BLS Central/Northern Finland freight line railtour
Friday 20th April 2018 to Tuesday 24th April 2018
Report by Ian Hutton
This tour from 20-24 April 2018 was arranged by our member Iain Scotchman after learning during the PTG 2017 Finland tour that three lengthy freight lines were seriously threatened with closure. PTG had mainly used the preserved locomotives and coaches of the Haapamäen Museoveturiyhdistys ry (HMVY); that is The Haapamäki Museum Association who specialise in maintaining Finnish railway culture. They are based at Haapamäki just 78km away from our suggested railtour starting point of Jyväskylä. Negotiations led to the Society hiring half of the train while HMVY marketed the rest for their 25th Anniversary tour.
This arrangement was necessary to ensure the use of a loco-hauled train, with the welcome benefits of more space and a restaurant car, with a reasonable price for the tour based on the number of bookings expected, a number that was comfortably exceeded.
A very well travelled (blue) Society mini-headboard at Kaskinen, Finland.
[© Iain Scotchman 2018]
After much hard work from all parties, around 60 Brits (mostly our Society members), also with some enthusiasts from Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands, successfully visited all three endangered lines. Additionally many more freight only lines, curves and rare track were included on a 4½ day railtour covering just less than 2,000km! The threatened sections were 92, 112 and 164km long, and with the total population of Finland being less than that of Greater London, careful planning was needed to include these and other freight only lines while ending each day in towns with sufficient overnight accommodation! Being so far north daylight hours were already longer than in the UK, but everyone booking was nevertheless warned to expect cool weather, possibly even snow. Spring was late arriving in Finland this year so while the UK was experiencing a short heat wave, the tour group were walking and falling around in deep (although not fresh) snow and most lakes (of which there are thousands in Finland) were still frozen. Even so, when the sun shone and there was no wind, although the temperature was just above freezing it did not feel cold.
HMVY have approval for all lines in Finland, subject to obtaining any necessary local permissions, and it no doubt helped in their efforts to obtain these that some HMVY staff are also line collectors, one admitting that the tour would add three sections of track to his list! 'Highlights' Included: ●Our loco disappearing to assist a stalled freight train 50km away. ●Only the second passenger train on a line since it opened in 2009 (but also probably its last as an imminent change to workplace Health & Safety regulations mean all future requests to travel to a site with hazardous chemicals can be instantly refused). ●A Mayor's wife wanting to travel on our train from one branch end. ●A short ride on someone else's railtour. ●Discovering a new curve under construction off a freight branch that itself was included (annoying for some!). ●Not forgetting a narrow gauge heritage branch in the snow where the diesel failed and had to be rescued by a steam engine. ●A miniature railway where unbelievably…. (see BLNI)! Only one branch was declined due to the condition of the track after the annual snow melt, even then its triangular junction was still covered and the loss was made up by many other gains.
Perhaps those who are not into European rail travel might be at least slightly curious to read the full illustrated report with e-BLNI, if only to trigger memories of past UK tours when you could jump on and off the train for photo stops and walk around at the end of freight branches. You never know, perhaps you may become interested in future overseas tours our Society or others arrange. After all, what's not to like and you all know deep down you would enjoy it….… Many thanks to Iain Scotchman for all his time and effort which paid off and to our Committee for their faith in the tour's success. The tour was so successful that a £25 rebate per day was made (so cost only £65 per day)
Our railtour at Laajakangas test track in the sun, the snow is long 'standing'.
[© Iain Scotchman 2018]
With The mini-headboard again.
[© Paul Griffin 2018]