Arctic Circle Train- Stockholm to Narvik

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Iskra, 25 Dec 2016.

  1. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    Hi all, I'm planning what looks like a rather interesting rail journey during some time I have planned in Sweden in April. I'm looking to travel from Stockholm, Sweden to Narvik, Norway which is inside the arctic circle. I'm looking to use the direct sleeper train which takes around 20 hours. I have a few queries:

    1) How punctual is the train at arriving into Narvik? I'm looking to get the train back the same day I arrive, which means I'll only have 4/5 hours in Narvik before my train back. However, if my first train is delayed I could have problems.
    2) Has anyone done this journey, is it good/worth it? What is the onboard food like? How much, if any scenery could I expect to see? Any chance of seeing the Northern Lights?
    3) Do any of the staff speak any English? I can speak French and Italian, but Swedish is a different kettle of fish and I currently have no understanding of the language. I'm happy to learn some basic phrases, but will the potential language barrier cause me any problems?
    4) Is the Swedish Rail system easy to use?
    5) I'm looking to travel in my own private cabin in at least one direction in order to use the shower, but would be open to doing the other direction in the normal seating. Is 20 hours in a seat comfortable and are the carriages warm/safe? I've only travelled on British sleepers in solo berths before so I have no experience of seated sleepers.
    6) Is there a better/cheaper way to get tickets than through the Swedish Rail Company's website?
    7) Any other tips or advice?
    8) Anything I must do in Narvik if I get the timetabled 4/5 hours there?

    I've tried to google this but there aren't many travellers accounts of this service.

    All help appreciated.
     
  2. rf_ioliver

    rf_ioliver Member

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    Hi, not answers to all your questions but..

    2) possible but not guaranteed, depends upon the weather (cloudy or not) and what the sun is doing *and* that part of the Earth being in the right position. Of course you have to go in winter when it is dark...

    3) finding any nordic person without a degree of English fluency that puts a native speaker to shame is getting hard :) OK, a bit of an over-statement...

    You'll have no problems with the language here. Basic phrases, eg: tak, hej etc will always be appreciated. If you do happen to meet someone who doesn't speak English or doesn't have the confidence to speak English then you can almost guarantee that someone (literally) near-by can. On-train staff in Sweden will more than likely speak sufficient English - maybe a conversation about 17century philosophy in pre-Revolutionary France is out of the question (though on one trip to St.Petersburg...)

    4) From experience in Scandiavia and Finland, yes - at least it is more logical than the UK IMHO

    7) Credit/debit cards are accepted everywhere, though check with your local bank about your card's validity (Visa Electron can be very problematic!).

    If you do get lucky and see northern lights then I suggest a camera that can take a long exposure (20-30s), low f-stop lens and a tripod.

    t.

    Ian
     
  3. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    Go from Stockholm to Narvik, stay there for 5 hours and return. What a waste of time. What i have done several times is to take the bus in Narvik to Fauske and then with the nighttrain to Trondheim and daytrain to Oslo and v.v..

    Narvik 16.10 - Fauske 21.30
    Fauske 22.00 - Trondheim 7.47
    Trondheim 8.18 - Oslo 15.03
    With a 5 hour wait in Halmstad; 1 is at 12.20 in Hamburg Hbf.

    The D94 stands still in Boden almost 30 minutes and Kiruna almost 20. So time enough to make up any delays. There seems to be wild animals in Sweden; that walk upon tracks.
     
  4. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    1) I've got the D94 sleeper as arriving Narvik at 12.29 and the return train leaving at 15.15, which is sadly not 4-5 hours in Narvik.

    2) Do make the journey, one of the classic rail journeys - recently featured on Chris Tarrant's Extreme Railways. Scenery - wise it is not Alpine and spectacular in the 'Swiss Alps' sense of the phrase, but Arctic Scandinavia is of course a particular type of spectacular scenery that should be witnessed, even if low lying.

    In any case the journey is worth it to see the huge iron ore trains with the massive IORE twin Co-Co locos, paired up they are six times more powerful than a pair of BR class 47s.

    A chance of seeing the northern lights I would have said.

    3) Just about every European speaks decent English, especially in Scandinavia ( classically we Brits are put to shame in this respect). But I agree with other posts, use 'hey', and tak for Hi and thank you and you will be respected.

    5) Nordic coach seating is traditionally warm, safe and very comfortable due to the generous loading gauge (larger than Germany which in turn is larger than France which in turn is larger than UK)



    .
     
    Last edited: 26 Dec 2016
  5. 306024

    306024 Established Member

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    The Lulea - Narvik line is fascinating, as Gordon says for the Iron Ore traffic. I've been up there a few times so here's my 2p worth.

    Each time I've done a circular trip, although only did the sleeper from Stockholm to Lulea once, and that was a while ago.

