History of the industrial railway

A short history of the Ohs Bruk - Bor industrial railway

 

Background

Ohs Bruk is an old industrial community with ironworks from the 17th. century, and lies at the southern end of Lake Rusken, some 20 kms (15 miles) east of Värnamo. In the 1890s engineer Sanfrid Berglund from Habo began to build up a sulphate factory and sawmill in Ohs, where both forest, water and a work force were readily found. Transportation of building materials, and from 1894 onwards even ready-made products, was executed by ox-drawn wagons to/from the station at Lammhult on Sweden’s southern trunk railway. When the Borås-Alvesta railway was opened in 1902 transportation was re-directed to Bor station on the new line. Transports outwards consisted of the mill’s own products, and inwards of the raw materials needed, mainly chemicals. As production increased so too did the need for better transportation. This can best be understood when one compares the capacity of a train at about 25 tonnes to that of a similar number of very slow ox-wagons, each carrying less than a couple of tonnes, along the very poor gravel roads of the day.

 

The origins of the line

The railway between Ohs Bruk and Bor was constructed between 1907 and 1910. Also included in the work was a short 1 km horse-drawn track from Bor to Tagels sawmill, already open in 1906; at the time both were owned by Sanfrid Berglund. Costs were kept low by using a gauge of only 600 mm. This gauge originated in France where it was introduced by industrialist and politician Paul Décauville at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1888. In Sweden seven public railways and a considerable number of smaller industrial lines, including Ohs Bruk’s Railway, have been built to this narrow gauge. One of the seven public lines was the Helsingborg-Råå-Ramlösa Railway (HRRJ), which was converted to standard gauge and electrified in 1906. Surplus second-hand material was then vput up for sale, and Ohs Bruk bought both locomotives, wagons and track, which started to arrive in Ohs in 1907. Included in the deal were two turntables, four sets of points and 1,840 m of 14 kg/m. rail. Construction of the railway to Ohs Bruk could now begin.

Between Bor and Ohs a high plateau needed to be traversed, and this implied steep gradients at both ends of the line. From Bor there is a short section at 41%o, otherwise the maximum gradient is 33%o. In combination with curves down to only 100m radius the locomotives must work very hard. In order to haul trains up from each terminus sidings were laid at the top of each, into which half of each train could be stored while the locomotive fetched the other half. These are at Stensjöon (from Bor) and Gimarp (from Ohs). The completed railway was 14.769 km long. In Bor the transfer of goods was necessary between gauges, but at that time the workforce was both plentiful and cheap. A storage shed was also built at Bor.

The railway winds through sparse countryside, and between Hösjön and Gimarp it runs far from any road. At some time in the 1930s an impregation plant was established some 700 m. from Ohs, but closed in 1960. Today the site is used as a store for the museum railway.  At Ohs Bruk, on the eastern side of the track, opposite today’s loco shed, a paper storehouse, as well as a run-round track, were installed. The present yard with its loco and carriage sheds, did not exist during the time the original railway was in use, but within the mills there were sidings for the unloading of pulp, and a sawmill and workshops.

 

Locomotives and rolling stock

As noted above, in preparation for the opening of the railway surplus material was purchased from HRRJ, including Locomotive No.3. On Ohs Bruks Railway (often referred to as Ohsabanan) the French locomotive was named after its origin. This naming tradition is still used today on the museum railway. Bogie wagons 21-25 were also bought from HRRJ (several of them previously used passenger coaches), as well as several 4-wheel open wagons, Nos. 62-65 and 70. Helsingborg’s Copper Foundry also had a number of open wagons built by Råå Mechanical Workshops; eight of these were sold to Ohs Bruk in 1902, a further 4 in 1910, and 4 more in 1913. All open wagons were later re-built to covered goods wagons. Today’s open wagon, No.90, is of later construction, but of a similar type as the Helsingborg ones. When “Franska loket” (the French locomotive) was being renovated in 1913 an industrial locomotive constructed by Orenstein & Kopplel was hired in; this locomotive is now No.5, Smedjebacken.

Firewood transportation for The Fuel Commission during WW1 required yet another locomotive, this time constructed by Helsingsborg’s Mechanical Workshops; thus it was called “Svenska Loket” (the Swedish loco). The locomotive was originally built for an agricultural line between Hålltorp and Vinninga station, between Lidköping and Skara on part of the West Göteland network, and thus on the 891-mm gauge. When the locomotive was sold to Ohs Bruk in 1918 it was re-built to the 600-mm gauge by Svenska Maskinverkstäderna (Swedish Machine Workshops). Following WW1 second-hand German material was offered for sale, including narrow-gauge locomotives and wagons of the Heeresfeldbahn type, intended for army transports on the front. The dominant locomotive class was the so-called Brigadloken (the Brigade locomotives); these had been developed from 1905 onwards until the after end of hostilities, with over 2500 examples being built. Twelve such locomotives were sold to Sweden, including one to Ohs Bruk in 1920. Not unnaturally this was named the “German Locomotive”, and became the main automotive power on the railway. The “French Locomotive” became the reserve locomotive, and use of the “Swedish Locomotive” was discontinued. The bolier of the “German Locomotive” was condemned in 1929, and a new one obtained. As a temporary replacement an identical locomotive was obtained in an exchange transaction with Eckerholm’s peat society [sic.] which at the time operated an 8 km long line from the peat deposits at Eckerholm west to Bratteberg, between Jönköpnig and Vaggeryd. The “Swedish Locomotive” and 2000 Swedish kronor were transferred to meet the difference in value. The second reserve Brigade locomotive was called just that, the “Reserve Locomotive”, and operated to some unrecorded time between 1940 and 1952.

