"Powellite" Bagnall 3ft gauge locomotive at Black Sands, Victoria - 1938. Photograph: P.G. Dow

12 August, 2010

12 August - Emerald, Victoria

Arrived back at home 7:20am today after an uneventful trip back from Oslo via London, arrival at Melbourne airport being on time at 4:45am.

10 August, 2010

Tuesday 10 August 2010 at Oslo

Have just been to the post office to post more books back home, to the Central Station to buy a Flytoget (the Airtrain) ticket, and did some souvenir shopping. Succeeded in getting two copies of the NRK Norway DVD I had been looking for.

Will be heading to the airport early this afternoon, and there probably won't be any more postings until I get back to Melbourne, scheduled to arrive at the airport at 4:45am Thursday.

A little more about the Røros railway

One thing I noticed about this line is that it seems to have many curves, and many reverse curves (flattened S-shape). It seems to have been designed to follow the contours to reduce costs and earthworks to a minimum, and for a line in difficult country has remarkably few tunnels. Seeing all those curves I can begin to understand why, 150 years ago, Carl Pihl was so pleased with the outcome of his work with Charles Beyer, of the English locomotive builders Beyer, Peacock, in coming up with the iconic 2-4-0T loco with it's leading Bissell truck and compensated suspension. They would have gone very well on such a curvy railway.

To Oslo via Røros and Hamar

I gave the background to this route in my previous post, so I will not repeat that here.

Trondheim seems to host a number of diesel train services, as I saw two other two-car sets while waiting for the Røros - Hamar service to depart. One serves the long line which goes up the east coast to Bodø. The other had a Lerkendal destination, but I do not know where Lerkendal is. The two unit railcar was quite comfortable and roomy, and for most of the journey averaged only about 55% full, which made for a more relaxed journey. It was air-conditioned and well insulated, as a result it was quite quiet, there was little diesel rumble to be heard. Part of one car was designated a "Quiet zone" and the meaning of this was explained by no loud talking, no mobile phones, no portable music media-playing devices, and no laptop computers. Why laptop computers should be banned in the quiet zone I don't know, in any case I think they were foolish in being so specific, as it means the playing of bagpipes is acceptable.

The electrified mainline was left at Støren, about fifty minutes in to the journey, which was scheduled to take about six hours in this railcar. Immediately the track felt a little rougher, and the speed felt a little faster, but I suspect it was actually a little slower. It gave the impression of being faster because of the rougher track, and tighter clearances, vegetation and trees were closer to the train and the width of cuttings was less. I do not know how extensively this route was upgraded when it was converted to standard gauge, but the curves used on the Norwegian 3ft 6in gauge lines were not less than nine chains radius (with the exception of the Setesdals line, but that was in another part of the country), which is usable on standard gauge, but sharper than desirable on a secondary mainline.

By this time the grey weather had gone, the sun was out and the sky was blue! This route is quite varied in it's scenery, and interesting much of the time. Around Røros, where the elevation is around 600 metres, there are stunted trees. In other parts the railway follows wide rivers with stoney banks, passes through forests in all stages of growth, as there is much timber cutting in this area, as there has been since long before the coming of the railway. Particularly in the southern part of the route there seems to be quite a few secondary industries, mostly based on timber I suspect, and there is a lot of agriculture.

In an area to the north of Røros the railway is high up on the side of a hill, giving magnificent views into the wide, verdant green valley below dotted with villages, houses, barns, and churches, looking like scenes from a Swiss calendar from this viewpoint. Wonderful.

There are a number of original timber station buildings dating from the 1870s and 3ft 6in gauge days, and I think they are protected as historic relics.

Although this trip is timetabled as two trains, with two train numbers (with Røros being the change point), and appears as two separate journeys on the passenger's ticket, the same railcar is used throughout, with a crew change at Røros, where the stop is only for a few minutes.

