By Train to the Midnight Sun
A long train journey can be a wondrous and romantic experience, like a fairy-tale. The train takes you away from your gray little world, cold and probably wet, and whisks you off through a series of magic landscapes to mythical places you’ve only ever heard of, converting the dreamlands of your imagination into almost unbelievable realities. We are proposing to take you by train to Lapland, the Land of the Midnight Sun, where reindeer stroll the streets and Father Christmas is said to live, and where you can ski round the clock in the summer. Along the way, we will occasionally break our journey in order to visit some fabled northern Baroque cities, built on islands and shimmering in the summer sea.
Join our tour manager, Marion Matthews, on an adventure of a lifetime. Group size will be a maximum of just 20 people.
Recommended reading: Lord of the Rings.
Wednesday 16 July We leave St Pancras mid-Afternoon for our Eurostar transfer to Brussels. Overnight stay in Brussels.
Thursday 17 July (B) Half-way across Europe before supper! Leaving Brussels this morning (09:30) we travel via Köln-Hamburg-København (arr c.22.00). There will be time to grab a quick lunch in Köln and tea in Hamburg.
Friday 18 July (B,D) A day sightseeing in København, the capital of Denmark. Today the cultural option will be a tour of København with an English-speaking, professional Guide. This will end on the waterfront where the group will embark for a boat trip round the harbour. There will also be time to see the famous statue of the Little Mermaid who sits on a rock out in the middle (best seen from the land). After lunch (own expense), the group will go to Helsinger by rail to visit the imposing Elsinore Castle where most of the action in Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet” is set. Meanwhile, the Rail Enthusiasts will visit the National Railway Museum, at Odense, where it is hoped there will be train giving rides on the former harbour branch; and then to the Danish Tramways Museum which is at least as good as the UK’s Crich museum, where some trams should be in operation on a long running line laid on the trackbed of an old industrial railway.
Saturday 19 July (B) The things one lives to see! Nowadays one can get from Denmark to Sweden without having to take a boat, and we will go by train from København to Malmö across the extraordinary 16 km Öresund fixed link. It’s often called a bridge but, on an island in the middle, the enormous bridge ends and the train dives down into a tunnel. We carry on past Malmö and up the West coast of Sweden, through Göteborg, seat of a venerable university, where we will pause for a tour of the city’s extensive tram network in historic vehicles specially chartered from the local tramways preservation society. After a couple of hours, the tram will take us back to the station and we will continue our train journey, crossing into southern Norway, where we will spend two nights in Oslo.
Sunday 20 July (B,D) A day sightseeing in Oslo, the capital of Norway. The Cultural Option will consist of a tour of the centre, with an English-speaking professional Guide. After lunch (own expense), the group will be taken for a ride on the Ljabru tram, a modern vehicle with large windows and a scenic route overlooking the Bay and the Port. The railfan group will take a train out into the country and go for a ride on the standard-gauge Krøderbanen preserved railway, whose beautiful varnished teak endbalcony carriages are normally steam-hauled by a handsome tender engine of a very Scandinavian appearance. In the early evening we all meet up for a tour of Oslo’s tram system (hopefully in specially chartered historic vehicle).
Monday 21 July (B,D) Today we continue our train journey northwards, an eight-hour journey from Oslo to Trondheim, but which we will break in Hamar in order to visit the Norwegian National Rail Museum. A 750mm gauge tank engine will be in steam and giving rides. Sleep Trondheim, two nights.
Tuesday 22 July (B,D) Sightseeing day in Trondheim, home of the world’s most northerly Gothic Cathedral, and of what is often called the most northerly operating tram route which climbs across the face of the escarpment which hangs over the city, giving some fine views. In the afternoon, there will be an excursion by bus to the Thamshavnbanen (TS) preserved railway. The narrow gauge TS is said to be the world’s oldest-surviving A.C. electrified railway. It was electric from the outset and opened in 1908 with locos built by Bagnalls of Stafford incorporating electrical equipment from Manchester.
