The first true narrow-gauge railroad in Finland was built at Fiskars in 1890.
In 1860, the accountants at Fiskars had said in their report that transport from the ironworks was far too expensive and slow. This prompted the leadership at the ironworks to look into alternative modes of transport to replace the traditional bull- and horse-drawn wagons. Lieutenant Colonel Appelberg was asked to find out how Fiskars Village could be connected to the harbor in Pohjankuru (Skuru). At the time the train was to be horse-drawn, and needed to have a daily carrying capacity estimated at 1,000 pounds (8,500 kg). However, nothing came of the project.
Twenty-eight years later, in 1889, the railroad project was once again taken up, and the planning and engineering handed over to engineer H. Normén. It was decided to make the railroad so stable that steam-engine locomotives could be used instead of horses. The rail tracks began at the Fiskars factory by the upper rapids, passed the factory at the lower rapids, then took a scenic route along the eastern shore of lake Borgbynjärvi (Borgbysjön), after which it followed the Fiskars river all the way to the harbor in Pohjankuru. The railroad was 5.5 km long and the gauge 750 mm.
One locomotive was purchased from Krauss & Co in Munich, Germany. The first transport was made on August 31, 1891. The total cost of the project was 84,755 markka.
Johan Andersson of Helsinki was hired as the first engine driver. He was clearly a person of worth, as his monthly pay of 90 markka was at a similar level to that of the master builder and accountant at the ironworks.
Usually, two trips were made each day. The train was loaded with bar iron, cast-iron products, pig iron, plows, boards, planks, and coal, as well as farm and garden produce, etc. The railroad was also used by Fiskars ironworks officials, the grocer, and by the ironworks at Åminnefors, Antskog, Orijärvi, and Kärkelä.
Before the railroad between Karjaa (Karis) and Turku (Åbo) was completed in 1899, rail traffic to Fiskars was only possible during the sailing season; that is, transportation was only viable from April/May until November/December when the winter ice set in. During the winter months, they had to revert to using horses. Once the big railroad was built the train traffic to Fiskars Village continued throughout the year.
Occasionally, because the steam locomotive had a relatively small water cistern, the train had to stop on the way back to take water on board from Lake Borgbynjärvi. Often in the summertime the train caused problems for the firemen because sparks flying off from the engine would set forest fires ablaze.
In 1897 the ironworks purchased 'ticket seats', as some sort of paid passenger traffic was begun. The train was used by several dignitaries, such as the Governor General of Finland, Bobrikov, when he visited Fiskars Village at the turn of the century. In his youth C.G.E. Mannerheim, the future president and marshal, often took the train to visit his cousins.
When Fiskars chairman Albert Lindsay von Julin turned 50 on August 2, 1921, he was given the honorary title of vuorineuvos (bergsråd). A grand party was held at the Manor House and the guests came from Pohjankuru by train. In preparation for the guests, sheet iron roofs were fixed to the wagons and purple curtains hung between their posts.
When the Fiskars Volunteer Fire Department arranged its traditional summer excursions into the archipelago, participants travelled by train to Pohjankuru harbor and, having had their day of sailing, took it back again late at night. Whenever a sports competition or other public event was held, the spectators would travel by rail.
The ironworks also had two trolleys; a pump trolley for the workers and a foot-propelled velocipede car for the superiors. The owner of the ironworks himself wrote clear instructions for their use, dated October 1, 1908. Among other things, they stated, 'The trolleys are under the care of a warden, who will collect 20 penni for the pump trolley and 25 penni for the velocipede. Only two people can ride on each trolley. Of the payment, half goes to the ironworks and half to the warden.' The trolleys were in use until this form of rail traffic was closed down.
In 1928 another narrow-gauge railroad was built from the Åminnefors ironworks, also owned by Fiskars Ltd, so then Fiskars and Åminnefors both had railroads to the harbor in Pohjankuru. A new engine was needed to handle traffic on the second line, so the company acquired a 50-hp, 8-ton engine, number 10554/1923, originally manufactured by Orenstein & Koppel, that had been used by the Imatran rakennustyöt Oy company. In 1937 a new engine, number 12782/1936, was bought directly from the same manufacturer.
When required, the trains also carried passenger traffic. For instance, the wagons were fitted with benches so that people could travel to Fiskars for a function or an event, such as the renowned ski-jumping competitions of the 1930s.
One event mustn't be overlooked, as it was even mentioned in foreign newspapers of the time. When workers at Åminnefors were invited to see a film at the Fiskars Assembly Hall they made the trip by train. However, one passenger became so drunk he was not allowed back on board the train. Angered by this, he hopped up onto the locomotive and let the pressure loose. The train disappeared at full speed towards Pohjankuru harbor with the man shovelling all the coal into the firebox until he finally had nothing left to burn but the shovel. At Pohjankuru the train derailed.
The steam engine
Today, a green-painted, narrow-gauge-railroad steam engine stands next to the Fiskars Volunteer Fire Brigade building. It is the engine called Pikku Pässi (Little Ram), which was in use from 1890–1952.
Heating up the engine took about an hour each morning, and on Mondays could take several hours because the engine had thoroughly cooled over the weekend.
For more information on historical railroads, please visit Jokioinen Museum Railway website.
Manufacturer: Krause & Co. Munich, Germany, 1890.
Manufacturer’s code: Nr. 2517/1891.
Pressure generated: 11 atm.
Boiler size 0.6 m3; heating surface 9.97 m2; approximately 30 hp.
Stephenson valve gear.