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DANISH RAILWAY GEOGRAPHY
By Rory Wilson
This article dates from 1994 and therefore predates the Great Belt and Öresund bridges.
Denmark consists of the northern 2/3 of the peninsula of Jylland (Jutland) and about 400 islands. The country is effectively split in two by the Storebælt (Great Belt) which passes between the islands of Sjælland (Zeeland) and Fyn (Funen). The country's railways reflect this split, and DSB -Danske Statsbaner - has long been divided into two zones, East and West. (This in turn reflects the original ownership of the railways - the Stat Railways of Jylland-Fyn in the west, and the Sjælland Railway Co. in the east - Ed). DSB runs trains on seven islands, as well as on Jylland. There are private railways on a further island, and soon DSB will be running trains on another one - but more of this later
This is based on København, and consists of a main line running west via Roskilde, Ringsted and Slagelse to Korsør, from whence runs the train ferry to Fyn. A secondary main line runs from Roskilde northwest to Kalundborg via Holbæk; this carries boat trains - mostly IC3 worked - to connect with a recently introduced hydrofoil to Aarhus, as well as outer-surburban services. Running north from København is the "Kystbane" to Helsingør (Hamlet's Elsinore) which carries a few trains to Sweden and Norway as well as a frequent suburban service. Another main line runs south from Ringsted via Næstved and Vordingborg to Nykøbing F. (The F indicates that it lies on the island of Falster, and is not to be confused with the other Nykobings (i.e. Newmarket) in Denmark). It then runs across the island of Lolland to Rødby, from where there is a train ferry to Puttgarten in Germany. This last section is interesting as it was not opened until 1963 and has never had any intermediate stations, just remotely controlled passing loops. South from Nykøbing F is a line to Gedser which carries two trains daily to Berlin and beyond via the train ferry to Warnemunde, near Rostock. In addition there are a handful of local trains, but no regular goods traffic. This line was - until the line to Rødby was opened - the main route to Hamburg, as a train ferry also used to run from Gedser ti Grossenbrode, near Oldenburg in Germany. The only local line is one which makes a dog-leg from Roskilde to Næstved via Køge, although this does have a couple of through peak-hour trains to København. There is a goods-only line from Slagelse to Gørlev via Høng ( the Slagelse-Høng section is also used by the HTJ - see below). A disused line runs from Slagelse to Næstved via Dalmøse, which may be reopened wholly or in part. In the København area us a short goods-only line onto the island of Amager, and lines allowing freight trains to reach the main yard at Dybbølsbro without reversal - the yard curves south away form the main line alongside the S-bane to Køge - or to the yards at Lersøen (Norrebrø) and Østerport. This latter handles traffic for the train ferry from Frihavn to Sweden including the "Danlink" service; trains reach Østerport by using the S-tog line between Vanløse and Lersøen. Until recently much marshalling of goods traffic to and from Sweden was done at Lersøen, but now that Østerport has taken over, there is little work left there.
"S-TOG" This is a 1500v Dc suburban system which is run by DSB on behalf of HT (hovedstadsområdets Trafikselskab the Greater Copenhagen traffic authority). It uses independent lines with a truck section between Dybbølsbro and Svanemøllen via København H (main station) and the city centre. Southbound trains can continue along the coast to Køge, west alongside the main lines to Høje Tåstrup, or north west via Vanløse and Ballerup to Frederikssund. Northbound trains continue to either Farum, Hillerød or Klambenborg. A shuttle service runs from Frederiksberg to Hellerup, with an intermediate reversal at Vanløse. This service, which then continued to Klambenborg, was the first section of the S-Tog system, opening on 3rd April 1934. Also in the S-Tog system, although worked by diesel units, is the "Little Nord" line from Hillerød to Helsingør. Goods trains also run over this section and over other S-Tog lines to reach such places as Frederiksberg.
In the north of Sjælland is the Gribskovbanen (GB) with a line north from Hillerød, branching to serve Tisvildeleje and Gillelele. The latter is also servced by the HHGJ, from Helsingør via Hornbæk (well worth seeing for it's roadside running in Halsingør - Ed). Running west out of Hillerød is the HFHJ to Frederiksværk and Hundested, which has a common management with the GB. The GB has a little goods traffic, the HFHJ a great deal, mostly the steel works at Frederiksværk. The HHGJ is passenger only. Also passenger-only is the LNJ (Lyngby-Nærum Jernbane) from Jægersborg S-Tog station to Nærum, in København's northern suburbs. South of København is the ØSJS (Østsjællandske Jernbaneselskab or Østbanen) which runs both passenger and goods trains from Køge to Fakse Ladeplads, with a branch from Haarlev to Rødvig. In western Sjælland are the associated OHJ (Odsherreds Jernbane) from Holbæk to Nykøbing S, and HJT (Høng Tølløse Jernbane; this runs over DSB metals between Slagelse and Høng, and Tølløse and Holbæk. The joint OHJ/HTJ depot is at Hølbæk. Both lines work some goods traffic, as well as passenger trains. There is also the Lollandsbanen (LJ), which starts at Nykøbing F and then runs the length of Lolland to Nakskov. It also has a goods branch from Maribo to Brandholm (also used by a preservation group) and a mothballed line from Maribo to Holeby. The main LJ line sees both goods and passenger trains, the latter including DSB IC3s.