Further down the line we spent about fifteen minutes at some remote small station (Alta if I remember correctly) waiting to pass another railcar coming in the opposite direction. We did not regain this lost time, despite some very spirited running a little later, and arrived at Hamar at 16:02 instead of the scheduled 15:46. This was just in time to do a cross-platform interchange to the electric train to Oslo, which had come from Lillehammer, and was due to depart Hamar at 16:04. To NSB's credit they have the platform tracks at Hamar signalled for two-way running, and seem to schedule the electric trains which operate between Oslo and Lillehammer to use whichever track creates the least effort for the majority of Røros line passengers when they change trains. I had visions of a mad scramble down the subway to Track 1 for the Oslo train, instead there was an easy cross-platform walk over to Track 3. Track 2 is a stub used by Røroas trains.

The journey into Oslo was uneventful and pretty much on schedule. Many passengers got off at Gardermoen airport, and not many got on, meaning the train was now unusually empty, maybe about 30% occupied. Arrival at Oslo was around 17:35 and I made for the Thon Terminus Hotel again. I have noticed that the Thon Hotel chain seems to place their hotels next to "ethnic" restaurants of quite good quality and value. The Terminus Hotel at Oslo is next to an Italian restaurant where I have eaten a few times, including tonight; and the two Thon Hotels at Trondheim are next to an Irish Pub restaurant, and a Scottish restaurant. The Norwegian summer school holidays end this week, and business will return to normal in Oslo. This means rates at Thon Terminus Hotel will go up about 50% to business rates and be far less attractive to casual travelers.

Diesel railcar at Trondheim

09 August, 2010

Monday 9 August 2010:

Today I set out on the first stages of a very long journey south, starting with an NSB diesel railcar trip to Røros, then either the same train, or a change to a different diesel railcar for the journey to Hamar, then a change to an NSB electric train to Oslo, where I stay for one night at the Thon Terminus Hotel again.

The route I am traveling today is the original Oslo - Trondheim route, built as 3ft 6in gauge between Hamar and Trondheim between 1862 and the 1870s, with conversion to standard gauge being completed in the 1940s. It is one of the few non-electrified NSB railways, and much of it is at an elevation of around 650 metres.

Weather today looks a little dismal, grey and overcast, there seems to have been rain, and looks as if there will be more.

Trondheim trams - not to be missed ...

It it is complete mistake to think of a Trondheim tram as just a tram. If you ever find yourself in Trondheim, and you have any interest in narrow-gauge railways, then you must travel on Trondheim tram!

There is only one route, and it is 8.8km long. The trams are fairly modern two-unit articulateds, and quite wide for the gauge, which is one metre. When you see them in the streets of Trondheim they give few clues as to what is to come. The tracks are set in stone blocks, and tend to be on the sides of the streets rather than the centre, otherwise all is normal.

Once outside the city grid though, which is pretty soon, it becomes a fully fledged narrow-gauge railway, on it's own right-of-way, winding its way steadily up the side of a hill, with excellent long range views of Trondheim below. There are station buildings with their own platforms and name boards, passing loops, colour light signals, and steel bridges. In some parts the trees are so close that the tram seems to be passing through a tunnel of trees. The tramway reaches an elevation of over 200 metres. The Sunday service is half-hourly, and with this frequency there is one crossing during the journey.

About two-thirds of the way along there is a tram museum, which has a number of old trams in it, by far the most interesting being the oldest, a four-wheeler of pre first world-war vintage.

I was so struck with this that at the terminus - Lian - I asked the driver if he spoke English, he did - fluently - so I told him him how good I thought that trip was and that I would recommend it to any visiting Australians. He was very pleased, and said he had had some other favourable comments from foreign visitors.

Sunday 8 August at Trondheim

Found out what the music festival was all about, not a musical festival at all, but the 2010 World Orienteering Championships, with teams from about thirty countries each country having about ten team members. The official opening ceremony was today, but the event goes for all this week. The opening ceremony was done in a very Norewgian manner, i.e. it was very well organised in a very laid back manner, with no signs of over-bearing officiousness. The general public could mingle with the contestants and the organisers. Because of that I was able to ask an official what was going on. Google 2010 World Orienteering if you want more information.

