Inlandsbanan 8: Tis Better to Travel Hopefully Than to Arrive

The next installment in my series about Sweden, and the finale to the sub-series about the Inlandsbanan experience.


Welcome to the latest installment in my series of posts about my recent holiday in Sweden, and the end of the sub-series of posts about my northward journey along Inlandsbanan.


By this stage we were nearing the end of the journey from Ostersund to Gallivare, although there was still the second meal stop to come. In the brief period between restarting the trip from the edge of the arctic circle and arriving at Vaikijaur for the second meal stop we passed a place called Jokkmokk.


Vaikijaur was not especially memorable, although the food was excellent. Here are the pictures I took.

A side view of this quirky little building
The front view
The people who had produced our food.

We had no further significant stops before Gallivare although we did pass through a town called Porjus. The train pulled into the platform at Gallivare exactly as scheduled at 21:39. Here are the photos of the last part of the journey…



I had booked two nights at the Hotel Dundret i Centrum, planning then to take a morning train to Lulea on the Gulf of Bothnia and then an overnight train from Lulea to Uppsala, birthplace of Carolus Linnaeus also known as Carl Von Linne. However, while I located the establishment in question, there was no one at reception, and it turned out that to gain access my room I needed to make a call on a mobile phone (had mentioned this detail I would have booked somewhere else) and I had accidentally left mine at the flat in Stockholm where my cousin and his fiance live. I waited a few minutes in the very unimpressive communal seating area just in case but it was soon obvious that no one would show up.

While I could have sat there until the morning doing so would then involve having an argument over payment because there was no way I would pay for a night in which I had not access to my room, so I decided to cut my losses and headed back to the station to wait the night out. Before continuing this story here is the one photo I took in Gallivare (I knew the camera battery was low, and that I would not be able to charge it that night).


This sculpture is on the roundabout just opposite the station in Gallivare.

I did make a couple of attempts to get some sleep but they were unsuccessful. I was thankful that I had had the foresight to pack a long sleeved top just in case the Swedish summer weather was not quite as good as it might be, since while it does not get dark in Gallivare in August it does get quite nippy at night (as a cricket fan I would have said that the light was  never even at its least good unplayable in). Had the sky been clear I might have had a glimpse of the famous midnight sun, but as it was solidly cloudy I was denied even that small pleasure.

At 6 o’clock I was able to get inside and think about my next move. Having ascertained that train tickets could be bought at the Pressbyran next to the station, which was now open, I paid for a ticket on 7:08 train to Lulea (the full price since I did not wish to burn a whole day’s travel for a shortish journey – btw train tickets are one of the few things that are not more expensive in Sweden than in GB – the Swedes don’t have the likes of Branson coining it from failing to provide proper train services), having decided that I would get back on track with my original plans by staying overnight in Lulea and catching the sleeper as intended the following day.


I rate this as one of the finest railway experiences I have ever had. I encountered some wonderfully scenic journeys in Scotland and on my first visit to Nordic lands many years ago. More recently I experienced some very scenic journeys in Australia, including Melbourne – Adelaide.

Although I, with my Colbeckian enthusiasm for all things railwayana thoroughly enjoyed all three legs of the Inlandsbanan journey and would recommend the experience to anyone I could also see merit in missing the Kristinehamn-Mora section and doing Mora-Ostersund and Ostersund-Gallivare having found some other route to Mora. If not constrained by budget I would recommend the onward trip from Gallivare to Narvik and some exploration in Norway as well. I also mention that there are places along the route where one could stay overnight if wanted to spend many days over making the journey, but with an inter-rail pass giving me eight days of travel and a desire to see as much of Sweden as I could encompass such was not on the table for me personally.

If anyone involved in the publication of the Rough Guide to Sweden happens to see this may I suggest that you think about turning my last eight blog posts into a chapter about Inlandsbanan since it is absurd that this incredible experience is not covered in your pages.

