The Germans built a 178 km long railway with narrow gauges from Hyrynsalmi to Kuusamo during World War II. The builders were mainly Russian and Polish prisoners-of-war and German political prisoners.
In Autumn 1941, the German army began to prepare for war on the Eastern Front and launched Operation Barbarossa by cutting off the Murman Railway. The wintry conditions, however, caused extensive maintenance problems. The surprisingly intense Soviet resistance, tundra and forest terrain stopped the army from advancing. Insufficient amount of vehicles and fuel added the maintenance problems in northern Finland. To facilitate the maintenance of the German troops, a trench railway was built.
The construction of the trench railway had begun months before the official trench railway agreement was signed, on 3 September 1942. Spanning a distance of 178 km between Hyrynsalmi and Kuusamo, the narrow gauge railway of 750 mm in width was a remarkable construction project. By summer 1944, the Hyrynsalmi–Kuusamo railway comprised 208 km of operating railway, including branch terminal lines, which was about 11 % of all of the railways constructed by the Third Reich. There were also plans to continue the trench railway to Kiestinki, but that plan was never carried out. The railway was inaugurated on 13 January 1944, only to be destroyed 242 days later in September of the same year.
Route through the Isokumpu Station:
The Isokumpu Station was the biggest way station for cargo transportation between Hyrynsalmi and Kuusamo. Railway operations to Isokumpu began on 30 September 1943. The Isokumpu railway was officially introduced for operation on 13 January 1944, but it was destroyed in September of the same year during the night of the 14th and 15th.
The Isokumpu Station railway line is about a kilometer long. It begins near the monument that the municipality of Taivalkoski erected in 1994 in memory of those who built the railway. Along the path, you can see the foundations of the engine sheds, dugouts and trenches, loading docks and impressive foundation of the engine smithy.
The Inkee route:
The Inkee route is the longest route of the trench railway, and is the best choice for those who want to explore the railway by car. With a distance of about 40 km, the route has certain places that you can see on foot. These places include the Harjajoki Camp, the gates of the Klemet line, the Koitisalmi Harbor and the Sievi Camp in Inkee. The route goes along the base of the former trench railway in places, which is nowadays a road for forestry vehicles.
The Harjajoki Camp route:
The path to the Harjajoki Camp is part of the Inkee trench railway route. A branch terminal line from the trench railway ran near the Harjajoki rail switch to Matoperä in Koitijärvi, making it possible to transport goods from the Oulu-Kuusamo road in Koitila to the trench railway and vice versa. There was also a camp situated near Harjajoki along the trench railway in the environs of Peuralampi. The camp was mainly for Russian prisoners and Polish workers who maintained ferry operations and built the railway. The path to the Harjajoki Camp is about 1.5 km long. There are several dugouts and foundations of barracks and other camp structures along the path. You can also have a look at the Peuralampi prisoner burial grounds where 13 deceased are buried.
The Korvua Camp route :
The expansive Korvua Camp was situated in the area of Metsäkylä. This was a concentration of camp areas for personnel from where prisoner workers and other men were transported as needed to other camps along the trench railway. The Korvua Camp was also a place where young men were trained to fight on the battlefront. The route beginning in Palokumpu, Metsäkylä is about 6 km long, but there are several places you can visit in shorter parts and drive closer by car. Places of interest in the Metsäkylä area include a wood chopping mill, laundry, prison camp area and gallows, prisoner graveyard and a workshop for train cars. There is a covered lean-to and toilet facilities in Palokumpu that groups can rent from the village association.
Cultural Services, Cultural Manager Virve Seiteri, tel. +358 (0)40 523 2993, virve.seiteri(at)taivalkoski.fi
Palokumpu lean-to rentals:
Tuomo Horsma, tel. +358 (0)40 588 7065