This morning I spent most of my time in Trondheim's religious precinct, and there certainly is one, dominated by the magnificent Nidaros Cathedral standing in it's own extensive beautifully maintained grounds. The cathedral dates back to around the fourteenth century. Close by, and even nearer the city square is another very old church, visible in the photograph of the Olav Tryggvasson Statue. Olav Tryggvasson founded Trondheim in 997 or thereabouts. Also near the Cathedral is the Archbishop's Palace, parts of which date back to the twelfth century. In the same general area are a number of other churches, and church schools. Private schools are not common in Norway, the great majority of people seeming to prefer government schools at all levels, and all levels of education seem to be completely free, and the education system of high quality.

At 10:30 the bell of Nidaros Cathedral started to sound, and I thought it sounded a little tinny. But almost immediately the bell of a nearby competing church started to sound, and the two working together sounded very good. They continued for about five minutes. Then repeated this performance half an hour later.

Nidaros Cathedral has a coffee shop and souvenir shop, so I bought a cup of coffee and a long rectangular object (lro) for morning tea. Don't know what the lro was but it looked intriguing and turned out to taste pretty good. Seemed to be made of similar material to a croissant, but was bigger, and had swirls of good healthy dark chocolate going through it.

The old building I saw yesterday which is the original Trondheim railway station, is in this area. It is now part of a religious building. Spent quite a lot of time walking around this area, which is beautiful in many places, especially along the banks of the river.

After that I went for a ride on a tram, but that deserves a separate post, and will get one.

After my affairs with the trams I wandered around the business district of Trondheim, then saw some of the opening ceremony of the 2010 WOC.

This time I had dinner at an Irish Pub Restaurant, selected something simple and basic - shepherds pie - and very good it was too.

Trondheim is the most northerly point I go to on this visit. It is not far from Hell, but I am not intending to go to Hell, as apart from the railway station name board, it is not a very interesting place. The weather today was absolutely perfect, blue sky, a few clouds, sunshine, warm, with a little breeze. A total contrast to the last time I was here, late in June 2008, when it was very hot and very humid, and because it was close to the summer solstice and so far north, the sun hardly went down at all at night. As a result there was no relief from the heat and humidity at night, and they don't bother air-conditioning hotels here because they rarely need it.

Olav Tryggvason statue - Trondheim town square

Nidaros Cathedral - Trondheim

08 August, 2010

Saturday - 7 August - To Trondheim

Yesterday I forgot to mention that while waiting for a tram at Frogner Park a big shiny black Daimler car swept past flying the Norwegian flag on the bonnet, and bearing a gold coat of arms on the door. I presume it was the King. It was followed by a couple of other large black official looking cars. The King's residence is not far away from here.

Incidentally, when Norwegian politicians were seeking complete independence from Sweden around 1905, those pushing for it were in favour of a republic. But surrounding countries, which at that time were all monarchies, saw this as too radical. So the Norwegians opted for a compromise by inviting a Danish prince who was not otherwise occupied to become the new Norwegian King, as a constitutional monarch. They basically presented him with the job description, which was to be a figure-head head of state. He accepted and the result was the foundation of a highly successful democracy with a very popular King.

Now back to today's activities. The weather was mostly good, with sunshine and blue sky most of the time. Took the 8:07 train from Oslo to Trondheim, by the direct route via Dombås. The direct route was a standard gauge line opened around 1920, which reaches elevations of 1000 metres, and is now electrified all the way. The train consisted of two four-car sets coupled together, the sets being of the high-speed type of the style reminiscent of the Japanese bullet trains. But they don't travel at high speed on this route, and the journey takes about six and a half hours. Although some of the route is at a high altitude, it lacks the long tunnels and snow shelters of the Oslo - Bergen route. It includes some pretty good scenery of a variety of types, including forests, rocky gorges with wild rivers, stunted trees at the high altitudes, farming country with pleasant villages, some wonderful old timber buildings many with traditional grass covered roofs, of a style many centuries old, and interesting old churches.

