Encyclopaedia Fennica

Pikkurata, a former forestry railroad

Starts from Eskola village in Kannus, 12 km east of the town, down the Road 28. From there stretches on to the southeast for tens of kilometers as a forest road

Edellinen: Central Ostrobothnia and Central Finland border stone

Seuraava: Nurmes

The so-called Small Railroad (Pikkurata) operated in 1920-1961 and was the longest narrow-gauge railway (750 mm) in Finland constructed specifically for timber transportation. It was located in Central Ostrobothnia region in Western Finland (partially also in North Ostrobothnia), in Kannus, Toholampi, Lestijärvi and Sievi municipalities. Some traces and memories of it still remain.

Museum train (unfortunately at least the engine is unrelated to the railroad)


Forest road along the former track bed

Logging railways, common for example in the USSR (Alapaevsk, close to where I grew up, famously has a still operating one, which was up to 660 km long at its heyday), were relatively rare in Finland, probably because most commercial forest is in private, heavily fragmented ownership. This is one of the exceptions; here in thinly populated Suomenselkä watershed area much of the forest has remained state-owned. That is why it made sense for Forest Administration (Metsähallitus) to build a narrow-gauge railway here in 1919, to its own forests. The first section was only 13 km long, built entirely by hand.

State-owned commercial forests in dark green (orange/red is state-owned protected nature areas, green markers are Metsähallitus offices), current situation.  Source: https://metsahallitus.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Embed/index.html?webmap=fd5ec41e879a47c89671079b6ca41e4f
State-owned commercial forests in dark green (orange/red is state-owned protected nature areas, green markers are Metsähallitus offices), current situation. Source: https://metsahallitus.maps.arcgis.com/apps/Embed/index.html?webmap=fd5ec41e879a47c89671079b6ca41e4f

The railway started at Eskola station of Seinäjoki-Oulu regular-gauge main line, in a village that also had a timber mill. It stretched to the southeast, with two main branches to the forests of Sievi and Lestijärvi. At its longest (in 1941) the entire railroad system was 68 km long, not including temporary tracks.

Pikkurata map.  Source: https://asiakas.kotisivukone.com/files/vipustin.kotisivukone.com/Pikkurata/pr13_-_kartta3.pdf
Pikkurata map. Source: https://asiakas.kotisivukone.com/files/vipustin.kotisivukone.com/Pikkurata/pr13_-_kartta3.pdf

The railway was located away from any villages and never had passenger traffic, but over 2 million cubic meters of timber were transported over it during its lifetime. However with the development of road network the railway eventually became uneconomical and was shut down in 1961 and quickly dismantled.

The track has since turned into a forest road along its entire length. It's a private road and its owners (owners of the land along the road) charge for its regular use for through-driving by others, a very rare arrangement, which if I understand the relevant regulations correctly should not apply to tourists just occasionally briefly driving on a part of it. Some minor nature spots, e. g. Raivio rapids on Lestijoki river, are reachable only by this road.

Signs for Pikkurata along the Sievi-Toholampi road

Former Pikkurata

Payment sign

Raivio rapids on Lestijoki river in Lestijärvi, a popular fishing spot accessible only by former Pikkurata

Eskola, a village 12 km from the town of Kannus, has a population of about 200, back from 1500 at its highest in the middle of the 20th century. The railroad, including transshipment from the Pikkurata to regular-gauge carriages, employed a great number of people back in the day.

Eskola chapel

A diner and other local services in Eskola

The Pikkurata depot building has survived and is used as a village meeting place (kylätalo). Apparently there is also some tiny museum, open literally for two hours in a week in summer months only. There is also a small museum/memorial train here (obviously not moving since the track is no more), which is however not originally from Pikkurata.



Museum train

None of the four original Pikkurata steam engines survived, and the one here is Ktš-4, built in Czechoslovakia, same design as PT-4's which were originally built by Finland for the USSR as war reparations (because Finland was forced to build a lot of machinery as war reparations in 1944). It was brought here from Estonia in 1993.

Both carriages are unfortunately locked

Near a small sandy pond outside the village, where the road along the former Pikkurata actually begins, there is a second museum train. This engine is just a mockup built by a local, resembling the first engine of this railway. This place looks barely ever visited by anyone, although there's a beach and cafeteria at the tiny lake.

I guess Eskola doesn't have any better place for swimming

The carriages on the other hand are apparently original. The loaders slept in such carriages, while the loggers had camps by the railroad in the woods. One of them, Saarivesi, has also survived, but it is deeper in the forest and I didn't check it out this time.

You can actually peek inside this one

Eskola station nowadays serves only as a passing loop; there aren't any freight operations either. The station building is not in use. The village store next to the station shut down in 2016, along with its mobile store, the last one of its kind in Central Ostrobothnia. But at least the Eskola timber mill, quite small by now, is still working.

Eskola station

Former village store by the station

Former mobile store. Very few such stores are still in use in Finland

Ajo-osoite: Museum, depot, bigger museum train: Aumakuja, Eskola. Smaller museum train: Leppilammentie 6, Eskola; from there turn left onto the private road with a hand-drawn payment sign (which should not apply to you) and continue some 150 m past the tiny lake

Saavutettavuus joukkoliikenteellä: Probably only school buses to Eskola. Some Helsinki-Oulu/Rovaniemi trains stop at Kannus, from there 12 km to Eskola


Alkuperäinen Twitter-ketju: twitter.com/EncFennica/status/1679720005175324674