I always enjoy train journeys. On a train you are travelling, not just going from one place to another. You get a real sense of the place you’re passing through and the distance you’ve travelled in a way you don’t experience on a plane. And, of course, you can watch the landscape as it passes by. So I was very excited to take the night train from Stockholm to Luleå, as part of a trip to Swedish Lapland, in the far north of Sweden.
Night Train to Luleå
The train left Stockholm a little before 11 o’clock in the evening. Our group was accommodated in 3-berth sleepers (small but perfectly adequate), but there seemed to be a whole range of other options, from seats to deluxe cabins. We found our cabins and sorted out our bunks. Then, in the customary fashion of travel writers, we headed for the bar.
An airline style map on the wall of the bar showed our route and current location. A 900km journey of 13 hours, travelling almost due north. Although both Stockholm and Luleå are on the coast, the route is mostly inland. A bit of history here: the line from Stockholm to Boden was opened in 1894 but for defensive reasons it bypassed most of the coastal towns (connecting lines were built later). At Boden the line met the Iron Ore Line, built in the 19th century to carry freight to Luleå.
Into Swedish Lapland
I was surprised how well I slept. So well that I missed the fabulous sunrise that some of my more insomniac companions reported seeing. I got up early and took advantage of the quiet to walk up and down the train. The light was bright but cold, casting a mist over the landscape. We passed through forests and meadows, with the occasional lake or river. Every so often the view was broken up by a small town or by one of the red and white farmhouses that are so typical of the Swedish countryside. I spotted some wildlife: a moose with her young, a fox, and a pair of storks flexing their wings.
Later I sat in the buffet car and ate my breakfast, observing the other passengers. There were families with young children, and others heading north with their hiking gear. Once again I reflected on the benefits of travelling by train – I’d seen a lot of landscape, a little bit of wildlife and a few towns. And I had a much better understanding of what a big country this was, and of the remoteness of some of its major towns.
Note that times of the night trains from Stockholm to Luleå have changed slightly since I travelled in 2016. Check the SJ Trains website for details.