I booked this trip some months ago on the Internet, as a result I got a very good "Minipreis" fare, so I paid the extra 70 Kroner to get Komfort Klass, which was worth while as there was more leg room, more vacant seats, less hectic activity, a window seat with the seat next to me unoccupied, and free coffee! It made for a very relaxing and pleasant journey, during which I reflected on what it might have been like in the last days of steam when they were using big 2-8-4 tender locos on the route, which was challenging for steam. Happily one of these locos is preserved and on display at the Hamar Railway Museum. They were Norway's biggest steam locos, and mighty impressive it looks too. Incidentally that 70 Kroner fare supplement is only about $A13, which works out at $2 an hour.

On arrival at Trondheim I switched on my TomTom navigation device, so that it could guide me to my hotel. However, it was fortunate that I knew the approximate direction to take, as it took about five minutes to latch on to satellites, which seemed excessively long to me. Anyway it came good when needed and guided me to the door of the hotel, where I will be spending two nights.

After booking in I then used TomTom to guide me to a sacred site. The site of Trondheim's first railway station, built in 1864, the terminus and headquarters of the 3ft 6in gauge Trondheim - Støren Railway - the second public railway in the world built to this gauge, and the first to be built in difficult country. I found a building which looked as if it might have been the original station building recycled, and walked over some park ground which I suspect may have been where the terminus tracks were. I took a number of photographs to compare with photographs taken in the 1860s and 1870s. This original station site was replaced with another quite early - in the 1870s if I remember correctly, as it did not have port facilities, which became critically important as the railways developed. [I have since confirmed that it was indeed the original Trondheim station, and it is a very impressive building.]

Had a bit of a walk around Trondheim. There was some sort of extraordinary musical performance going on in the town square, with streets being closed, and television broadcasters in attendance. Seemed to be modern classical music (sounds like an oxymoron to me) in the form of an opera, and was being amplified pretty loud. Why it did not act as a people repellant I don't know, all the surrounding businesses seemed to have plenty of customers.

Could not find a Norwegian restaurant at any price (let alone at an affordable price) so had a reasonable chook dinner at an Italian restaurant. Whilst here I saw my first Trondheim tram, and chased one briefly after dinner. They are narrow-gauge (metre I think) and I think there is only one route, but a fairly long one.

07 August, 2010

Friday 6 August - at Oslo

Day started out very wet and grey. Went to post office to post more books back to myself in Oz. Succeded in finding a shop that sold pens - a bookshop. Was looking for a DVD on Norway published by NRK (the Norwegian equivalent of the ABC and BBC) but failed. I know it exists but could not find it, and I am seeking two copies.

Took the tram to Frogner Park. An interesting tram ride which took an interesting route around the waterfront and past the old Oslo former 3ft 6in gauge station which I mentioned in a previous post, and which I have since learnt dates from 1871. That being so it was an extremely impressive building for what started out being quite a small railway operation, (but grew to match the pretensions of the station). The trams seem to make quite a deep-throated growl when they get going, unlike Melbourne trams (though I have not yet ridden on a low-floor Melbourne tram, which give the impression of having no wheels). An extraordinary feature of this tram route was an open-track tram junction in the middle of a water fountain. It appears the water jets automatically turn off when the tram goes through, so that the underside of the tram does not get a free wash.

Frogner Park is a large park on the outskirts of Oslo (probably two or thee kilometres out) with lots of trees and shaded walks, and plenty of seats placed strategically, and the usual statues. One bust is of Abraham Lincoln, a gift from the citizens of North Dakota USA in 1914, with an uplifting quote on freedom and democracy. At that time Norway had been fully independent for only about nine years, and the philosophy of Norway's founding fathers would certainly have been in line with the quote, but the way Norway and the USA have implemented that philosophy are quite different. There were I think many Norwegian emigrants in North Dakota, so there would have been a connection.

Within Frogner Park is Vigeland Park, an amazing collection of hundreds of granite and bronze sculptures by Gustav Vigeland, including a 14 metre high granite monolith on the park's highest hill. The Lonely Planet guide to Norway says it took three stone carvers fourteen years to make it. It depicts 121 human figures striving to reach the top. The Vigeland Park sculptures are on a huge scale, and attract a large number of foreign tourists, but because of the huge scale there is plenty of space for tourists.