The main line west from København is double track all the way to Korsør, with some multiple track around the capital and between Høje Tåstrup and Roskilde. The line south from Ringsted is double as far as Vordingborg, as is the Lystbane from København to Helsingør, the Kalundborg line as far as Lejre and from Vipperød to Holbæk, and most of the København goods lines. The rest of the DSB system is single track. The S-Tog lines are double throughout, except for the "Lille Nord" and Ballerup-Frederikssund. All the private lines are single track. The S-Tog lines are all electrified at 1500V DC overhead, apart from the "Lille Nord". Helsingør-København-Kørsor is electrified at 25kV AC, as are some of the København goods lines.
The only tunnel is the cut-and-cover one through København, which includes Denmark's only underground station at Nørreport. The most notable bridge is the 3200m long Storsrømsbroen, opened in 1937, from the small island of Masnedø, south of Vordingborg, across to the island of Falster.
The main line in the west zone runs from Nyborg - where the train ferry from Korsør docks - west across Fyn via Odense, Tommerup and Middelfart. It then crosses over the Lillebælt (Little Belt) to Fredericia, and heads up Jylland via Vejle, Horsens and Skanderborg to Aarhus. Northbound trains must reverse at Aarhus before continuing via Langå, Randers, Hobro, Aalborg and Hjørring, and then head east to terminate at Frederikshavn. A secondary main line runs west from Fredericia to Kolding and Lunderskov and thence either west via Bramminge to Esbjerg, or south via Vojens, Rødekro and Tinglev to Padborg on the German border. A branch runs from Tinglev to Sønderborg. A curver has recently been opened between Snoghøj to Taulov, south of Fredericia to allow trains from Fyn to run towards Kølding without reversing at Fredericia. Other secondary main lines run northwest from Vejle via Herning and Holstebro to Stuer, and roughly west from Langå via Viborg and Skive to Struer. font>
The only branch line in Fyn with a passenger service runs south from Odense via Ringe to Svendborg. In west Jylland there is the line south from Bramminge via Ribe to Tønder, and one running from Esbjerg via Varde, Skjern, Ringkøbbing and Vemb to Holstebro. In central Jylland lines run west from Skanderborg via Silkeborg and Ikast to Herning, southwest from Herning to Skjern, and roughly northwest from Struer to Thisted. A further branch runs from Aarhus on roadside trackage through the harbour area, and then via Hornslet and Royomgård to Grenå; there is a fairly intensive suburban service between Aarhus and Hornslet.
On Fyn there are goods lines from Ringe to Korinth, Tommerup to Assens, and Middelfart to Strib. In southern Jylland goods lines run from Rødekro to Aabenrå, Vøjens to Haderslev and Tinglev to Tønder. From the latter place a line runs across the border to Niebull, but this is effectively disused. At Sønderborg the harbour branch runs over the Alssundbroen, giving a rail link to the island of Als.
Elsewhere in Jylland, goods lines run northeast from Bramminge to Grindsted, and Viborg north to Løgstor (this may recently have closed). Another line runs from Randers Ryomgærd, but this effectively disused between Strømmen (on the edge of Randers) and Pindstrup; the short section thence to Ryomgærd may be downgraded to a private siding. Also at Randers is a line giving access to the ABB Scandia rolling stock factory on the north side of town (home of the IC3 DMUs), whilst in Aalborg a short line runs around the south side of the city to Grønlands Havn.
Whilst Fyn once had an extensive network of private lines, the survivors are all now on Jylland. North of the Limfjord - the long river and lake system that cost right across Jylland north of Aalborg and Struer are the Skagensbanen (SB) from Frederikshavn to Skagen, and Hjørring Privatbaner (HP) from Hjørring to Hirsthals. The SB has recently seen an increase in goods traffic (from a very low base), whilst the HP has a healthy freight business due to the train ferry (goods only) from Hirsthals to Kridtiansand in Norway. South of Aarhus is the HHJ (Hads-Ning Herreders Jernbane) from Aarhus to Odder; this has now only a limited goods traffic. On the east coast are the VLTJ (Vemb-Lamvig-Thyborøn Jernbane) - with some goods traffic remaining - and the VNJ (Varde-Nørre Nebel Jernbane or "Vestbanen"). This has a heavy, is irregular, goods traffic, mainly because it works two government (i.e. military) lines; an extension from Nørre Nebel to Nymindegab and a branch to Oksbøl Syd.