The Railway Detective, Part 2: Books 5-8


Welcome the second of three posts I shall be producing about The Railway Detective. The previous post covered four of the books and can be viewed here. As I warned in the introduction to that post, this is laden with spoilers. I hope you will all enjoy this post and be encouraged to share it.



The Iron Horse refers to locomotives, but this story is also deeply concerned with flesh and blood horses, since it involves a crime that occurred during the Derby. Colbeck, operating with his usual flair and persistence, and with the assistance of the inevitable Leeming is able to bring a series of horrible crimes home to Lord Hendry.


A derailment near Balcombe is the initial incident that opens this story. The railway police in the person of Captain Harvey Ridgeon reckon that the accident was caused by driver error. However, unlike Ridgeon was has formed an opinion and bends every new fact to fit that opinion, Colbeck notes that the driver of that particular train was known for caution, that he managed to instruct his fireman to jump off before the disaster struck, and that a section of track had been deliberately loosened. Colbeck also identifies two passengers on that train who had enemies, although it turns out that there was a third passenger on that train whose behaviour had caused one particular individual to want revenge on both him and the train that he regularly used. The book ends with Ridgeon, his errors cruelly exposed, apologising to Colbeck.



A silver coffee pot in the shape of a locomotive, commissioned by a wealthy family in Cardiff goes missing, and the man entrusted with delivering it from London to Cardiff is found murdered. The young man identified as the murder victim is Hugh Kellow, apprentice to the silversmith Leonard Voke, and the original suspect is Voke’s disinherited son Stephen. Colbeck traces Voke junior and soon establishes that he is not the murderer. Having to rethink the entire case, Colbeck arrives at the notion the murder victim was not Kellow, but someone who looked similar and could be used to send the police down a blind alley. A trip to Birmingham’s jewellery quarter ensues, for which Colbeck enlists both the official assistance of Leeming and the unofficial assistance of Madeleine Andrews. The trip to Birmingham yields Kellow and his accomplice Bridget Haggs, a.k.a Effie, a.k.a Mrs Vernon. Additionally, Madeleine Andrews and Robert Colbeck become engaged. This book also introduces us to actor-manager Nigel Buckmaster, subsequently to provide Colbeck with valuable assistance in at least two further cases.



Unlike almost every other book and story in the series there is no element of ‘who done it?’ about this story – it is a case of ‘will they get away with it?’. The action opens with Jeremy Exley being conveyed from Wolverhampton to Birmingham to be imprisoned. A young lady named Irene Adnam, his lover and accomplice, kills one of the two policemen guarding him, assists in the killing of the other and the disposal of the two bodies. The crimes having been committed on the railway, Colbeck is involved from the start. Colbeck has an extra reason to bring this case to a successful conclusion, since it was Exley who was responsible for him becoming a policeman in the first place. Colbeck had been a barrister, and in that role persuaded a young women who witnessed a robbery carried out by Exley to give evidence in court. Exley responded by murdering the young woman in a particularly horrible way.

Eventually, after a chase that leads all the way to America, the villains are run to earth, and Colbeck succeeds in dividing them by telling Irene the story of the earlier murder in full detail.


The Railway Detective, Part 1: Books 1-4


As well as my title piece I have a couple of important links to share. I have mentioned the Railway Detective, Inspector Robert Colbeck, in various previous posts without going into much detail. Today I am devoting a whole post to him and his exploits, which will be the first of a three such posts. WARNING: THE REST OF THIS POST IS FULL OF SPOILERS.



This book, with the title that becomes a supertitle for the whole series, is the one that introduces Inspector Colbeck, his sidekick Sergeant Leeming, their irascible and dictatorial ex-army boss Superintendent Edward Tallis. The opening crime of the series features train driver Caleb Andrews as one of the victims, and also introduces us therefore to his remarkable daughter Madeleine who becomes one of the key characters in the series.

