I found the website of the little Anten - Gräfsnäs Railway while I was looking for information about the Göteborg area, prior to our holiday. Given the picturesque nature of the line and the fact that we would be staying nearby, not to mention our interest in railways generally, it would be a great shame to miss it. Our visit took a bit of careful planning, but it turned out to be well worth the effort. Special thanks are due to the Alingsås tourist office for the comprehensive information they provided me with in advance.
The Anten - Gräfsnäs Railway operates every weekend throughout the summer. However, the weekend is not an option for us, since we are attending the Convention. Fortunately, the Railway also operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a few weeks at the height of the summer season, so, on Tuesday, we set off.
We take a tram into the city, then the local train to Alingsås. The accommodation on the electric multiple units is basic, but clean and comfortable. The views as we travel northeast, past lakes and mountains, are quite different from any we have encountered in Sweden so far, and very beautiful. A bright, sunny, summer day makes them even more so.
Arrival in Alingsås is spot on time, at a special platform of the station backing directly onto the bus station.
Anten station is about 7km by bus from Alingsås. It should be a simple journey: alas, in this instance, it is not; and here is where the careful planning comes in. There are plenty of local buses in the morning peak, for the benefit of commuters into Göteborg; there is a good service in the afternoon and evening, too; but, oddly, there are huge gaps in the service during the late morning and early afternoon. The first afternoon bus to Anten arrives just a little too late to be able to catch the 1305 train service.
It seems we have a number of options:
None of these options seem particularly attractive, but careful study of the local bus timetable reveals another possibility. We can take a bus from Alingsås to the town of Sollebrunn, some distance away to the northeast, and another bus back by a different route to Anten. This, too, will be fairly time consuming, but at least we shall have a pleasant ride through the countryside.
Our bus to Sollebrunn leaves Alingsås at 1100, but we arrive an hour earlier so that we can explore the little town. Very charming, with some nice shops, the style typical old Swedish with wooden buildings everywhere.
We join the bus, a very long three-axle rigid vehicle like the city buses; they take quite a bit of manoeuvring around the small town streets! Our driver, an attractive young lady of typical Nordic appearance - tall and blonde - takes it all in her stride.
The run to Sollebrunn takes us through open, farming countryside, once again unlike anything we have seen in Sweden up to now. A very enjoyable excursion into places well away from the usual tourist haunts, and one that we are pleased to have taken. In Sollebrunn, there is a nice little café next to the bus station, where we have time for a snack before our return journey.
Our next bus takes us past Sollebrunn station, now disused but once part of the same narrow gauge railway network as the Anten - Gräfsnäs line. The road takes us through Gräfsnäs village and along a route parallel to the railway line before dropping us at Anten.
At first sight, there is nothing here; a bus stop at the side of a long, straight road and a road sign pointing down a side road. But, a little distance down the side road and over a level crossing, and there is the station yard. The first train from Gräfsnäs is just arriving, but we have time for a look around the museum before we climb aboard.
Our train, formed of nostalgic old style carriages with open end platforms, is hauled by a magnificently restored steam tender locomotive, of a type that once hauled trains all the way from Göteborg, through here, to many of the remoter parts of the countryside not reached by the main line railways.
A shrill whistle, a blast of steam, and we are off. The puffing of the steam locomotive and the clicking of the track soon settle down to a steady rhythm, as we catch our first glimpse of the beautiful Lake Anten. Part way through our journey, at Kvarnabo, there is a short break while our locomotive takes on water. Many of the passengers alight from the train to watch.
Another flurry of activity, another short journey and we arrive in Gräfsnäs. We watch the children hurrying to help the fireman and the guard push the big engine around on the turntable, ready for its return journey, before we stroll away to explore the castle park. I have included a picture of myself, taken in the park, just to prove that Jennifer (who features in the train interior shots) was not on her own on the Epic Journey!
The castle ruins are interesting, if rather unspectacular, but the grounds are very pleasant and the views over the sunlit lake nothing less than breathtaking. Although there are quite a number of people around, the atmosphere is very tranquil and relaxing. Our two hour stay here is most enjoyable but, eventually, we have to say goodbye to the lake and return to the train.
As we board the train, it occurs to us that this is, in a very real sense, the first step of our journey homeward. It is not quite our furthest point from Derby - that would be Sollebrunn - but it is the final destination of our last day out, and so in a certain sense the culmination of our whole journey.
The train ride back is as delightful as the outward trip. On this occasion the stop at Kvarnabo is only brief, and (all too soon!) we arrive back at Anten.
This time, the connection with the direct bus to Alingsås is a convenient one, and we soon reach Alingsås station.
The local train is slightly late, but soon whisks us back into the city: where we take a tram back to the hotel to enjoy yet another pleasant evening meal, with a fascinating day out to look back upon.