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Running with IORE on Malmbana in the Swedish and Norwegian North
By John McKey, Pictures by Gerry Putz, Ilkka Siissalo, Sanna Siissalo, Nick Slocombe, Deane Motis, Dvid Gubler, Hannu Peltola and John McKey

This is a story of the huge IORE locomotives running on the Iron Road Malmabana in the Swedish and Norwegian North. It is also a story of innovation and thrive to make thing better and bigger, man opposed to wilderness, hideous climate against the courage of those who build and first operated Malmbana Railway. Story was originally developed from the trek to area in 2012, and is now being refurbished to meet today's needs of information.

If you wish to have a more complete story of Malmbana, much more material is published in the books, web form always having its limitations. So for complete story with lots of background information on Malmbana, IORE locos, rolling stock before them and much more, please look at the books below. If wondering should you take 2014, 2015 or 2016 version, the main difference is that only newer versions have been updated to current level and will receive new updates along the year. The core story - running with IOREs from Kiruna to Narvik - can be found on all these books.

Running with IOREs 2016 High Speed Trains 2015 Running with IOREs 2014  

 

Next, why not lean back and enjoy Running with IOREs here on web...

 
The main attraction of Malmbana* is the almost Swiss like nature, huge mountains, fjords, lakes, lots of woods and fields, rocky cliffs, snow and bare ground visible at the same time. And if you know where to go, you can also find both sunshine and bitter winter storm during the same day. Wilderness without roads and well developed logistics infrastructure close to each other. And a lot more. The secondary attraction is for many of us the heaviest railway operation in Europe. Even the Russian heavy railroading pales when compared this operation on the Malmbanan (*English: "Ore railway").

While Hannu and I managed in 2012 to take a picture of a total on 8 Dm3 units during our visit of the _whole_ Malmbana (very few people actually do this visit, because it takes lots of time and lots of driving on the back roads), the whole operation now is run by the MTAB IOREs. Some operation pictures on Dm3 will follow later in this story. IORE comes from the English words Iron ORE, and the locomotive carrying it was in early 2000s an ingenious development process of Bombardier, the builder of these huge beasts. This series of articles on 4rail.net Visions is dedicated on IOREs at work. With experience on Malmbana, careful scheduling and lots of driving we have several hundred pictures of IOREs alone.

We all are most thankful to people who have also enjoyed this magnificent line taking pictures and sent them here for publishing on wider audience! By combining of our effort we get so much more done than any individual of us could do alone. On the behald of 4rail.net readers special thank you for following photographers:

  • Gerry Putz
  • Ilkka Siissalo
  • Sanna Siissalo
  • Hannu Peltola
  • David Gubler
  • Nick Slocombe and
  • Deane Motis

Without your effort the would be so much less to share on this story. Now, let the journey begin...

MTAB IORE units 104 and 103 at Stenbacken, transporting iron ore, Sweden

Since this is a Visions series article, there are no strict and focused technical facts (any more than on German train books). For those interested in IORE technical page, please see it by clicking the link. 4rail.net also offers you the original sized pictures, if these look a little small and you wish to see details too. Just click any picture for the "real sized picture".

 

Part 1: Malmbana Railroading in Kiruna, Sweden
LKAB IORE units 109, 113 and 114 at departures yard, Kiruna, Sweden
Our story starts from the middle of the Malmbana, in Kiruna, Sweden. This is a city which also has the largest underground mine in the World. For the moment the mine is about 1500 meters below the ground, temperature deep underground being around 24 degrees Celsius / 75 Fahrenheit. If this was an open mining operation, you could actually see vapor billowing from below tens of kilometers away because of the winter cold climate in Kiruna. The Kiruna mine feeds iron ore along with Svappavaara and other mines of LKAB to pelletizing plants. These pellets are next loaded to slightly less that 70 ore cars long strings of bottom discharge cars pulled by double IORE units. Wait a second, here seems to be a triple units in the picture! OK, it is just an optical illusion, not the 2250 kilonewton / 505'820 lbf monster. The units here are numbers 109, 113 and 114. Road number are the same.

LKAB IORE units 104 and 109 at departures yard, Kiruna, Sweden
Zooming a little closer, we see how long these huge locomotives really are. As you see here, they are always run in semi permanenet pairs, the pairs formed by random after the service, the first finished pairs go out first. Which ones does not matter since all are equal in operating sense. The power output here is 10800 kW for double unit (14684 Hp) and it provides an enormous pulling power of 1500 kilonewtons / 337'220 lbf to track. The powerful motors can also feed back excess energy when slowing down ("dynamic brake mode") coming down several steep grades on the way.

The power is actually quite close to what the latest diesel equivalents General Electric ES44AC and EMD-Caterpillar SD70ACe can provide. But nothing in Europe or Asia comes even close to the powers of IOREs.
LKAB IORE units 109 at departures yard, Kiruna, Sweden
Further zooming in reveals the huge size of unit "Abisko", the number 109 of IORE fleet. In the mornings you can often see 10 IORE units in Kiruna either waiting for signal to depart or lining up to enter the crowded ore yard. There are typically 10 daily trains from Kiruna to Narvik, so 20 daily IORE movements plus around 680 ore cars provide the main traffic both ways.

LKAB IORE units 108 and 122 at departures yard, Kiruna, SwedenNow we will start our target action, "Running with IOREs" and the first train out this morning will be hauled by units 122 and 108. The lead unit 122 is called "Råtsi" which fits quite suitably here.

We all know "Gentlemen, turn on your engines..." saying.

OK, in Finnish Råtsi means overcoat and the Finnish saying for putting on the overcoat (in southern coast slang) is actually the same as "turn on the Råtsi"!

So we started waiting...

LKAB IORE units 108 and 122 rolling past locoworks, while 121 and 125 keep dorming, Kiruna, SwedenAnd we did not have to wait long. Here the IORE 122 Råtsi comes on the sunny Saturday morning curving nicely around the LKAB engine workshops side. There are over 60 ore cars in tow. (Later about 68 cars were standard for all trains).

More views in part 2






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   Part 2: From the Kiruna City to the Foothills of the Bigger Mountains...

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