The initial crime, while serious enough in itself is but a part of much wider scheme hatched by a stalwart opponent of the railway network whose initial hostility to the new development has been inflamed beyond the point of insanity by the death of his wife which he blames on the railways. Another element of the master plan was to sabotage the Great Exhibition by blowing up the locomotives that formed a big part of it.

It is after Colbeck has protected the Great Exhibition and brought the villains to justice that the nickname by which he will be known for evermore “The Railway Detective” is bestowed on him. This book also introduces yet another running theme, the permanent friction between Colbeck and Tallis which regularly flares into open flames.


A murder committed on an excursion train (hence the title) leads to the uncovering of a grotesque miscarriage of justice in which the wrong person was hanged for a murder and the unmasking of the person who saw someone hanged in his place.

Madeleine Andrews provides her first unofficial service to Scotland Yard, Colbeck making use of her communication skills and her sex to gain extra information from a female who he feels has not told him all that she might. Knowing his Superintendent’s view of women, Colbeck is careful to make sure that Tallis does not find out about this.

The details that emerge of the first murder victim, particularly those associated with his role as hangman (hence the trail to the miscarriage of justice), are such as render him as unsympathetic a murder victim as any in detective fiction (with the possible exception of the loathsome Enoch J Drebber in A Study in Scarlet).

Time for my first picture (delayed because my copies of the first three books in this series are in omnibus form)…



The viaduct of the title is the Sankey Viaduct near Liverpool, and the story begins with someone being thrown out of a train and over the side of the viaduct to his death. It so happens that an accomplished artist was present preparing to paint a picture of the train crossing the viaduct, so as well as spoken evidence Colbeck gets a clear picture of the scene.

When it emerges that the victim was a French railway engineer making a clandestine visit to Liverpool, Colbeck’s follow up action takes him to France, where with the regular assistance of Leeming and the unapproved assistance of Brendan Mulryne he thwarts a sabotage scheme intended to prevent the completion of a railway there.

A fanciful sketch by a second fine artist, Madeleine Andrews, fires a synapse in the Colbeck brain that puts him wise to the motive for the crime.

It turns out that the scheme is the brainchild of an embittered old man who fought at the battle of Waterloo, and who was unable to adapt to the notion that the French were no longer deadly enemies. It was a planned extension of the French railway to Cherbourg, a port and the site of an arsenal, that our villain could not stomach.


This one opens with a particularly gruesome suicide (achieved by walking into the path of a train). In the course of investigating the crime Colbeck discovers that the victim was driven to suicide by the murder of his wife. The locals are all certain that the husband was the killer and committed suicide because he was unable to live with his actions, and have closed their minds to other possibilities. Colbeck is able to establish that the husband was not the killer of his wife, and to locate the real killer.

This book also features a battle with a particularly unpleasant specimen of the clergy who is determined to bar the suicide victim from burial alongside his wife, to the extent of defying the law. It turns out that this person has been responsible for sending poison pen letters (dictated to his wife, so it is her handwriting that Colbeck identifies) to the man who killed himself, so Colbeck is able to force him to resign his ministry.



These books contain a wonderful mix of fast paced action, plot twists and a large measure of railway lore. The characters of Colbeck, Leeming, Tallis, and Caleb and Madeleine Andrews, who feature in every book in the series are well developed. While it would be pretty difficult for a combination of detective fiction and railways not to appeal to me, nevertheless, these books are particularly outstanding.


Just the two links today, firstly to the latest on the Justice for Kayleb campaign and secondly to a petition that now has somewhere around three million signatures calling for an end to the piece of barbarity known as the Yulin Dog Meat Festivial

Special Post: Euston and Euston Square


Welcome to the latest installment in my series “London Station by Station“. I am treating these two together because they are so close to one another that it makes no sense to split them up.


Euston Square, served nowadays by the Circle, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan lines is one of the 1863 originals, and as with Baker Street has been restored to look as it would have done when first opened. The City and South London Railway station at Euston was opened on May 12th 1907 and the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway on June 22nd 1907. These two together are now the Northern line, and occupy four platforms here – although widely separated – to change between the two branches you would be well advised to continue northwards to Camden Town where the interchange is cross-platform. The Victoria line station opened on December 1st 1968.

