The Stockholm Katarinaberget Civil defence shelter, which was one of three major shelters in the city, could hold up to 20000 people, split over three floors with, multiple pedestrian and vehicle entrances, its own power supply and two large three storey plant rooms, blast and gas tight doors. The pedestrian entrances could be sealed by a controlled explosion. The Swedish government took Civil defence very seriously. The site was used as a parking garage when not needed in its CD role, is now exclusively used as a parking garage, with workshops and a petrol station, although all the civil defence infrastructure still exists.



One of our party, Bob Lawson was moved to write the piece below about the place:

Swedish Civil Defence policy made the protection of its citizens a right. A shelter place for all, not just for the good and the powerful unlike our own country. This concept was shown by the extreme lengths taken to provide protection.
Imagine, central Stockholm, the nuclear air raid sirens from the well equipped civil defence control bunkers, that every community has, have been activated. What do you do next? Kiss your nearest and dearest goodbye and think of a better place? No, just head for your nearest shelter. If the international situation had been slowly developing then you would have a ticket for you and your family in your local shelter. If a period of high tension led to a pre-emptive nuclear strike by one of the belligerents the nearest shelter would have to do. In one part of central Stockholm you would follow the distinctive CD triangle signs and find yourself approaching what looks like a modern petrol station with two entrances, an in and an out in the side of a hard rock hill. This is what the urban explorer of today will find.

The entrance to the shelter from Katarinavägen in central Stockholm

The petrol station with the shelter area to the rear. In the 1960's this area had a drive through bank.

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The self-service garage with small shop carried on trading unaware that a party of hooligans had taken an interest in neutral politics. Taking no interest in the salted liquorice sweets and Swedish meatball snacks they started to look over the site with inquisitive expectation. An external photographic session threatened to bring the traffic to a halt with digital views being recorded for posterity. Disregarding the prohibited parking and restricted access signs, people were disappearing to the back of the open garage area to what looked like vehicle maintenance and wash bays. A door with a digital press button lock was no defence and quickly swept aside.

The cathedral like space just started to build the expectations. The twelve metre wide, seven metre high arched tunnel suddenly turned a dog's leg and plummeted into the distance. What had been a routine visit began to have some promise. Smiles on faces just got bigger and bigger as the scale of things became evident. Fifty metres later further down a circular vehicular access ramp two cars wide curled around and disappeared into the abyss. Off this ramp were galleries on three floors, A. B. & C. The party became animated with the slow realisation that at the end of each gallery was a sliding 500mm thick floor to ceiling slab door hidden in the wall which would power across the opening giving blast protection from the developing international situation above. The potential of a depth of at least forty metres to the first gallery which then sat on top of two others to a depth of twenty five metres while in a hard rock hill with at least a further twenty metres above to street level slowly dawned on the visitors. When looking down the gallery the initial inspection revealed distance and more distance and even more distance. It was at least two hundred and fifty metres of protected space per level. At the other end of the galleries a similar circular vehicle ramp system allowed two more access points to ground level. By this time the photographers were thinking about lighting levels and perspective views while others wandered around looking lost in this Disney World experience. Now disused pedestrian access points were spread along the length of the facility, emerging in the streets above. The shelter provided all facilities for 20,000 persons with 500 vehicles in peace time, after all your Volvo is one of the family too! Machine rooms on four levels provided ventilation and ice rooms were to help with cooling making the people comfortable.

The Top Deck of the three, the photo is taken from the centre point looking towards the Tjärhovsgaten exit. The Top Deck of the three, the photo is taken from the centre point looking towards the main entrance and exit. The pedestrian entrance doors which would have led up several flights of stairs to the entrance in the small park called Mosebacke Torg. The spiral ramp to allow vehicle access to all three levels of the complex the blast door is behind the photographer.
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All the normal sanitary provisions and decontamination facilities emphasised the scale of the operation. We were told that the petrol company had paid for the construction in the mid 1950's probably with Government help. Only 1.5 kilometres away was another shelter of similar size. In all, for the Stockholm region a further three large 20,000 person plus shelters had been provided. Every new building in Sweden has to build a strong basement that can double for civil defence use. Every town had a purpose built underground command shelter for rescue service co-ordination. Meanwhile the UK's answer to the same problem ignored the general population for the benefit of the same people that probably got us into the mess in the first place.

Access to the main area was via a decontamination area behind this door, this was mirrored on each floor and on each side.

The main concrete blast door in the closed position with the door to the decontamination area, access to the plant rooms was also through this door.

The inner gas tight doors with overpressure vents coloured red. the centre gas tight doors have been removed to allow easier access to vehicles.

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What to many had been a routine underground car park visit had become to me the highlight of the trip with hidden meanings of national politics, reflecting huge commitment verging on desperation and their consequences in a modern world. If you had had to spend some time in the operational shelter with the other 19,999 persons, then I think world peace by a neutrality policy would very quickly be open for discussion. The futility of such policies in a modern world may yet be proved one way or the other, so be nice to everybody, avoid the lowest form of wit and accept people are the most important part of your life and for the most part just trying to get along.

The main blast doors on deck b the doors would automatically lift the floor plates as they passed over them.

The site layout plan from the 1950's still in place on the wall on the top level of the shelter.



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Rough Translation !

Worth Knowing about the site.

  •  Built between 1952 -1957

  •  105,000 m3 of rock removed

  •  12,000 m3 of concrete used

  •  700,000 Kg of steel reinforcement

  •  25,700Kg weight of half a main blast door

  •  75 Kva Power supply available from Generators

  •  200,000Kg of ice in cylinders for air conditioning

  •  20,000 people capacity

  •  5000 people can sleep in the shelter

  •  550 car parking spaces

  •  102,000 litres of fuel stored in the fuel tanks


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All photos ©copyright Dan McKenzie 2006

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