When a motor locomotive was bought from the Kosta-Lessebo Railway (KLJ) in 1948, the “German Locomotive” became the reserve one, but it was decommissioned and scrapped in 1952; the main frame, however, was rescued and employed in the construction of a home-built shunting loco, “Sputnik”, using a Volkswagen engine. This locomotive is preserved at today’s museum railway, but is not operational.

Today Ohsabanan has re-created its stock of two Brigade locomotives, partly through “Emsfors” which is in almost original condition, and partly through the “German Locomotive” which is modernized to East German DR standards. The latter came to Sweden as late as 1976, together with a large number of Heeresfeldbahn wagons, of which a number of similar wagons were later built in Sweden. Of the original wagons, covered wagon No.23 and open wagon No. 27 are at Ohsabanan today. These, together with the Helsingborg wagons, made up the greater part of the railway’s stock. Further purchases were also made from other 600-mm lines as these succumbed to the axe in the 1930s. In 1939 four 4-wheeled open wagons and eight timber trucks were obtained from the Kolmården-Stafsjö Railway; these were fitted were extended platforms and simply given the name of “the Stafsjö-wagons”. Later, in the 1970s, two of them were fitted with passenger bodies, and one of them still exists, albeit now rebuilt as covered goods wagon No.36.

From the Kosta-Lessebo Railway a snow plough was obtained and also, as previously referred to, a motor locomotive. KLJ had originally bought the locomotive from Nättrabybanan (Nättraby-Alneryd-Älmeboda, NAÄJ) in 1945; this particular locomotive had been built by Kalmar Workshops in 1937 on the frame of NAÄJ’s steam engine No.2. However, the locomotive had originally been built by Motala Workshops way back in 1894, as a 2-4-2 tank engine. On reconstruction, a trailing axel was removed and the frame turned round so that the back end of the steam engine became the front end of the motor locomotive, now fitted with two Ford V8 petrol engines, one to each side of the centrally placed cab. This locomotive is still on Ohsabanan today and, in company with the non-operational “Sputnik”, is the only remaining machine from the Ohs Bruk’s mill days. It was renovated in 1982, at which time the petrol engines were replaced by two diesel engines, similarly positioned.


 

Locomotive list
No. Wheel Constr.No./Year Name Purchased Fate
1 B1' Decauille 258/1897 Franska loket 1907 1920 reserv, 1948 skrot
2 Bn2t O&K 1363/1904     Inhyrt juni - okt 1915
3 Bn2t Helsingborg Svenska loket 1918 1929 sålt
4 Dn2t Borsig 10478/1919 Tyska loket 1920 1948 reserv, 1952 skrot
5 Dn2t Borsig 10476/1919 Reservloket 1929 1940-52 skrot
6 1'B KVAB 36/1937 Motorloket 1948 bevarat
7 B --/1952 Sputnik   bevarat ej körklart


 

Through the years

Although only freight traffic was normally carried, local inhabitants were not denied travel on the trains, since there were no other communications in the district. By the 1930s most Swedish 600-mm gauge railways were beginning to feel the competition of road traffic; the passenger-carrying lines vanished from the map, and the industrial lines were closed down successively. However, Ohsabanan’s traffic was modernized, partly through the purchase of the motor locomotive in 1948, and partly through the transporation of large containers of sulphates in the 1950s, a forerunner of today’s container traffic. At Bor the containers were winched from one gauge to the other. Two of these containers are in the museum of the preserved railway at Ohs. It was because the road network around Ohs was in such poor condition that the railway was maintained to become one of Sweden’s final longer (at 14.77 km) 600-mm gauge railways, with traffic operating until the summer of 1967. The mills survived the railway by another eleven years, but due to increasing environmental demands, and a fire, traffic on the railway was discontinued in October 1978.

Today parts of the mills are occupied by a rubber industry, and another is converted into a mill museum. Fortunately the railway itself was not torn up, but kept in reserve for possible future use. But neglect of the infrastructure in the line’s final industrial years, as well as three years’ neglect after the closure, put the railway in a detrimental condition when the Society was formed to take over in 1970. Many hours of hard work have therefore been invested in track work since that day.

Lennart Carlsson.

Sources:
Småländska järnvägar, Lars-Erik Gustafsson
Décauvillebanan Helsingborg - Råå - Ramlösa, Lennart Welander
Kosta järnväg, Lennart Welander
Nättrabybanan, Lennart Welander
Stafsjö järnväg, Lennart Welander
Skogen tar tåget, Lennart Welander