The Ofotbanen Railway

The 43 km long Ofotbanen railway runs from Narvik to the national border with Sweden. It carries iron ore, people and goods to and from Northern Norway.

The construction

The construction of the Ofotbanen railway is divided into two periods. First the English construction period and second the Norwegian construction period. In 1883, an English company started the construction of a railway from Luleå in Sweden to Narvik. The track would go through the rich iron ore resources of Gãllivare and Kiruna to transport the iron ore to the ice-free port of Narvik.

The work was led by Ole W. Lund.

The construction manager for the Ofotbanen railway under the English period, Ole W. Lund.

But the English company went bankrupt in 1889.

It was not until 1898 that the Norwegian and Swedish governments resumed construction work, and in the autumn of 1902 the railway was completed.

During the Norwegian period, a service site was established for the work in Rombaksbotn, and for four years it was like a small town to be reckoned with.

Building a new and functioning railway line is an impressive feat, especially with the resources and technology of the time. One of the most notable structures along the stretch is Norddalsbrua – a 180 m pendulum pillar bridge that was built in order to be blown up.

Steam LOCOMOTIVES are replaced

The first locomotive on the Ofotbanen railway was called “Ofoten”, and was in operation during the English construction period. Until the Ofotbanen railway was electrified in 1923, the steam locomotives rolled along the rails.

The iron ore traffic developed rapidly on the Ofotbanen railway. NSB steam locomotive type 19a runs over Norddalsbrua.
The steam locomotives type 19a and 28a (seen in the picture) no longer had sufficient power.
The solution was a new locomotive, NSB steam locomotive type 29a. Here outside Engine shed 1 in Narvik.
The steam locomotives were sent south when electric locomotives took over in 1923.

Goods and people

It is not only the ore trains that operate the Ofotbanen railway. The railway line carries goods to and from the region, in addition to passenger traffic. Before the road across the National Border was built, the ski train transported avid skiers to the mountains in fully loaded trains.

Passenger train on track 1 at Narvik station, towed by a steam locomotive of type 18a. In track 3 is a train set with both passenger and goods carriages.
An electric iron ore locomotive of the type NSB El. 3 is used as a locomotive in passenger trains.
Soldiers and passenger trains at Narvik station on 10 May 1945 in connection with the handover of Narvik to Colonel O. Munthe Kaas from the German occupation forces.
Passenger train from SJ on the mountain at the top of Norddalen in 1999.
Passenger train at Katterat station in 2008.

Join the podcast “Ekspedert” on the Ofotbanen

The 43 kilometre long railway line from Narvik to Bjørnfjell is a continuous series of cultural-historical treats interspersed with beautiful nature and dizzying views.

We invited Leif Simonsen and Lars Slettjord on a train ride on Arctic Train, and together with them we have made a good attempt to catch most of the highlights along the Ofotbanen line – from the ghost in the water tower at Rombak to the football match in Grusgropa. Welcome aboard and have a good trip! Presenters: Ida Fossli and Trond Blomlie.

All historical photographs are part of Narvik municipal photo collection preserved by Narvik Museum. Several of the pictures can also be found at