Magnet Hill, a legendary stretch of the old Arctic Road situated in Uruspaa to the north of the Kaunispaa mountain, was named by the Finnish National Road Administration as the road museum site of the year 1992.
What were the reasons behind the decision?


In the Peace Treaty of 1920 between Finland and the Soviet Union Finland acquired the area of Petsamo, a corridor which linked Finland to the Arctic Ocean. Traffic to the area travelled almost exclusively along a 5-metre-wide class II graveled road, which started from the town of Rovaniemi and ran via the old village of Kyro (today's Ivalo) to Inari, continuing from there along the Paatsjoki River via Lake Konkaanjarvi to Salmijarvi, where it made a detour over the mountain ridge to Ylaluostari and continued along the River Petsamo for nearly three more leagues. Began already in 1912, the road was completed in 1931 when the construction crews reached the port of Liinahamari on the Arctic Ocean. In its time the route, known as the Arctic Road, was quite an important and busy one; at one point in the 1930s there were as many as five mail coaches making regular daily rounds on the road. Before the outbreak of World War II the guesthouses, inns and hotels in Petsamo had a total of 12 500 registered guests each year.
There were 12 inns along the Arctic Road: in Ivalo, Konkaanjarvi Mustola, Virtaniemi, Nautsi, Hoyhenjarvi, Pitkajarvi, Salmijarvi, Kuvernoorinkoski, Haukilampi, Ylaluostari, and Liinahamari. During the Interim Peace in 1940 the route to the Arctic Ocean became extremely important: it made possible the linking of the Finnish road and rail network with Liinahamari, which was the only permanently open deep sea port in Finland and, owing to the war,also a relatively rare thing anywhere in Europe.


In the spring of 1940 the State founded a transport company called Oy Pohjolan Liikenne Ab to handle the cargo shipments to and from Petsamo. The company gathered vehicles from all over the country, and at best the fleet comprised a total of 1573 lorries , of which the company owned 516, as well as about 1000 trailers. All in all about 2500 vehicles took part in the cargo rally to and from Petsamo, most of them running between Rovaniemi and Liinahamari, a stretch of 531 kilometres. Contract carriers used their trade organisations (among them the Lapland Road Hauliers' Association) to negotiate terms and fees with their employer. Negotiations were often necessary in connection with e.g. arrangements for loading and unloading, compensation for goods lost in transit, tariffs, road maintenance, insurance, and traffic safety.


The Arctic Road was in many ways an important source of employment. About 3000 people were employed in traffic management, there were about 2000 jobs related to loading and unloading, road maintenance employed about 4000 people, and other services around one thousand - in other words, almost 10 000 people owed their livelihood in one way or another to the Arctic Road.


Also the Swedes were badly in need of a transport connection to the Arctic Ocean, after the German invasion of Denmark and Norway had brought their own ports to a standstill. In June 1940 Paavo Talvela, Chairman of the Board in Pohjolan Liikenne, signed an agreement in Sweden whereby Sweden supplied the company with 100 Volvo trucks with trailers in exchange for the right to use the road to Petsamo.
The first Swedish transport event was a convoy of 40 trucks which carried American J9 fighter planes - dismantled and packed in wooden crates - from steamer Mathilda Tordén in the Liinahamari port to Haparanda in Sweden. Swedish traffic on the Arctic Road reached its peak in July 1940 with a total of 401 vehicles. At a later stage the Swedish transport company balanced transports with Pohjolan Liikenne on a ton-for-ton basis, allotting shipments according to each company's available carrying capacity at either end of the route. The financial accounts were not cleared until after the war when foreign exchange controls were relinquished. Also the German military used the Arctic Road for its transport manoeuvres, utilising both Finnish transport equipment as well as their own, of which there were a total of 1140 vehicles during the busiest period. Also a significant number of Swedish drivers took part in these activities. In the summer of 1940 there were also ten Norwegian vehicles using the route, carrying food to northern Norway.


Because of the threat of a new war between Finland and the Soviet Union, some of the traffic was transferred from Liinahamari to the Norwegian port in Kirkenes. Lorries on the Arctic Road now carried transformers, poles, copper wire, insulation and other goods to the Jäniskoski power station on the River Paatsjoki. The carrier was the Imatran Voima power company. One of the carriers responsible for the oil and fuel supply to the Petsamo area was Oy Petko Ab. Founded in 1940, the company engaged in the coal and oil trade, as well as in the associated ersatz industries. Petko built charring plants and also chipping and tar factories. Stump tar produced by the tar factories was transported to the oil factory, where first it was distilled to make wood-tar oil, from which vaseline was made to be used for less demanding lubrication purposes. The Petko factories accounted for one half of the entire national output of these products.


