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Iron ore train approaching the border in September.

The Norrbotten Megasystem, Norrbottens teknologiska megasystem, is a cluster of structures around the 500-kilometre long Malmbanan railway ("Iron Ore Line") in Norrbotten County in northern Sweden and Narvik in Norway, including the mines of Kiruna and Gällivare, the Porjus hydroelectric power plant, the industries in Luleå and the Boden fortress.

Many of these facilities are run by LKAB (Luossavaara-Kirunavaara Aktiebolag), a mining and manufacturing company owned by the Swedish state.


Arctic Scandinavia has been inhabited by the Sami people since time immemorial. The prelude to Swedish colonization was in 1642, at the height of the Swedish Empire, as the iron deposits were discovered. Only with 19th century technology, the ore could be transported and refined, and the Iron Ore Line opened in 1888, while Sweden and Norway were still unified. With plenty of hydroelectric power and close to no fossil fuels, the line became electrified in 1915.

Empty iron ore train pulling up the steep terrain from Narvik to the border.

Narvik is the second largest port in Norway in terms of tons exported. When Narvik was chosen as the Atlantic port for Kiruna mines, there were only a handful of small farms at the site. The town was originally called Viktoriahavn (Victoria port) after a visit by Swedish princess Victoria. The Norwegian section of the railway, called Ofotbanen or Ofoten Line, was quickly built from 1898 to 1903 despite the difficult terrain. Some sections of the line runs along steep cliffs and workers had to use ropes for safety and access. Several thousand men (known as rallare) were employed in the construction work on the Norwegian section. A small town emerged in Rombaksbotn some kilometres east of Narvik, the town had a police station, grocery stores, cafes and bakery. The Rombaksbotn town was later destroyed, abandoned and only scattered traces remain.

The Iron Ore Line came to be important for World War II in Europe, as it supplied Germany with iron. As the Germans occupied Norway, Sweden remained outside the war. The Battle of Narvik was connected to the railway and this was first major battle between Germany and the Allied after months of phony war. Narvik town was largely destroyed and several major war ships sunk in the fjord.

The hydroelectric power plants of Norrbotten allow Sweden's electric power supply to be largely fossil free, with nuclear power providing much of the remainder, for southern Sweden. As of the 2020s, wind power production is also expanding in the province, and LKAB and other companies are phasing out surplus carbon also from the chemical processes, aiming to produce the world's first carbon neutral steel.

Get around[edit]

Passenger train passing Rombaksfjorden in Norway.

Malmbanan is one of Sweden's most scenic railroads, and has both local services from Luleå to Kiruna, and long-distance trains from Stockholm. See rail and bus travel in Sweden.

E10 through Sweden and Norway is mostly parallel to the railroad.


Map of Norrbotten Megasystem
  • 1 Ofoten Museum, Administrasjonsveien 3 (Narvik), +47 76-969650.
  • 2 War Memorial Museum (Nordland Røde Kors Krigsminnemuseum), Torgsvingen 15 (Narvik). Exhibitions about the Narvik Campaign in the Second World War.
  • 3 Tornehamns cemetery (Rallarkyrkogården) (Riksgränsen). A cemetery and monument for those that died during construction of the railway line (Q10700151) on Wikidata
  • 4 Kiruna. Sweden's northernmost city, with the world's largest underground mine. As of 2020, the city is moving to make more room for the mine. Kiruna Municipality (Q499474) on Wikidata Kiruna Municipality on Wikipedia
  • 5 Esrange Space Center (in Jukkasjärvi, 45 km from the town of Kiruna, signposted from the E10 road). Run by the Swedish Space Corporation, it provides grounds for the European Space Agency and other institutions' tests and experiments, including rocket and high-altitude balloon launches. Apart from that, ESC is an important station for communication with satellites in polar orbits. The location is outstanding for observations and research of atmospheric phenomena such as northern lights, noctilucent clouds and mother-of-pearl clouds. Coffee & cookie included. Esrange (Q1368518) on Wikidata Esrange on Wikipedia
  • 6 Gällivare Museum, Storgatan 16 (Gällivare), +46 970-81 86 92. A museum of local culture and history, with an adjoined fire fighting museum.
  • 7 Porjus Hydroelectric Power Plant (Porjus). The old power station is a museum. Porjus Hydroelectric Power Station (Q2944573) on Wikidata Porjus Hydroelectric Power Station on Wikipedia
  • 8 Rödbergsfortet (Boden). One of Sweden's most important military strongholds. Rödbergsfortet (Q28934058) on Wikidata
  • 9 Norrbottens järnvägsmuseum (Luleå). A railroad museum. Norrbottens järnvägsmuseum (Q10602716) on Wikidata

See also[edit]

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