Since 1903 more than 1 billion tons of ore have been transported from LKAB’s mines in Kiruna along the Ofotbanen train line and shipped out of Narvik harbour. Museum Nord-Narvik tells the exciting story of the town and its railway and mining company.
There were only three small farms and one smallholding in Narvik at the beginning of the 1880s. The people living there at the time gained sustenance from fishing and agriculture. But a new era was about to begin. Some Englishmen attempted to build a freight harbour and railway, which did not succeed. At the end of the century the Swedes built a railway line up down to the Norwegian border, and the Norwegians extended the line from the high mountains down along the fjord to Narvik harbour which was free of ice. The mining company LKAB built the quays and the warehousing area, allowing a new city to arise in record time. In 1898 there were 300 people living in town. Two years later the town had 3300 inhabitants. The daring railroad needed migrant workers and kitchen maids who brought diversity to Narvik’s identity. The city celebrates this rich heritage every year at its winter festival.
Narvik’s economy rose and fell with the international economic situation, which is reflected in the town’s development over time. Ore export was of strategic importance to the most powerful European nations, which culminated in the Battle of Narvik in 1940. Much of the city was destroyed by the end of the war. Many people had to live in provisional barracks for many years before the town was finally rebuilt around 1960.
LKAB once dominated Narvik’s commercial and working life by mining and transporting ore, but no longer. Yet the railway lines, huge warehouses, harbour facilities and ore freighters still cast a shadow over the city skyline. Narvik is Norway’s second biggest harbour, measured in overall tonnage. Ore export is increasing; a new company called Northland Resources has recently started building new freight facilities at the harbour to export iron ore from Pajala. LKAB is building new quays and new warehouses.
The Ofotbanen Line is faced with new demands to transport the extra goods and ore. A double-track solution is being considered. The Narvik harbour and Ofotbanen Line will have to be adapted to new transport technology and new markets.
History repeats itself the iron ore town of Narvik; visit Museum Nord and experience it in person.