The Åmmebergs Järnväg (ÅJ) at the north end of Lake Vättern was one of only two public railways in Sweden that were completely isolated from the national network (the other was the Göteborg-Särö Järnväg). In 1857 the Belgian La Société des Mines et Fonderies de Zinc et de la Vielle Montagne (usually known as Vielle Montagne) bought the mines in the Åmmeberg and Vena fields; the latter was just across the Åmmelången from Åmmeberg, but extraction there ceased around 1882. Extraction of iron, and later cobalt, copper, lead, silver, sulphur and zinc had taken place in the Åmmeberg area since the thirteenth century; as may be deduced from the name, zinc was the most important.
In February 1858 the ÅJ was granted a concession to build an eight-kilometre line from Åmmeberg to Zinkgruvan (also known as Nygrufvan or Nygruvan), which it opened in June 1863. The line was to carry ore from the mine to Åmmeberg for enrichment and shipping out to Belgium via the Göta Canal and Göteborg. A limited internal passenger service using a couple of coaches was operated and, for a period in the late 1880s (probably only 1887 to 1889), public goods traffic was carried. In January 1888 a concession was granted for a three-kilometre line from Zinkgruvan to Knallagruvan, which opened in April 1889. The line continued its prosaic existence until the 1960s, when between 1965 and 1967 it was modernised. New motive-power and wagons were acquired, Åmmeberg yard was rebuilt and single-manning with radio-communication was introduced; up to seven trains a day were operated. The line to Knallagruvan closed in 1970, an underground connection between Knallagruvan and the main site having been opened in 1968, and from 1973 all processing work was concentrated at Zinkgruvan. As the authorities responsible for the Göta Canal wanted to do away with all non-tourist traffic on the Vänern-Vättern section the line closed on 11 July 1975; the last train was worked by the Deutz tractor due to the failure of the Z65. The ore was carried by road to Åmmeberg until a new enrichment plant at Zinkgruvan was completed in 1977, but thereafter Otterbäcken, about 60 kilometres away on Lake Vänern, became the port. The Knallagruvan line was lifted in 1973 and the main-line soon after closure as the formation was needed for a water-pipe feeding the new enrichment plant.
The line's first loco was Carlsund, a 0-6-0T bought new in 1862 from Motala, whose first loco it was. Åmmeberg was another new 0-6-0T, being built in 1892 by NOHAB. A small accumulator-tractor arrived in from ASEA in 1911 and a new six-wheeled Deutz diesel-tractor in 1939; Carlsund had gone to the Järnvägsmuseum in 1929 after a few years of storage. In 1945 a 1912-built Vabis accumulator-tractor was bought from Idkerberget, but both accumulator-tractors were withdrawn in 1951. In 1955 a John Bergman petrol-tractor arrived: this was capable of carrying ore in bins on a flat-bed at one end and has been described as a self-propelled ore-wagon; it was intended for the Knallagruvan line, but after 1970 it was used by the PW department.
For the modernisation of the line a new Z65 tractor was bought from Kalmar in 1965 and the following year six four-wheel ore wagons, numbered M1 to M6, were supplied by Hilding Carlsson; they were that company's last railway production. Åmmeberg was only taken out of use in 1966, although it had been a reserve since 1940 and may not have been used since 1960. On closure all the rolling-stock was sold to Persöner Återvinning except for Åmmeberg, which was preserved in the old loco shed. (Reportedly, an attempt to give the loco a farewell run was thwarted when water started running out of the boiler even before any pressure was applied during the boiler test.) All the remaining older stock was scrapped; the newer wagons were probably scrapped although there have been reports that they went to the Laxå-Rofors Järnväg. The Z65 was sold to Billeruds at Grums and is now TÅGAB 208; the John Bergman tractor may also have gone to Billeruds. The Deutz tractor was cut up at Kristinehamn in 1980.
The line used the 'Austrian' coupling system with central-buffers 675 mm apart, instead of the normal 1680 mm. When the line was modified the Z65 and the new wagons were fitted with a Willison central coupler and air-brakes, but for a period the Z65 also had 'Austrian' buffers in case it had to haul older wagons, some of which had been retained as a reserve.
Industrilok i Närke; various; SJK; 1980
Järnvägsdata 1999; Aghult, Lind and Sandin; SJK; 1999
Various copies of Nordens Järnvägar and Tåg, and various websites.
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