage just quoted is not quite half that of thickly populated little Belgium, a country less than a twelfth the size of Finland. But what it lacks in density, the Finland State railway system makes up in the length of some of its main lines, in this respect providing a parallel in miniature to Canada, a country whose transcontinental routes are famous.
THE FINNISH STATE RAILWAYS, formerly a part of the Russian system, operate to-
Right across hundreds of miles of Finland’s almost unpopulated woodlands lie the thin steel lines of her railway tracks, connecting widely separated towns, and providing for the country’s trade and communications. Carrying the track through the forests was a comparatively easy matter during the summer months, when the weather was kindly and darkness non-
A curious thing about the Finnish railway system, as with nearly all modern industrial developments in the country, is that the greater part of it grew up under foreign domination. From 1809 to the end of 1917, Finland was a Grand Duchy of the former Russian Empire. She was not independent until the institution of the Soviet regime in Russia. For all that, the country retained greater independence under Russian rule than such countries as Estonia and Latvia, and this has always been reflected in the general features, and especially in the quality of her railway system.
The design of Finnish locomotives and coaches, though influenced by the wider rail and construction gauges of Russia, has always been reminiscent of Scandinavian practice. Even in the days when the purely Russian idea of signalling was a lamp or a basket-
An International Route
The first part of this route runs concurrently with the main line to the Far North for forty-
A line runs northwards out of Viipuri, and this, with its various branches, forms an excellent means of access to the beauties of the “Thousand Lakes”, the world-
AT HELSINKI. The Central Railway Station of the Finnish capital. The pioneer line in Finland was opened between this city and Tavastehus in 1862. To-
Returning to Helsinki, we find that there are two easy ways of communicating with Sweden and Scandinavia generally via Stockholm. One of these is by sea throughout, and does not concern us in the present instance. The second is the railway line running westwards. This splits in two at Karis, one line running to Hanko and the other to Turku (Abo), eighty-
Finland’s third international railway connexion begins at Tornea in the far north, opposite to the Swedish town of Haparanda, on the other side of the river. Through trains are run by the Swedish State Railways from Stockholm to Haparanda, and the Finnish State Railways run through trains southwards again from Tornea to Helsinki, but through running between the two railway systems is out of the question, because of the break of gauge; Sweden using the standard 4 ft 8½-
Tornea is a valuable interchange point for traffic coming from northern Scandinavia, and there are few more striking railway journeys than that from the Norwegian port of Narvik, north of the Arctic Circle, across the mountains into Sweden and down to Haparanda, followed by the Finnish run down through the lakes and forests to Helsinki.
Southwards from Tornea to Oulu (Uleaborg), the main line runs along the tideless coast of the Gulf of Bothnia for eighty-
A GENERAL VIEW OF VIIPURI, showing the railway in the foreground. A branch line can be seen leading to a large flour mill. Viipuri is a big industrial city and a port. By rail, it is 194½ miles from Helsinki.
The eastern line from Oulu follows the River Ulea to its source in the lake called Ulea Jarvi, which it skirts to Kajaani, From a junction just before this city, a long connecting line runs down parallel to the Russian frontier, joining the south coast main line at Viipuri after running along one side of the vast Lake Ladoga, which, with its area of 7,000 square miles, is the largest lake in Europe. The Russo-
Finnish locomotives are large, but not particularly heavy. The Finnish construction gauge, as already mentioned, enables locomotives, coaches and wagons to be built to much more generous dimensions than is possible in Great Britain. As in Russia, there are quite large engines carrying relatively tall chimneys and domes, and high, wide cabs. There is no reason for cramping the cylinders and motion, and inside-
Engines in Finland
Again, Finland has no long express passenger trains corresponding to the British “Flying Scotsman”, “Royal Scot”, “Cornish Riviera Limited”, or “Atlantic Coast Express”. Nor are there any long freight trains such as the LMS handles with its big “Garratt” engines. So while a Finnish locomotive, were it set down in Great Britain, would look immensely tall and wide, neither it nor any of its fellows would equal in weight and power the “Flying Scotsman” or “Cock o’ the North”, let alone the “Garratt” goods engines. Finland has no need as yet for giant locomotives, even by British standards. But she has many fine modem machines which would do credit to any country.
The Finnish State Railways, in the same way as many foreign lines, were early users of British-
In the early part of the present century, and also in the last years of the nineteenth century, large numbers of “Mogul”, or 2-
Many Finnish locomotives are reminiscent, in appearance, of those of early America. This is due to the enormous spark-
COMPLETED IN 1913, the Railway Station at Viipuri was designed by one of Finland’s leading architects. The first through line connecting Finland with Russia was laid through Viipuri and ran to St. Petersburg, now Leningrad. Viipuri is an important junction.
The modern standard Finnish express engine is of the 4-
These H 9 4-
Finland has a most formidable winter climate, with deep falls of snow. Small snow-
Finnish Locomotive Types
The most modern goods locomotives are of the 2-
Two fine tank engine designs have appeared in recent years, one for heavy short-
The second modern tank engine class, known as Class O 1, are of the 0-
Travel in Finland is slow, but it is comfortable, and the fares are reasonable. Passenger coaches are of the centre-
Mention has already been made of the big bridge which carries the line across -
The River Kymimis is crossed by an extremely remarkable lattice girder structure consisting of one long span over the stream itself, approached by two smaller spans; while relatively close, at Antrea, there is another fine bridge spanning the river some way below the famed Imatra Rapids.
Though the volume of passenger traffic is small, the Finnish railway stations are well worthy of commendation. The Central Station at Helsinki, with its great main hall, tower, and the colossal figures flanking the main entrance, is one of the show stations of Europe. Generally speaking, the railways of Finland have an exceptionally good record for safety. Incidents are rare and accidents rarer.
Finland has only five privately-
2 ft 6-
Though there are no really fast trains in Finland, no giant locomotives handling freight traffic on a stupendous scale, no heavily graded mountain lines completed only after Herculean feats of perseverance, that strange and beautiful country certainly does contain one of the most interesting and most self-
A “MIKADO” TANK ENGINE employed for passenger traffic on the lines of the Finnish State Railways radiating from Helsinki. The State Railways own about 750 locomotives, 9 rail motors, 1,480 coaches and 23,300 wagons.
[From part 39 published 25 October 1935]
You can read more on “Lapland’s Arctic Railway” in Wonders of World Engineering