Lost lines, lost history? Amagerbanen

Update, July 2015: came across a handy piece on Amagerbanen in Tårnby, plus see Amagerbanens Venner

A recent Sunday outing took us to a lost railway line, Amagerbanen, on the island of Amager a stone’s throw from central Copenhagen and on the fringes of a new housing development.

I’d assumed there were only ever buses on Amager prior to the arrival of the metro, but discovered from radio programme Natursyn back in November that a railway was constructed from Amagerbro in the north west all the way down to Dragør at the south eastern tip of the island as long ago as 1907. A trip on the Amager railway originally heralded a day in the country, and its maintenance also came in handy as one of the spurious workplaces devised to keep locals busy during the Second World War. But passenger traffic ceased back in 1947, replaced in some parts by buses, with the line used solely for freight as far as Kastrup up to 1991. The metro has now taken over the track south of Øresundsvej down to the airport, with Øresundsvej station dismantled, possibly to rise again at Denmark’s Open Air Museum.

Amagerbanen is currently in the news because the remaining old tracks are to be pulled up to make way for the holiest of holies, a super cycle path. The path will run between Lergravsparken and Prags Boulevard, accommodating the hordes of eager biking commuters moving into the new high density apartment complexes under construction in the area. Anthropologist Majken Hviid has led walks along the railway in the hope that the old can be integrated into the new, perhaps in the same way as in the Islands Brygge waterfront park in central Copenhagen.

Truth to tell there is little left here for a true psychogeographical musing, the transitions are just too abrupt. Just as at nearby Refshaleøen, the industrial buildings around Ved Amagerbanen, a road following the railway lined with factories and other industrial buildings, tell the story of Copenhagen’s recent history but are out of tune with the city’s post-industrial branding. A few hang on, sometimes with temporary uses which may become permanent, sometimes incorporated into the new as a shiny shell.

You do wonder about development control hereabouts. The flat nature of Copenhagen means it is largely void of terrain, with unsightly areas simply sliding out of sight until they get in the way. The chief attraction in this area is Amager Strand, a colossus of an artificial beach. Within paddling distance is Prøvestenen, a former fort standing on yet more reclaimed land, still in use for the storage of petroleum and an obstinate reminder of the past.

Meanwhile the current fashion for one-note residential solutions, as shown at KADK’s Housing and welfare exhibition, is leading to an ever more predicatable and uninteresting cityscape.

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