Wednesday 23 July (B,D) Today the romance of our journey really begins! We take the daytime Trondheim-Bodø service, north, during which we will cross the Arctic Circle; it won’t get dark tonight! The line is not electrified and we will be hauled by a big diesel, one of the few which Norway possesses. There is a cafe on the train, and proper carriages where the seats are lined up with the windows and you can watch in comfort as some end-of-the-world type scenery glides past. Overnight in Bodø.
Thursday 24 July (B,D) Bodø is the northern railhead of the Norwegian system (the Railway never got to Narvik). Narvik, which is in Norway, is an important port which played a vital rôle in the Second World War, but it is only connected to the Swedish rail network. We will leave Narvik by train, but today we will arrive there by bus (bit of an anti-climax, really, but what can one do?). Afternoon of free time in Narvik. There are interesting museums to visit, with exhibits related to the iron ore mining industry and the construction of the railway, or the part played by Narvik in the Second World War, while the railway enthusiasts will want to be at the station to see the huge double twin-unit locomotives working the heavy iron-ore trains. Dedicated skiers in the group might think of going up to Riksgransen, the ski resort on the Swedish border: as the sun doesn’t set, in the summer, the facilities stay open 24 hours a day and you can ski all through what we would call the night… overnight in Narvik.
Friday 25 July (B) An optional morning visit to the huge LKAB iron ore loading facilities in the port and then the return journey starts, all the way from Lapland to London by train! We will leave Narvik on Train 93, the overnight to Stockholm which departs around noon.
Saturday 26 July (B,D) Railfan Option: detrain at Gävle for a visit to the Swedish National Railway Museum – an historic rail vehicle transfers us from the station to the museum. Cultural Options: Early check in at our hotel, then an afternoon free in Stockholm, capital of Sweden; or a city tour with an English-speaking professional guide – our bus meets us at the station, takes us to our hotel for check in, then does a city tour with a guide on board. Sleep Stockholm, two nights.
Sunday 27 July (B,L) The steamship “Mariefred” (yes, it really is steam powered!) will take us for an island-studied voyage down the coast (lunch included) to, appropriately enough, Mariefred, for a ride on the 600mm narrow gauge Östra Södermanlands Järnväg. The ÖSlJ sends a steam train down the Harbour Branch to meet the ship and a shot which includes them both-steamship and steam train-is one of the must-get photos of the trip. Track Bashers will want the ride along the branch, which is not otherwise used. From the other end of the ÖSlJ, there are regular trains back to Stockholm and people can return at their leisure, when they’ve had enough.
Monday 28 July (B,D) Today we will have a Free morning in Stockholm; there is so much to do and see. But here are some suggestions: you could go for a 2-hour city tour by boat, along the canals and round some of the islands, though you won’t see them all as there are said to be 24,000 of them; or go to the Wasa Museum and see the sixteenth century warship they famously dug out of the mud of the harbour, a Scandinavian Mary Rose. The Swedes being very nostalgic, a tram route has been allowed to survive which is worked with historic vehicles, each one a museum piece. Meanwhile, train enthusiasts might want to ride the 891mm narrow gauge suburban railways. Leaving Stockholm at 3.20pm we travel south to the delightful city of Malmö for our overnight stay.
Tuesday 29 July (B) Today is free for your own exploration of Malmö. Alternatively trains leave every 30 minutes to the beautiful town of Ystad – famous because of the TV detective “Kurt Wallander”, played by Kenneth Branagh. Leaving Malmö around 3pm we head south to Hamburg for our overnight stay. Refreshments are available on the train before we arrive in Hamburg at 8pm.
Wednesday 30 July (B) We travel back to the UK on the route Hamburg – Köln – Brussels – London St.Pancras (arriving 18.00). Option to stay extra nights in Hamburg.