    Oslo - Trondheim - Fauske - Narvik is a spectacular journey, especially if you include the Andalsnes branch from Dombas. If loco hauled trains are your thing beware, only some of the Oslo - Trondheim trains are hauled, but the Trondheim - Fauske train certainly is. The bus from Fauske to Narvik goes on a ferry too. Normally the bus connects with the train but I did this on a Sunday so had an extra hour in Fauske. Excellent full dinner in the station buffet, run by an East Londoner, so language only a problem if you don't speak Cockney. No worries about language otherwise.

    Narvik is handy for the bus to Svolvaer, where the Hurtigruten Coastal Boat calls. The bus journey is also scenic as you'd expect.

    As for Narvik itself, not a lot there, it exists for the Ore exports. The town museum is interesting, describing the history of Narvik and the importance of the iron ore industry, but that's about it. The tourist office is at the station, they'll advise you best.

    Personally if going that far, I'd take more time and break the journey up. Appreciate some of this doesn't appear to suit you on this occasion, but if you only have a short amount of spare time while in Sweden go for it, providing you've got the stamina.
     
  6. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    There are less than 19.000 people in Narvik. The tracks go right to the harbour. The railway is more for the ore, than people. There are only 2 trains from Narvik going south at 11 and 15.15 hours. So you have only 2 hours and 45 minutes to visit the city.
     
  7. johnnychips

    johnnychips Established Member

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    I would really recommend this. The museum in Narvik is very interesting about the Second World War. You also stop in Hell I think. <(
     
  8. Sir Felix Pole

    Sir Felix Pole Member

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    The cable-car to high above the town - Narvikfjellet - is well worth a trip to spend a couple of hours, with spectacular panoramic views over to the Lofoten Islands. The bottom station is near(ish) to the railway station.

    http://www.narvikfjellet.no/Home/?Article=12
     
  9. 306024

    306024 Established Member

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    Agree, forgot to mention that. Just need a clear day. Yes a short walk up the hill from the railway station.
     
  10. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    That's exactly what I'm doing. I would otherwise be based in an uninspiring hotel room near Stockholm for two days. I will see enough of Stockholm throughout my week, so rather than stay there, I would rather get out and about.

    I am based in Stockholm that week and have only two days spare, thus a more elaborate trip is out of the question I'm afraid. A 'there and back' lets me see a lot more of Scandinavia than by staying in Stockholm, lets me test out European sleeper trains as a practice before doing one of the France-Moscow sleeper trains and I do enjoy travelling anyway. I appreciate it's not everyone's cup of tea, but this is a rail forum after all. If I see anywhere I like on route, I will make a note to return and do a fuller exploration when I have more time. Money and time are limiting factor's too, as I have other international travels planned this year and my resources are limited. If anyone has any better suggestions for something that involves rail travel for two days that gets me back to Stockholm, I'm all ears.

    Thank you everyone for the replies, advice and information.
     
    Last edited: 26 Dec 2016
  11. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    Narvik 16.10 - Fauske 21.30
    Fauske 22.00 - Vaernes 7.06
    Vaernes 7.21 - Hell 7.23
    Hell 8.18 - Storlien 9.22
    Storlien 9.42 - Sundvall 13.53
    Sundvall 14.39 - Stockholm 18.38

    So you arrive 9 hours later in Stockholm than the direct train, but you make a huge detour. You can also travel further to Trondheim (from Fauske), but there you have 3 minutes to change trains. No X2 in Sweden; just regional trains.
     
  12. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    Thank you, that is most interesting. I will consider doing that instead. How should I get tickets for that journey?
     
  13. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    Daylight in the middle of April 2017 will be from 6.00 to 20.40 in Trondheim. Sunrise is 1 hour earlier in Narvik than Trondheim. From May 23 untill July 20 the sun will not rise or set in Narvik. 24 hour of daylight!
     
  14. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    Thank you, you've been very helpful. I think I'll follow your itinery :D
     
  15. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    Do not believe on my eyes. I only give you a free advice what you could do. The real travel you have to figure yourself out.

    Other way around:
    Stockholm 7.22 - Sundvall 11.23 (with X2 departure possible at 10.22 from Stockholm to make connection)
    Sundvall 14.08 - Storlien 18.25
    Storlien 18.30 - Trondheim 20.00
    Trondheim 23.40 - Fauske 8.28
    Fauske 8.50 - Narvik 13.30 (bus)
    Narvik 15.15 - Stockholm 9.15

    Even a route via Oslo is possible: Stockholm 7.14 Oslo 12.29 - 14.02 Trondheim 20.45
     
    Last edited: 26 Dec 2016
  16. rf_ioliver

    rf_ioliver Member

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    Given the sunrise and sunset times you can effectively forget about seeing any northern lights, unless of course we get some massive X class solar flare.

    t.

