Brottets bana—a life of crime

In the southern part of Malmö is the quiet suburb of Limhamn, where we lived for a few months 15 years ago. In times past, Limhamn’s prosperity was underpinned by trade in two abundant commodities: herrings and limestone. Even the name of the town, lim hamn, means “lime harbour”.

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Limestone was used in cement manufacture

The quarry from which the limestone was extracted is called the kalkbrott (chalk quarry) and is the biggest hole in the ground in northern Europe, extending over a square kilometre to a depth of 65 metres. I took some of these photos in January of this year and some in July. No prizes for guessing which is which!

As most of the excavation is well below sea level, the floor of the kalkbrott may well be the lowest-lying land in Sweden. Since its abandonment, it has been left to nature and the various levels have been recolonised by vegetation.

The limestone mined here was transported by a private narrow-gauge railway to a cement factory on the coast. Initially, the trains were drawn by horses, later with steam. In the 1960s, 2 km of the route was replaced with conveyor belts in an underground tunnel. Mining at the quarry ended in the 1990s, but the disused rail tracks still remained when we lived here in 2001. The tracks, fencing and signalling were removed in 2008 and the wayleave reverted to the city in 2009.

Compare these two photos taken 15 years apart:

Both photos show the Methodist church on the corner of Kalkbrottsgatan and Linnégatan in the centre of Limhamn. The one on the left, taken in the autumn of 2001, shows the railroad crossing signal and boom, and the tracks running along the street. In the photo on the right, taken this weekend, the rail line has been converted to a cycle track.

There used to be warning signs on the line saying “Gå ej i brottets bana“, which is a very clever double meaning. It straightforwardly means “don’t walk on the quarry railway”; but it also means “don’t embark on a life of crime”.

It’s a little ironic therefore that both the quarry and the cement factory have featured as scenes of crime in Nordic TV dramas. The very moving Wallander film Hemligheten (Secrets) opens with the discovery of a murdered boy in the kalkbrott. And the cement factory served as a suitably grim industrial setting for at least one typically tense episode of The Bridge.

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