Aalborg Airport

There cannot be many international airports across the globe which can lay claim to having a seasonal steam-hauled railway service; in fact, it must be unique. In Aalborg, North Jutland, Denmark, during the months of July, August, and October, passengers have the opportunity to ride between city centre and airport terminal behind a steam locomotive dating from 1916, partly travelling upon a branch line commissioned 104-years later.

Aalborg is Denmark’s fourth largest city, located about 225-KM north west of the capital Copenhagen as the crow flies, and is situated upon the Limfjord. The latter is a channel which has connections with Kattegat and North Seas to its east and west respectively, and Aalborg sits at its narrowest point. The airport is situated approximately 6-KM north west of the city centre, within the suburb of Nørresundby, and the two have for long been linked by bus services. However, in 2013 — the year of the airport’s 75th anniversary — a public consultation opened on the prospect of providing a direct railway link between the city centre and airport, which would offer a journey time of ten minutes.

The public consultation came to a conclusion in December 2013, three months after works had been completed on expanding the airport’s international terminal. In November of the following year, the International Rail Journal (IRJ) reported that the equivalent of €500,000 had been allocated towards an environmental and technical study of the proposed airport line, with a target year of 2016 for construction to begin. However, it was not until February 2019 that the IRJ revealed that building of the airport rail link had begun, at a price tag of 276 million DKK (circa €37 million).

The airport rail link construction project was managed by “Banedanmark”, a government organisation which looks after the maintenance and operation of Denmark’s state-owned railway lines. The works included widening about 1.70-KM of the single line northwards from Lindholm station to double-track, from which was fed a 1.75-KM single-track branch line to the airport. The branch snakes its way to the airport in an “S”-shaped formation, where it terminates adjacent to the main car park alongside a 180-metre-long platform. The latter, although lacking protection from the elements, has a copious amount of lampposts, and provision has been made for a second track to be commissioned on its opposite side to enable the station to accommodate two trains at any one time.

In Railway Gazette International during December 2020, it was revealed that scheduled railway services to Aalborg Airport would commence on 13th of that month, to coincide with a timetable change. From the outset, diesel traction has been used on the route, but the ultimate aim is to have the airport branch electrified and operated on the "European Rail Traffic Management System" (ERTMS) by 2026. One platform face came into use with the new service, but a second track was evident, although the latter had not been physically connected to the branch line by that time.

Click the above for a larger version. © David Glasspool

1st August 2021

The station had been open just seven-and-a-half months when this view was captured at midday, looking south east. The signs on lamppost indicate two platform faces (or "tracks") being available, although just No. 1, on the right, was available from the outset. The road on the right, beyond the fencing, is the main access route to the airport terminals. There cannot be many airport stations in the world which enjoy a seasonal timetabled steam train. © Dr Grzegorz Pacyk

1st August 2021

This is 2-6-0 No. 34 of the FFJ series of steam locomotives, which was built by firm "Henschel & Son" in Kassel, Central Germany, in 1916. The engine's home today is a semi-roundhouse shed located about half a mile south of Aalborg station, on the eastern side of the railway tracks. No. 34 forms part of the "Limfjordsbanen" heritage operation, which during 2021 advertised three timetables for steam-hauled services on selected days during July, August, and October. The routes offered from the city included as far north as Aalborg Airport, to Aalborg Østhavn (the docks) to the east, and to Skørping, the latter about 26-route-KM south of Aalborg station. © Dr Grzegorz Pacyk