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Large infrastructural systems in the extreme north: learning from the build-up of water- and wastewater systems and railway electrification in northern Sweden at the turn of the 19th century
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Business Administration, Technology and Social Sciences, Social Sciences.
2009 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Infrastructural systems delivering gas, water and electricity, facilitating transports and communications as well as the gathering and treatment of sewage, have been critical in the development of modern society during the 19th and 20th centuries. They have largely contributed to economic and social welfare, but have also caused considerable environmental impacts over time. Contemporary strategies towards a more sustainable society therefore often include changes in existing infrastructural systems as well as conscious choices when it comes to the investment in new infrastructural systems. The present paper builds on the assertion that expanded knowledge on how, why and with what consequences the infrastructural systems were built up in the past, can provide us with novel perspectives on how to govern the challenges of today.In this paper we study the building-up of two infrastructural systems in the northernmost part of Sweden at the turn of the 19th century, where the harsh climate added an extra dimension to the technological challenges. The systems are: (a) the water- and wastewater system of the town of Luleå, then, the northernmost water- and wastewater system in Sweden and probably in the world; and (b) the electrification of Riksgränsbanan Railway (the Frontier Railway), the northernmost railway line in Sweden and the first major section of a state-owned railway to be electrified. The investments made by the municipality of Luleå and the Swedish State Railways (in close cooperation with a number of private companies), were both bold and radical in that relevant technologies still were in a ‘development stage'. Moreover, the harsh and cold climate due to the geographical location added an extra dimension to the technological challenges. The municipality in particular, but also the Swedish State Railways and connected private companies, lacked the necessary in-house expertise. The technological challenges were however dealt with in considerable different ways by the local and the national organization, respectively. Water- and wastewater systems had never before been constructed in the extreme north. Furthermore, considerable achievements within the bacteriology and hydrology fields did contribute to a continued significant development of the water/wastewater technology still at the turn of the 19th century. The municipality needed to rely on external expertise and its ability to get hold of new scientific knowledge and apply this in the system design. What concerns the electrification of the Riksgränsbanan Railway, it was in many ways a trailblazing project where whole new technologies had to be developed and launched on a rather troublesome railway in close cooperation between the Swedish State Railways and a number of private, mainly Swedish companies. Just as radical as the investments in the infrastructural systems were for the municipality of Luleå and the Swedish State Railways at the turn of the 19th century, modern literature claims the necessary changes of our established infrastructures to be if we want them to become sustainable. The historical lessons of the meanings of the radical changes in the former shift of technology models will give new perspectives on how to govern contemporary changes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2009.
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-33088Local ID: 7dc774a0-b268-11de-8293-000ea68e967bOAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-33088DiVA, id: diva2:1006323
Conference
International Congress of History of Science and Technology : Ideas and Instruments in Social Context 28/07/2009 - 02/08/2009
Note
Godkänd; 2009; Bibliografisk uppgift: Sider: 527-528; 20091006 (roiwik)Available from: 2016-09-30 Created: 2016-09-30 Last updated: 2017-11-25Bibliographically approved

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Söderholm, KristinaWiklund, Roine

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
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