There are several versions of the origin of the name Magnet Hill. According to one version, the terrain at one point is such as to produce the illusion that the driving is uphill, although the speed of the car increases. Of course in reality the road goes down the hill, but the illusion gave rise to stories of hidden magnetic deposits of such magnitude that they could even pull a heavy metal vehicle up the hill! Another version has it that the same magnetic effect was the reason why the otherwise so efficient lorries seemed to lose their power when climbing an apparently low hill. Actually there is a stretch of the hill where the road climbs steadily for nearly two kilometres and even gets steeper towards the end.


When the Finnish Veteran Lorry Association commemorated in 1990 the 50th anniversary of the commencement of traffic along the Petsamo road by arranging an Arctic Race, one of the participants was radio commentator Veli Karkkainen, who made the suggestion that the exotic Magnet Hill should be made into a museum road. Following the suggestion, the Veteran Lorry Association decided in its annual meeting to submit a proposal to that effect to the National Road Administration. The proposal was submitted in due course to the Lapland regional road board after which the Director General of the National Road Administration, Mr Jouko Loikkanen, was kind enough to lend a helping hand in the matter, and a positive decision was received in record time. With its museum road proposal, as with its Arctic Race, the Veteran Lorry Association wishes to show its respect for the transport professionals whose dedication and skill made possible the uninterrupted functioning of the Finnish and Swedish economies in the hazardous years of 1940 and 1941.


The above-mentioned sentiments are shared by our partners, the Finnish Trucking Association and their Swedish counterpart. With the help of their significant contributions we were able to acquire a fitting monument, which was finally erected on the Magnet Hill on 11 September 1993. Designed by sculptor Mauno Honkanen and made of gray Kuru granite by the Kapee Stoneworks in Murole to the north of Tampere, the monument was transported by rail from Rovaniemi, whence it was taken to the Magnet Hill by a lorry which had taken part in the Petsamo transports - just as it had happened 1940-41! The supports of the embankments and terraces around the monument were made of stone quarried originally for the Arctic Road and preserved to this day by the National Road Administration at the stone quarry in Mella-Aava.


The Lapland regional board of the National Road Administration has recently started construction of a resting area by the Magnet Hill museum road. After completion, it will offer visitors a chance to stop to remember or to learn about the interesting history of the site. Multilingual information boards will provide a short history of the area as well as information about the available services; also historical as well as current maps will be featured. A lean-to with a fireplace and a clear natural spring are sure to please even the demanding tourist. The plans include also the reconstruction at a later stage of an old inn complete with environs. The local forest research institute has promised to take part in the project by assisting in the construction and maintenance of the off-road areas of the site. The Magnet Hill museum road and the veteran motorists' monument are situated along highway nr 4 in Inari, approximately six kilometres to the north of the Saariselka tourist centre. The only access to the 3 km museum road is from its northern end, since a safe intersection cannot be constructed on top of the Uruspaa hill. In winter the road will feature a route for motor sledges.

Veikko Hoppula Pictures for orginal articles: Museum road Monument site.

Germans using the Arctic Road brought their own sign to the Magnet Hill: skull and crossbones to warn of the hazards on the road. Already when it was under construction the Arctic Road tempted motorists to the north. Picture from a travel album. Petrol distribution point in Liinahamari in the early 1930s. Several motorcars are parked on the yard of the service station. During the Interim Peace trucks were refuelled almost on the run.

Picture shows driver Andersson filling up his Ford lorry from a barrel with a hose. Military Klockner lorry from 1942, with driver Jukka Makela. Sometimes drivers had to step down and shovel mud to free the truck. Passing on the narrow and twisting road could be dangerous and driving off the road was frequent. Many trucks had thick planks fixed on both sides of the trailer for protection when passing.

Extra-long Mercedes-Benz with staff from the Petsamo nickel plant - on the Arctic Road, of course.

A capsized Volvo - and on its first trip, too! Two Ford lorries from Hameenlinna with their drivers and hands taking a break. The lorry on the left is carrying ESSO's oil barrels, the one on the right has parts of a dismantled Ford fighter plane in crates.