This photograph was taken in southeastern Sweden. The photographer, G.M. Svendsen, was based in the town of Tingsryd. The photo was for sale on eBay in North Carolina. I wish I knew how it ended up there!
The railway in the photo is the Nättraby-Alnaryd-Elmeboda Järnväg (järnväg = railway). The NAEJ (or NAÄJ) was a narrow-gauge (600 mm) line running from the town of Nättraby, near the port of Karlskrona, inland to the town of Elmeboda (Älmeboda). The railway was the initiative of a local politician and businessman, Axel Edward Lindvall (1852-1931). The line opened in segments, with the first segment opening to the public in November 1897 and the final segment opening on December 21, 1910. At 49 km long, the NAEJ was the longest narrow-gauge railway in Sweden. Traffic ceased in 1946. Demolition began that year and was completed in 1949.
According to this page in English, the NAEJ transported passengers and freight, such as gravel, timber and agricultural products. On summer weekends the number of passengers would increase, so seats would be installed in freight wagons, and passenger cars would be added. The train was very slow: until 1933, the top speed was 20 km/h (about 12.5 miles/h). Going uphill, the train was so slow that it became known as the Krösnabanan, or “lingonberry line,” because passengers could supposedly get off and pick lingonberries while the train was moving. (In this part of Sweden, krösna is another name for lingon.)
Axel Lindvall seems to have taken a great personal interest in the NAEJ, because he posed in a number of photographs associated with it in museum archives. The one below is in the collection of the Swedish Railway Museum (Järnvägsmuseet). In the photo, he stands next to locomotive No. 3, which was named Axel E. Lindvall. (Other locomotives on the line had different names and numbers.) The photo was taken in 1909, probably at the time of delivery from the factory:
The same locomotive appears in my photo:
I’ve also identified Axel Lindvall himself, standing in the back row of the group of men. In the detail below, he’s the man in the center, wearing a vest and a watch chain:
The whole group:
You can see the image above in high resolution, along with an image of the train, by clicking either of the thumbnails below and selecting “View full size” in the lower right of your screen:
I wonder what the occasion was for the photo. The locomotive was manufactured in 1909 and the final section of track opened to the public in December 1910. The men aren’t dressed very warmly, so the photo wasn’t taken when the track opened in December. I assume this was a special occasion of some kind, but maybe it was just a typical day on the Krösnabanan.
Update, Jan. 19: Dag Bonnedal at the museum association Östra Södermanlands Järnväg informed me that the photo was taken at the gravel quarry near Berg. He had never seen this image before.
Update, March 1: Dag Bonnedal shared additional information in English here. Lots of interesting details!
Additional information in Swedish: