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The history of rail transport in Finland began on January 31st 1862, with the opening of the railway line between Helsinkimarker and Hämeenlinnamarker. By 1900 most of the future main lines had been constructed, including the line to St. Petersburg. By the beginning of the new Finnish Republic lines connected all major cities, major ports, and reached as far as the Swedish border, and inner Finland as far north as Kontimaki in Paltamomarker region, as well as eastwards into Karelia.

Rail in the Grand Duchy of Finland

In the 1800s Finlandmarker had an undeveloped primarily agricultural economy, the primary exports being forestry products, both timber and furs. Much of the transportation was conducted via waterways; Finland being a country of many lakes. However connecting the waterways system to the coast was problematic. The use of a railway had already been considered in the 1840s; In 1849 Claes Alfred Stjernvall had suggested constructing a horse drawn railway from Helsinki to Turkhauta (in the municipality of Janakkalamarker)

Hämeenlinna to Helsinki line (1862)

At that time in its history Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of the Russian Empire (see Grand Duchy of Finland) and subject to Russian influence, thus in 1849 Governor General Menshikov ordered the board of transportation (road and waterways) to investigate the construction of a railway connecting Helsinkimarker and Hämeenlinnamarker. The investigations took two years and it was decided use locomotive traction, however construction was delayed due to the Crimean war.

The project was restarted in 1856 by Tsar Alexander II's initiative. Some opposed the very idea of the railways, in the Finnish senate responses to the proposed line reflected differing views in Finland at the time towards Finlands relationship with Russia: Finnish nationalists such as Johan Vilhelm Snellman favoured the line since it would aid development in Finland, more pro-Russian figures such as Lars Gabriel von Haartman favoured the idea of a line between Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

After discussions it happened that the Helsinki to Hämeenlinna line was the first to be built. The decision to build the line finalised in 1857, the line based on a revised version of the plan made in 1851.. Knut Adolf Ludvig Stjernvall was construction manager, and came under criticism for the project cost, resigning in 1861.

The line was opened in 1862. The track was 96 km long, singled tracked and expected to carry one train a day. For more frequent services passing loops could be used. After Helsinki intermediate stations were found at Pasilamarker, Keravamarker, Hyvinkäämarker and Riihimäkimarker before reaching Hämeenlinna.

Following the opening of the first railway line in Finland further lines were built, being constructed on the relative needs of industrial growth, populations, the interests of the Russian empire also being a guiding factor. The construction of early lines was primarily state controlled and financed.

Riihimäki – Saint Petersburg Railway (1868-1870)

A rail link between the capitals of the grand Duchy of Finland and of Russia had been considered for some time; surveys for a railway had been made in 1857, and some time after merchants of Vyborgmarker had proposed to pay for the construction of a link between the Russian capital and Vyborg.. No real progress was made until March 1867 when Finnish Senate proposed the construction of a link, in Nov 1867 the Tsar Alexander II gave a decree ordering its construction, stating that the link should be from Riihimakimarker (a station on the Helsinki-Hämeenlinna line) to St. Petersburg, being favourable for transportation and trade as well as providing employment to many currently experiencing hardship due to the crop failure that caused the Finnish famine of 1866-1868. Work began in 1868, and was completed by 1870.

Between Riihimäki and St. Petersburg the major stops were: Lahti, Kausala, Kouvolamarker, Luumäkimarker, Simola, Viipurimarker (Vyborg), Maaskola, Terijokimarker, Walkeasaarimarker and Spasskaja

Postcard of the original Finland Rail Terminal, built in 1870
The line was 371 km in length, and included some difficult terrain for railways - particularly swampy regions. A steel bridge over the Kymimarker and a moving bridge at Vyborg also were engineering challenges. The German firm Siemens and Haske provided the telegraph communications Iron rails were imported from Belgium, being 6.4m long and weighing 30pounds per meter.. The line works were split into five sections, the first completed was the Riihimäki to Lahtimarker section. The main opening ceremony was held in February 1870 when the St. Petersburg-Vyborg section was complete, at the famous Finlyandsky Rail Terminalmarker; itself being built specifically for the new line. The whole line was open by September 1870.

The entire railway including parts in Russia and the Russian rail terminal were the property and responsibility of the Finnish railways, not till 1913 and the building of a bridge over the Nevamarker was the line connected to the railways of Russia proper.

Hanko–Hyvinkää railway (1872-1873)

The Hanko to Hyvinkää railway was a private venture funded by which began construction in March 1872, and was opened in October 1873. The line was expected to profit from enormous amounts of freight bound for the port of Hankomarker , unfortunately three years earlier in 1870 the Paldiski-Tallin-St. Petersburg line was completed in Estonia, which competed it went bankrupt in 1875 and the Finnish government bought the railway for just over 10million marks.

The line which was 153km in length, also passed through Lohjamarker and Karismarker on the way south to Hanko.

Porvoo-Kerava Railway (1874)

The second private railway to be built in Finland was the 33 km long Porvoo to Keravamarker railway (finnish: Porvoon Keravan Rautatie). The first proposals for a line were made in 1863 with local grandees and businessmen supporting the project on the understanding that it would stimulate trade, as well as the wish not to become a backwater compared to other ports that had a rail connection. However the Finnish state gave priority to lines to Tampere and Lahti. Another attempt to gain funding was made in 1866, but this time the St. Petersburg line was given priority

In 1871 the senate of the Grand Duchy of Finland granted permission for a line to be built. The shareholders included Carl Eugen Åberg and August Eklöf as well as Fredrik Sneckenström all of who had investments in Porvoo. By 1874 the railway was complete and carrying goods.

The railway company soon experience financial difficulties - the amount of traffic had not lived up to estimates: by 1876 it was being offered for sale, by 1878 the original company was bankrupt, by 1887 new owner has been found, in 1917 the company was sold to the Finnish state railways. (Passenger traffic ceased in 1981, freight around 1990, the line has since been used for heritage trains, and is used by the Porvoo museum railway.)

Tampere and Turku (1876)

After connections from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna and St. Petersburg had been made connections to Finland's great cities of Turku (Swedish Abo) and Tampere (Swedish Tammerfors) were next to get state approval. In 1874 lines were commissioned connecting Hämeenlinna to Tamperemarker (via Toijala), and Toijalamarker to Turkumarker which were open by 1876, extending the existing line from Helsinki to Hämeenlinna north and west, and making Toijala railway stationmarker a major junction.

Tampere to Vaasa and the Ostrobothnian line (1883-1886)

path of the Ostrobothnian line from Seinäjoki to Oulo
Connecting lines and branches ommitted.
By 1883 the Tampere line had been extended over 300 km northwards via Haapamäkimarker and Seinäjokimarker to Vaasamarker.

The 334 km Ostrobothnian line (Finnish: Pohjanmaan rata) from Seinäjoki to Oulumarker via Bennäsmarker and Kokkolamarker was open by 1886 making Seinäjoki railway stationmarker another major junction.

From Oulu railway stationmarker the line continued via Tuira to the port of Toppila (A suburb of Oulu) on a 5 km stretch of track, two other short lines were also opened: a port connection to the Kokkola suburb of Ykspihlaja (5 km) and in 1887 to Pietarsaarimarker (Swedish Jakobstad) from Bennas.

Raahe Railway (1899-1900)

The Raahe railway (finnish: Raahen Rautatie) was built as a private enterprise to connect the coastal town of Raahemarker to the Ostrobothnian line. The line to Raahe was open in 1899, and the extension to the docks of Raahe was complete by 1900. The main line ran from Lappi (now called Tuomioja) on the ostrobothnian line (between Kokkola and Oulu) to Raahe and was 18km long. In 1926 the line was sold to the state railways.

Kouvala; the Savonian line (1889,1902) and the Kotka line (1890)

In 1885 274 kilometers of the Savonia line (Finnish Savon rata) was commissioned, connecting Kouvola (on the St. Petersburg line) through Tanttari, Harju, Mynttilä, Otava, Mikkelimarker, Pieksämäkimarker, Suonenjokimarker to Kuopiomarker with a 6.7 spur line from Suonenjoki to Isvesi, the line was open by 1889.

In 1887 the 52 km Kotka line (finnish: Kotkan rata) line from Kouvola to the port town of Kotkamarker was commissioned, opening in 1890.

A short industrial line branching to the Kymintehdas factory district at the Tanttari district of Kouvala was added in 1892. The Savonian line was completed in 1902 with the continuation of the track from Kuopio to Iisalmimarker (85 km); extensions to the Savonian line were opened in 1904 from Iisalmi with a 83 km track passing through Murtomäki further north to Kajaanimarker. and in 1923 when the line from Kajaani was extended 25 km to reach Kontiomäki

Thus by 1900 Kouvola railway stationmarker had become a major junction on the Finnish railway network with lines leading to St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Kotka, and to Savonia.

Karelian railway (1892-1895)

Between 1892 and 1895 a series of lines known collectively as the Karelian railways (finnish: Karjalan rata) were built.

The first line completed was the 72km Viipuri (or Vyborgmarker) to Imatramarker line via Antreamarker in 1892. By 1893 an extension 139km long from Antrea through Hiitolamarker, Elisenvaaramarker, Jaakkima, and Sortavalamarker was complete. The final part of the line was from Sortavala though Matkaselkä, Värtsilä, Onkamo and Sulkuniemi to Joensuu was complete in 1894 adding another 133km. Additionally in 1895 a short 6.75km line from Imatra via Tainionkoskimarker to Vuoksenniska (both suburbs of Imatra) was added.

Tampere to Pori line (1895,1899)

By 1895 Porimarker (on the western coast) had been connected to Tampere via Peipohja (near Kokemaki). By 1899 a short line from Pori of 20km was built to the coast at Mäntyluoto via Yyterimarker.

The Rauma Railway (1897,1914)

The Rauman railway (finnish: Rauman rata) was the most long lived private railway in Finland. The first line (~50km) opened in 1897 connecting Peipohja via Kiukainenmarker to Rauma Later in 1914 another line was opened branching west and southward from Kuikainen to Kauttua (in the municipality of Euramarker).

The railway was absorbed into VR in 1950.

Haapamäki to Jyväskylä line (1897)

By 1897 Haapamäkimarker (on Tampere-Seinäjoki line) was connected to Jyväskylämarker; making Haapamäki railway stationmarker a junction station. Additionally a 42km line northwards from Jyväskylä to Suolahtimarker was complete by 1898.

Hamina railway (1899)

In 1898 the Haminamarker railway (Finnish: Haminan Rautatie, Swedish: Fredrikshamns järnväg) was founded as a privately funded enterprise; a single 27.5 km line ran to Inkeroinen. The line was opened in 1899 and used two Baldwinmarker 2-6-2T locomotives from the USA. In 1916 the line and company was absorbed into the state railways.

Finnish coastal railway (1899,1903)

By 1899 a line from Karjaamarker (swedish: Karis) near Helsinki to Turkumarker was constructed roughly following the south-western coast of Finland; this linked with Helsinki by 1903 once a railway between Karjaa and Pasila had been constructed. The whole line is named Rantarata (swedish: Kustbanan) meaning "coastal railway".

Other lines (1900-1917)

By 1900 Finland had 3,300 km of track.

In 1903 the line from Oulu (via Tuira) was extended to Torniomarker close to the Swedish border.

In 1909 the Lapland capital Rovaniemimarker was connected to the rail network via Kemimarker, the junction being at Laurila 8 km north of Kemi. By 1911 Nurmesmarker in eastern Finland had been connected to Joensuu via Lieksamarker.

In 1913 a bridge built in Russia over the Neva river connected the Finnish rail network to the rest of the Russian network for the first time. Construction began in 1910; the bridge consisted of four tied-girder-truss-arch spans (bowstring bridge), two on either side of a lifting bridge.. Originally the bridge was called the Alexander I bridge after Alexander I of Russia, later in the 1910s it became known as the Finlyandsky Railway Bridge.

Seinäjokimarker was connected to Perälä via Kaskinenmarker in 1913, with a line branching at Kaskinen to Kristiinankaupunkimarker (Kristinestad).

Rail in Finland during transition and civil war (1917-1918)

Finland's railways at the time of the civil war (~1918)
In 1917 Vladimir Ilyich Lenin made his famous journey out of exile and travelled from Helsinki to St. Petersburg arriving at the Finlayandsky railway station on the 16th of April 1917, by July he had to flee again, returning to Helsinki this time disguised as the fireman of the train (driven by Hugo Jalava) - he only got as far as Lahti railway stationmarker by rail as the wax used in the disguise was starting to melt. In September he returned to Russia again in another disguise; this time he was more successful: As a consequence of the Russian revolution Finland was able to gain its independence in peace from Russia, and on the 6th of December 1917 Finland's Declaration of Independence was made.

During the Finnish Civil War the rail network was sufficiently well developed to play a significant role in the conflict, a train from Russia, the so called "weapons train" arrived in January 1918 bringing 15,000 rifles, 30 machineguns, 76mm guns, two armoured cars and ammunition. Much of the fighting took place on or around the railways, or for control of vital railway points. Armoured trains were also used during the war, and were effective.

Rail transport in the republic of Finland (1919-1995)

Dual gauge bridge connecting Finland and Sweden, built 1919
In 1919 a rail bridge was built across the river Torne between Tornio and Haparandamarker connecting by rail Finland and Sweden.

Second World War

During the Winter War the Finnish forces again used armoured trains. Two trains were fielded, both dating to the WWI era.. The Armoured Train No.1 (finnish: Ps.Juna 1 : abbr. from Panssarijuna) was used mostly to support the fighting in the Kollaa River area,found to be effective in supporting infantry. The opposing Soviet forces recognised this and it was repeatedly targetted by artillery and attacked from the air; as a result hiding places had to be found for the armoured train, and modifications made - such as smokestack extension pipes that directed the exhaust smoke under the train, to reduced the risk of it being spotted. More often than not bombardments and aerial attack damaged the track rather than the train directly. Ps.Juna 2 was used in both the Kollaa River battles and other battles around the Karelian Isthmusmarker.

During the interim period before the Continuation War the trains were re-armed with anti-aircraft weapons to counter the constant bombing they had experienced. The Russian forces also used armoured trains, some of which were captured or destroyed. Armoured Train No.1 became a permanent exhibit at the Finnish Armour Museum (finnish: Panssarimuseo) in Parola.

Additionally railway guns were used by both sides, the finns constructed a battery of 152mm rail mounted artileery pieces from coastal artillery guns, the russians had access to far larger pieces of rail mounted artillery including 12" guns., one of which became known as the "ghost gun" (finnish: aavetykki) during its shelling of Vyborg (see :fi:aavetykki)

The republic of Finland (1995-)

History of mass transit

In 1890 trams started to operate in Helsinkimarker.

In 1912 trams started to operate in Turku (see Turku tram) (a horse tramway had operated between 1890 and 1892), and in Vyborg in 1912.

Narrow gauge lines

See also Narrow gauge railway#Finland

Infrastructure and rolling stock


Rolling stock

See also

References and notes



  1. - Reference - Finland - Railway History
  2. Ylioppilasmatrikkeli 1640-1852 Claes Alfred Stjernvall
  4. A concise history of Finland, D. G. Kirby, p109 Google books
  5. Rautatie Hämeeseen 'Hameenlinna railway'
  6. Stjernvall, Knut Adolf Ludvig
  7. История. 1870 - 1918 годы. History: 1870-1918
  8. Pietarin rata toi Lahdelle menestyksen eväät "St. Petersburg railway brought food", 30 July 2006, Heikki Mantere
  9. 130 лет. Поездом от Хельсинки до Санкт-Петербурга. журнал "Лидеры" No. 2/2000 130 years - Trains from Helsinki to St. Petersburg,
  10. By 1876 the rails were being found too weak for the traffic and were gradually replaced with steel rails over the next 20 years
  11. Hangon rataa Otalammelle p10 OTASANOMAT No.2 2007 (magazine for Otalampi area of Finland), p10 "glimpse of otalampi railway"
  12. Hanko-Hyvinkaa rata Hanko-Hyvinka line
  13. Being the southernmost port in Finland it is free of ice for the longest period of the year, additionally it was expected that the line and port would serve imports and exports from russia and further east
  14. Port of Paldiski :History
  15. Porvoo-Kerava-rautatie vuodesta 1874 Porvoo Kerava Railway (1874-) (information from article by Mikko Alameren in publication [1] Issue 3/4 (1974) )
  16. The state was unwilling to fund the project, and the St. Petersburg line was paid in part by an alcohol tax, and in part through a lone from Russian state funds.
  17. CE Åberg Biography of Carl Eugen Åberg trader and
  18. also his father Wilhelm Åberg (died 1870)
  19. August Eklöf Biography of August Eklöf timber merchant and industrialist
  20. Fredrik Sneckenström Biography of Fredrik Sneckenström trader, shipowner, sawmill owner, captain (nautical)
  21. Fredrik Sneckenström had been involved in the 1863 attempt to build a railway to Porvoo, he died in 1877 financially ruined by the railway collapse.
  22. Porvoon rata Porvoo railway, Author: Ismo Kirves
  23. Porvoon Museorautatie r.y. / Borgå Museijärnväg r.f. / The Porvoo Museum Railway Society
  24. (SVR) SUOMEN VALTION RAUTATIET / FINSKA STATSJÄRNVÄGARNE (FSJ) : FINNISH RAILWAYS in 19th century list of finnish railway lines (-1912)
  25. Suomen leveäraiteiset rataosat valmistumisjärjestyksessä Finland track lengths and opening times
  26. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, page 850 "Pohjanmaan rata" "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  27. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, page 1075 "Raahe rata" "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  28. History of Raahe
  29. Harvinaisuus saapui asemapihalle "Rare vehicle in the Yard"
  30. The name was changed to avoid confusion with Lappi, the finnish name for Lapland.
  31. Rautatie ja Mikkeli - Savon rata Rail and the town of Mikkeli - the Savonian line
  32. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, page 715 "Kotkan rata" "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  33. Rautatiehistoriaa, Heli Mäki Rail history : early history, some information on uniforms : section "Rautatieyhteys Kotkaan" (Rail link to Kotka)
  34. Map: Tanttari, Kouvala. Industrial line branches from mark to the north, coming off the northward part of the Savonia line to Harju
  35. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, page 35 "Savon rata" "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  36. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, "Karjalan rata" Page 334 "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  37. Another line in Karelia, the Joensu to Nurmes extension was added to the network in 1910-11
  38. Pieni Tietosanakirja, 4 volumes, 1925-1928, page 1156 "Rauman rata" "The small encyclopedia", finnish encyclopedia, web archive, via
  39. Rauman rautatie 110 vuotta Rauman railway: 110 years
  40. Rauman rautatie Rauman railway, history and historical pictures,
  41. JÄRNVÄGS AB FREDRIKSHAMN Fredicksman railway company
  42. Rautatieliikenne Rail transport
  43. ЗАМЕТКИ О ФИНЛЯНДСКИХЪ ЖЕЛЕЗНЫХЪ ДОРОГАХЪ, 1914 г. Note on finland's railway network
  44. The line from Tornio was russia's only land link to its western allies during WWI, a aerial ropeway for carrying post over the river Torne was constructed (see Tornion ja Haaparannan posti-ilmarata , Muistomerkit Torniossa - Posti-ilmaradan muistomerkki (Memorials in Tornio), a dual gauge bridge was constructed in 1919
  45. Puutavarayhtiöiden maanhankinta ja -omistus pohjois-Suomessa vuosina 1885-1939 Timber companies and the acquisition of land ownership in northern Finland in 1885-1939, Section 2.1.3
  46. Все о реке Неве: мосты, притоки, наводнения... The Neva river - bridges, tributaries..
  47. The Helsinki-St Petersburg line: on track for the Russian revolution Author : Hugh O'Shaughnessy, 13 October 2001
  48. Armoured Trains and Railways of Finnish Civil War
  49. Valtakunnallisesti merkittävät kulttuurihistorialliset ympäristöt 1993 -luettelo. Tornio Nationally significant monuments and structures, 1993 list : Tornio.
  50. TORNIONJOKI - VÄYLÄ VALTAKUNTIEN VÄLILLÄ "Torne - junction between nations" p7-8
  51. from Tornio tourist office: Section 2 "Tornio bridges" page 5
  52. Finnish Artillery Arm in the Winter War: The armoured trains
  53. Armoured Train 1 in Winter War Part 2.1 , Armoured train 1 in the Winter War,
  54. Finnish Armoured Trains 1941 - 1944 Part 3, Interim peace - time of modifications,
  55. Panssarimuseo: Perusnayttely Armour museum : permanent exhibits www.panssarimuseo
  56. Finnish Artillery Arm in the Winter War: The railway guns
  57. LIFE magazine, 11th November 1940 Page 72 (via

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