The lines from Nyborg to Fredericia and on to Padborg, as well as the Snoghøj-Taulov curve, are currently being electrified at 25kV AC.
The main line from Nyborg to Aalborg is double track throughout, as is the line from Fredericia to Ebsjerg. The line south from Lunderskov is only double for the first couple of kilometres to Vamdrup, but doubling throughout to Padborg is planned in conjunction with the electrification. All the rest, including the private lines, is single track. There are now no tunnels, the last having been on the Skive-Glyngøre line, which closed about 1980. The main bridges are the 1178m long Lillebæltsbroen between Middelfart and Fredericia, opened in 1935, the 472m long Oddesundsbroen north of Struer, and the Limfjordsbroen north of Aalborg - these both date from 1938. The latter replaced a bridge of 1878, and contains parts of a dismantled bridge from Kalvøvej, near Frederikssund, on the line to Hvalsø in Sjælland. This line closed in 1936, after only 8 years of use.
DSB's most important internal service is the rail-only link between Korsør and Nyborg, which links the two halves of the main line. There are also train ferries from Helsingør to Hälsingborg in Sweden, operated jointly with SJ; these are passenger only, as the joint DSB-SJ goods service uses the Hälsingborg-Københavns Frihavn link. There are two services to Germany, from Rødby to Puttgarten, and from Gedser to Warnemunde. Prior to the recent merge, these connected with DB and DR respectively.
DSB runs a number of other ferry services purely for road vehicles - Halsskov-Knudshoved (parallel to Korsør-Nyborg), Bøjden (Fyn)-Fynshav (Als), Esbjerg-Nordby (Fano), Kalundborg-Kolby Kås (Samse) and the Aarhus-Kalundborg "Hurtigrute" (fast route). This uses the notorious ships "Ask" and "Urd" which when new to the route (i.e. 10 years old) in 1991 had serious problems; one day the evening TV news had a reporter standing on a building in Aarhus reporting on whether the ferry arrived! However, they now seem to be working reasonably satisfactorily. Recently, DSB and Cittiships introduced a fast hydrofoil service for foot passengers on the same route.
Non-DSB train ferries run from Hirsthals to Kristiansand (Norway) and from Frederikshavn to Göteborg (Sweden), both being goods only. There is also a private ferry from Svendborg to Aerøskøbing (Aerø), where a road tractor can shunt wagons of the few hundred metres of track on the island - a real oddity.
A road-rail bridge from Fyn to the island of Sprogø in the Sorebealt has recently been completed; trains will continue to Sjælland through a rail-only tunnel currently under construction, whilst road traffic will use a high bridge. The rail link is expected to open at the beginning of 1996, and will see the end of the Korsør-Nyborg ferry, as well as revolutionising DSB by providing a fixed link between the two zones. The road bridge will open two years later, thus ending the Halsskov-Knodshoved ferry.
There are also plans to build a bridge and tunnel from Amager to Malmö in Sweden. When, or perhaps if, this is completed it is likely that the Frihavn- Hälsingborg ferry would cease and the Helsingør-Hälsingborg become road only. There is also a plan for a bridge from Rødby to Puttgarten which, with line improvements, could bring the København-Hamburg time down to 2 hours. This would leave Gedeser-Warnemude as the last passenger train ferry, but doubts have already been expressed about this service's long-term future.
Other projects include a light-rail system in København, from Frederiksberg through the city to Kastrup airport on the island of Amager. Further main line electrification is also likely and track upgrading which would allow times of 2 hours København-Aarhus and 3 hours København-Aalborg.
The main DSB works for the east zone is at København (Dybbølsbro), and that for the west zone at Aarhus (Sonnesgade). Both works deal with their own zonal motive power and stock, except that MZ-class locos are solely dealt with in Aarhus (overhauls, rebuilds, etc.). S-Tog stock is mostly dealt with at Tåstrup, and occasionally at Aarhus, and there is a wagon works at Nyborg. There are a number of small depots and stabling points throughout the system.
I hope that this article has provided information about Danish railways that will be of help to those whose knowledge has been mainly gained from maps.
And those islands? According to my reckoning, trains run on Sjælland, Fyn and Lolland, Falster, Als, Amager and Masnedø, and will soon also be running on Sprogø. Finally there are also sidings - although not a railway "system", nor motive power part from a road tractor - on Aerø.