Axel Lindvall and the “Krösnabanan”

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!

Axel E. Lindvall's train 8b


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:

Axel E. Lindvall's train 6b (Järnvägsmuseet)
NAEJ lok 3 Axel E. Lindvall, manufactured by Motala Verkstad, production number 434. Scrapped in 1939. (Public domain image via DigitaltMuseum, identifier JvmKAGC00360)


The same locomotive appears in my photo:

Axel E. Lindvall's train 4

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:

Axel E. Lindvall's train 5

The whole group:

Axel E. Lindvall's train 2


You can see the image above in high resolution, along with an image of the locomotive, 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:

Östra Södermanlands Järnväg Blog

Nättraby Vägmuseum


Cykla Banvall


49 thoughts on “Axel Lindvall and the “Krösnabanan”

Add yours

  1. Detailed research as ever Brad! Do you think there was a landslide and they’ve just finished clearing it off the track? That might account for the workclothes and the tree roots you can see in the foreground?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hadn’t thought of that possibility! The scene makes me think of a dry riverbed, full of stones and tree branches. It doesn’t look like any quarry I’ve ever seen, but a quarry seemed like the most logical explanation. Thank you for your comment, Louise!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lots of information on this one! In other news, we just sent you turtle mail to give an update on your turtle nest adoption. It has been done. Thank you very much! We forwarded the email to the one you used to comment on our blog. Many thanks for supporting the turtles!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Trains were so important when they connected small communities with cities and the rest of the world. One of my great-grandfathers was a train engineer in Pennsylvania. The woman he married (my great-grandmother) was the daughter of a train engineer!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Railroads go in family.
        Women were not allowed to become engineers when I was young, nowadays that has luckily changed. Maybe I’ d have followed my father’s step as an engineer.
        Or maybe not. I was more like a hobo 😀 Not sleeping in freight wagons though…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. When I was 12 or 13, I had to interview someone for a school assignment. I chose a family friend who had been a hobo in his youth, in the 1930s. He told me some good stories, which I don’t remember now. Somewhere I have a cassette tape of the interview. I haven’t thought about that in a long time!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed the name of the line as well. Been watching a lot of Scandinavian Netflix so I can see why they might not have gathered in shirtsleeves in December! Hope all is well in your neck of the woods Brad!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. You said that this line occasionally transported ‘gravel,’ and it certainly looks as though the men might have been collecting a load. Given the topography of Sweden, rail lines might have run along river beds, which suggest gravel.

    I love that it was called the Lingonberry line. Sunday morning breakfast at my Swedish grandparents’ house often included pancakes with Lingonberries, or Lingonberry jam. I’m not sure how lingonberries grow, but I suspect they might be like our native dewberries, which grow especially well along railroad tracks. It makes perfect sense to me that people would pick berries along these tracks, especially if they could hop off and on the train. Even if that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s fun to imagine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got the impression that gravel was an important commodity. From 1939 to 1946, it was the only thing the train was used for. I have no idea how big the gravel was, how it was quarried, or what its purpose was.

      It’s fun to imagine people hopping on and off the train, but the train operators probably didn’t appreciate it! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The first thing that occurred to me also was a rockslide, given the brush and debris mixed with the rocks. Further, although they could be hidden, the tracks going forward seem to be covered by debris as well. I too am guessing a work party to clear the tracks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you enjoyed the post, Isabelle! In our modern age of high-speed everything (transport, information, entertainment), it’s hard to imagine traveling 20 km/h or less. Yet at that time, people were probably quite happy about it.

      (I should have explained in the text that “krösna” is a synonym for “lingon” in southern Småland and Blekinge.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoy how your photos elicit so many imaginative stories! I’m also going with the landslide scenario like “oldmainer” for the same reasons. It looks like a group of locals came to help clear the tracks with their vests and sweaters and hats on, yah. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Another possibility is that this might have been the gang who actually built the final leg of the railway. But since it isn’t winter, the photo must have been taken a few months before it was completed or a few month after. At this point all theories seem equally valid. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesterday I found a very interesting blog post which contained this sentence: “I Berg finns ett stort isälvsdelta, och här har det funnits en grustäkt i decennier.” Google translates this as: “In Berg there is a large ice river delta, and here there has been a gravel quarry for decades.” Maybe that’s where the photo was taken!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I love trains! The more I look the more I think this might be a special occasion rather than an accident. The photograph looks very staged to me with two men holding their “oil cans?”. Also, all of those white shirts look far too white for the men to have been moving gravel. 😄 Perhaps it is a commemorative photo taken when the engine was delivered and the quarry is a nod to the important work it will do for the community. Whatever the case, it’s a wonderful photograph and I enjoyed all the research you put into it. Thanks Brad! ☺️🚂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make an excellent point that some of the men look very clean for a workday! I too think this was a special occasion, but I don’t know what it might have been. I’ve reached out to several museums in Sweden, but they may not know, either. Axel Lindvall’s presence in the group on the day of the photo was certainly not a coincidence.

      I didn’t know that you like trains! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

    1. My understanding is that it’s an ancient river bed. One Swedish website refers to it as an “ice river bed,” which makes me think it dates back to the last ice age.

      Thank you for visiting so many of my older posts! I’m enjoying your excellent photography.

      Liked by 1 person

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