    Ian
     
  17. JonasB

    JonasB Member

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    Being Swedish, this seems like great time to stop just reading this forum and start contribute to it myself. So, hello everyone!

    Since Botniabanan Härnösand-Umeå opened, the trains have been rather punctual. But things might happen, keep in mind that the northern part of the journey is around 700-800 km of single track partly in the middle of nowhere and a collisions with a reindeer or an elk can cause trouble.

    There is a lot of scenery, and it is beautiful, especially between Kiruna and Narvik. Search for "malmbanan" on Youtube and you will probably find something interesting. Do not count on the northern lights though, it won't be dark enough to see them.

    The food is decent, but could be a lot better. The last time I took the sleeper train the food was slightly better than on the trains in the south, but still salads and premade dishes heated on board. A bit like airline food. Do try the reindeer stew however if it's still available.

    Most Swedes speak at least decent English, and the staff will likely speak more or less fluent English, so I wouldn't worry about that. The trains are after all very popular with tourists, both Swedes and foreigners. But learning a few Scandinavian words might be useful as signs outside the stations are likely to be in Scandinavian only (or in Scandinavian and Sami).

    Yes, especially compared to the British system.

    There are four kinds of passenger carriages in the train usually, 1st class sleeper, 2nd class sleeper, Couchette and ordinary 2nd class passenger carriage. I wouldn't recommend spending 20 h in an ordinary seat, I think the seats are mostly used by people doing shorter trips with the train.

    The first class sleepers all go to Luleå (the train is split in Boden), so you will have to change carriage in or book 2nd class sleeper. However, Sweden is usually a pretty safe place and that includes the trains. And the trains are warm, remember that you are planning a trip northern Scandinavia and the trains are used in the winter with temperatures down to -30°C without problems. AC is however only available in the sleeper carriages, but that will probably not be a problem in april. And the 1980-style carriages used in the trains were built to take full advantage of the Swedish loading gauge, so they are very spaciuos. Especially compared to the trains in the UK.

    Not that I know of. Despite deregulation, sj.se is still the place to go for long distance train tickets.

    If traveling around Easter, book your tickets well in advance! And don't try to travel without a seat reservation.

    And don't count on cell phone reception outside the stations north of Umeå.
     
  18. Blillpers

    Blillpers Member

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    Swedish signaller here! :)

    1) How punctual is the train at arriving into Narvik? I'm looking to get the train back the same day I arrive, which means I'll only have 4/5 hours in Narvik before my train back. However, if my first train is delayed I could have problems.


    The sleepers to Upper Norrland are not among the more punctual services on the Swedish network, however they have plenty of allowances in their schedules. You will either be on time or massively delayed in case something serious happens (broken down loco, freight train in the way, moose collision, signal failure, bad weather etc etc).

    2) Has anyone done this journey, is it good/worth it? What is the onboard food like? How much, if any scenery could I expect to see? Any chance of seeing the Northern Lights?


    Depends. The scenery is highly spectacular on the Iron Ore line north of Kiruna. The rest is rather dull with mostly forests and some farmland on the southern parts of the journey, but if you're not used to it, I guess you could say it's scenic. I wouldn't count on seeing the nothern lights, especially not from a train.

    3) Do any of the staff speak any English? I can speak French and Italian, but Swedish is a different kettle of fish and I currently have no understanding of the language. I'm happy to learn some basic phrases, but will the potential language barrier cause me any problems?

    English is spoken to some degree by almost everyone in Sweden, younger people are usually more fluent. Rail staff are often required to speek some English.

    4) Is the Swedish Rail system easy to use?

    No. It's deregulated and chopped into tiny pieces, rationalization has taken almost all staff away and there is absolutely no logic behind fares and tickets. Most stations does not even have a ticket machine any more, SJ (which is still the major operator even though the network is deregulated and operated on a completely open-access basis) prefers that you have an electronic ticket. There are currently 3 ticket offices left (except a few privately operated ones), Stockholm, Malmö and Gothenburg. Using these will yield a penalty fare of 100 swedish krona (about 10 UK pounds). You will be able to collect your tickets from the machine at Stockholm's Central station, but don't expect to find a machine anywhere else, and do not expect to recieve any help from station staff anywhere - there is none.

    5) I'm looking to travel in my own private cabin in at least one direction in order to use the shower, but would be open to doing the other direction in the normal seating. Is 20 hours in a seat comfortable and are the carriages warm/safe? I've only travelled on British sleepers in solo berths before so I have no experience of seated sleepers.

    I wouldn't do that trip in seated accommodation. The single first class sleeper is very comfortable and includes shower and breakfast, I highly recommend it. If you can't afford it in both directions, consider a shared second class sleeper or a "couchette". I can't think of a good term in English, it's a shared 6-bed compartment where you have to make up your own bed.

    6) Is there a better/cheaper way to get tickets than through the Swedish Rail Company's website?
    Nope.

    7) Any other tips or advice?
    As others have said, spend some more time in Narvik. You could stay in an hotel and take the next sleeper back, or leave on the morning day train.

    If you wan't to travel in some more daylight, take the 11:00 Narvik - Luleå IC (train 95) and change to the Luleå - Gothenburh via Stockholm sleeper in Boden (train 91). It will arrive Stockholm at 06:30 in the morning so it's a bit early.
     
    Last edited: 27 Dec 2016
  19. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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  20. 30907

    30907 Established Member

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    It's many years since i did the trip, but i would endorse whichever Norwegian variant is feasible.
    The forested parts of Northern Sweden can be monotonous.
    I think the Inlandsbane will not be operating when you are there, otherwise it would be an option.
     
  21. Blillpers

    Blillpers Member

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    The Inlandsbanan has no passenger service north of Östersund except for the tourist season during the summer, so unfourtantly it isn't an option.

    It has, however, daily service year between Östersund and Mora, with additional services at each end of the line.
     
  22. Gordon

    Gordon Member

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    Couchette is the accepted English for Couchette!

    We had to borrow it from French as there has never been an equivalent in the UK (partly due to the restricted loading gauge.) Personally I always enjoyed the simplicity of couchette travel, being able to lie down with a rug for warmth but also still be in an ordinary compartment.

    Thus, you will find that well travelled Europhile UK enthusiasts will fully understand what a couchette is.


    .
     
  23. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    Welcome to the forum JonasB

    Thank you everyone for the information, particularly Jonas B, Blillpers and Gronigen.

    I will post an update when I have booked my tickets :)
     
  24. JonasB

    JonasB Member

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    Thank you!

    One thing that struck me is that no one has mentioned a stop in Gävle and a visit to the railway museum, if you have the time, I can really recommend it. It is a great museum well worth a visit.
     
  25. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Iskra, I hope you're ready to do a massive trip report for this one as I'm already looking forward to the read!

    I'm following this thread keenly as I really want to do this trip myself. Seeing the Northern Lights would just be amazing, and the trip itself well worth doing.

    What occurs to me that I don't remember seeing in your plan was the option of jumping on a plane back down from Narvik. I've not looked into the public transport connections mind for that.
     
  26. Iskra

    Iskra Established Member

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    It would be rude not to do a trip report Tech ;)

    I've just taken a look at flights and they could work out cheaper and less risky in terms of time and connections, but it would remove some of the fun of the trip for me. However, what does look like a better option is doing the circular route from Norway heading back into Sweden to Sundsvall and then flying to Stockholm Arlanda airport from there. Good idea and thanks for the suggestion.
     
  27. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Oh I only meant fly there or back, not both ways which would have taken away the fun. Personally the way I would do things would be to fly over to Sweden, no doubt with Ryanair into Vasteras (then bus into town and be in a good position to jump straight onto SJ metals) then SJ either to Stockholm itself first (the EMUs they use on that line are actually quite decent) then head to Narvik or SJ all the way north via some weird choice of route. From there, do the exploration stuff then head to the airport and fly back south.

    Of course I haven't actually researched any of this, and it would 99% certainly involve flying with Norwegian to/from Narvik. Yes it's 737-800s but it's *that* airline. Would I swallow my pride just to make the trip work? Well, one day, when I do the trip, you'll all know...;)

    More importantly, I need to focus on organising my stuff for Tech's Big Bang 2017 this weekend, and to heavily research my moves for January's other big bash. I still haven't decided on my hashtag for that one actually...
     
  28. 306024

    306024 Established Member

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    Start by researching Narvik Airport, and then come up with plan B ;)

    Edit: Oops, neither did I. From memory the only flights were by Wilderoe to Bodo. Norwegian do now indeed fly from Oslo to Narvik.
     
    Last edited: 2 Jan 2017
  29. Techniquest

    Techniquest Veteran Member

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    Got to admit, I keep putting Narvik where Bodo is on the mental image of my rail atlas :lol: I knew Norwegian flew to Bodo as I had looked that up some months ago, but couldn't be sure on Narvik.

    See now when I got into TPP Mode this badly last night, thanks to Kite159 and others, I ended up booking a Eurostar trip to Brussels, thankfully I can't do that with a trip to Narvik tonight! :lol:
     
  30. JonasB

    JonasB Member

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    Starting in April 2017, there will be five airlines flying between Arlanda and London (SAS and BA to Heathrow, Norwegian to Gatwick, Easyjet and Monarch to Luton), so there should be no need to fly to Västerås or Skavsta.
     

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