The southbound platform on the Bank branch of the Northern line is very wide at this station because when it was opened as the City and South London Railway station there were two tracks either side of an island platform (an arrangement still in evidence at Clapham Common and Clapham North), and the extra width of that platform comes from the reorginastion when this arrangement was deemed unsuitable for such a busy station.


Euston was the first of London’s railway terminals to open, serving the London and North Western Railway, and it was on that route that Edward Marston’s greatest creation, The Railway Detective (a.k.a Inspector Robert Colbeck) investigated the case that first earned him that title (and introduced him to his future wife). These stories are set thus far) in the 1850s, before the opening of the Metropolitan Railway in 1863, but I could see Colbeck still being in business when that momentous event occurs. He would undoubtedly embrace the underground railway wholeheartedly, although his colleague Sergeant Leeming would take some persuading of its virtues!


I hope that you have enjoyed this post and will be inspired to share it. Here are a couple of pictures to finish…

A close up of the key area
The Diagrammatic History
The Diagrammatic History

Books and Other Stuff

A brief mention of the Strictly final, and Alastair Cook’s replacement as England ODI captain followed by some stuff about books and accompanied as usual by pictures.

Before moving on to the main theme of this post there a couple of other issues I wish to touch on first.

Strictly Come Dancing is over for another year. Caroline Flack and Pasha Kovalev won the vote (in the final, judges scores are given for guidance only, the outcomes resting solely on the public vote) as they jolly well should having clocked up perfect 40s from the judges in each of their last four routines, including all three in the final. Besides these four the only other perfect score of the series was achieved by Simon Webbe and Kristina Rihanoff in the last couple dance of the series. Frankie Bridge and Kevin Clifton with two 39s and a 38 were third best on the night.

The second item on my agenda that England have finally acted over the One Day International captaincy, replacing Alastair Cook with Eoin Morgan. Cook is a magnificent test match cricketer but in limited overs matches, especially on good batting pitches, he does not score quickly enough. Not only do I think a change had to be made, I am certain that the selectors have made the right decision about the new captain.

I have decided to write about something that is important to me but which I have not often covered in this blog: books. I am going to focus my attention on an old favourite and two new discoveries.

Starting with the old favourite, Edward Marston’s “Railway Detective” series dovetails neatly with two of my areas of interest, detective fiction and railways, and as such was a sure fire winner. Even so, i never cease to be impressed by just how good the stories are and just how much I enjoy reading them. I do not know how long a period the series will eventually cover, but it has already spanned most of the 1850s. 1863 would be a significant year in this context, because of the opening of the world’s first underground railway.

My second port of call is another fictional series, Laurie King’s  remarkable Mary Russell/ Sherlock Holmes series. I was originally very sceptical because in the original Holmes stories he is very much not the marrying kind. However, in spite of the implausibility of Holmes marrying, the series works spectacularly well, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone.

Finally, moving away from detective fiction and indeed from fiction we have Clifford Pickover’s “The Zen of Magic Squares, Circles & Stars”. This provided me with reading material for three bus journeys (unusual for a book to occupy me that long) and is of more specialised interest than my other two mentions, but the patterns contained within it are fascinating.

I have some photos to share with you – one thign you will notice if you look at the front cover shots of the books – all are library books, and I am happy to pay a tribute to Norfolk Libraries for continuing to provide a good service in difficult circumstances.

This is what I created to make my 10,000th tweet a bit special!
This is what I created to make my 10,000th tweet a bit special!
The next seven pictures are from the Pickover book.
The next seven pictures are from the Pickover book.

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A front cover shot of one of the Laurie King books.
A front cover shot of one of the Laurie King books.
One of Edward Marston's Railway Detective books.
One of Edward Marston’s Railway Detective books.
Cover shot of the Pickover Book.
Cover shot of the Pickover Book.