Fortunately the weather cleared for most of the time I was wandering around here taking numerous photographs, but unfortunately the phone-camera photographs on this blog do not do the Park justice. Returned back to central Oslo in a well packed tram, by which time rain had set in again.

Later in the day the rain cleared again and there was blue sky and sunshine.

Dinner in a Chinese restaurant in the old Oslo main-line station building, where there is good food to be had at a good price, and friendly staff.

06 August, 2010

Oslo - Vigeland Park

Oslo - Vigeland Park

Oslo - Vigeland Park

Oslo - looking toward old mainline railway station

Oslo - cathedral

Thursday 5 August 2010 - back to Oslo

Nothing much doing today. Went to Hamar post office to send some books back to Australia to lighten my luggage. Then in the early afternoon took the train back to Oslo. Noted a large number of people joined the train at the Oslo Airport station, rather than pay the higher fare on "Flytoget" (the Air-train) which is a high-speed service. The disadvantage of this is that the normal train lacks sufficient space for all the luggage these travelers bring with them, with the result that there is luggage everywhere. Anyway the normal train keeps up a cracking pace after the airport. Last stop before Oslo is Lillestrøm, then there is a very long tunnel almost the whole distance into Oslo. Don't know the length of the tunnel offhand, and don't have access to my reference books here, but it must have been at least 8km long I would think.[It is actually 13.8km long].

Back to the Thon Terminus Hotel at Oslo. No energy or enthusiasm to do anything, having hardly slept last night, though why I have no idea. Dinner at an Italian restaurant next to the hotel, during which there was a very heavy downpour of rain, the like of which I had not seen in Oslo, but it only lasted a couple of minutes.

Was having major problems sending email at Hamar, seemed that Bigpond objected to the private wi-fi network I was using, but they do not object to the Telenor wi-fi networks that are used in the bigger cities. So today I was able to upload three photographs I took on the phone- camera on Monday and Tuesday. Not very good pictures, trust those I have taken with my "proper camera" will be much better!

On Wednesday instead of taking the 3.6km walk back from the Hamar Railway Museum to my bed and breakfast place, I decided to take the local bus service, which only runs every hour, but it's schedule aligned well with my schedule on this occasion. Anyway I had no idea how much the fare would be, but assumed it would be about 25 kroner, as this is about the going rate in Oslo and Bergen. So I got on board and put 30 kroner on the tray next to the driver, and he said something to me in Norwegian which I didn't understand, so I put on another 10 kroner and he said something else which confused me even more, so I said "jeg snakke ikke Norsk", (I don't speak Norwegian), and the light dawned on his face and he laughed and said "Only ten crowns!"

And in Norway that's good value (about $A1.85).

Incidentally, in the morning I had indulged in the rare luxury of taking a taxi to the Museum (as I had been walking more than I could comfortably cope with, and also to maximise my time at the Museum library). Took the taxi from the railway station taxi rank, not from my b and b, so it still involved a 1km walk. Anyway that fare was 87 kroner (about $A16.00).

05 August, 2010

At Hamar Railway Museum - Tuesday 75cm gauge loco

Hamar Railway Museum continued

Now to the rolling stock.

I said they had some gems, and I will concentrate on those of particular interest to me, so here goes, these are all 3ft 6in gauge:

1. Alf a Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T loco of Isle of Man style, but older and considerably smaller. Alf celebrates his 140th birthday this year, and weighs about 13 tons. He is in lined green livery, and looks as if he is in the same condition as the day he was taken out of service.

2. No.7 a 4-4-0 tender loco built by Thunes of Christiania (now Oslo). This loco is of the type which hauled the overnight sleeping car trains from Hamar to Trondheim, though I don't think this one ever worked on that line. It is of an extremely interesting design, the architecture of the loco showing several influences. It (like Alf) has a huge kerosene headlight, the basic design has English influences, but the cab is very nineteenth century American, being a spacious timber construction in varnished finish. The boiler cladding is grey (probably to represent planished iron), with brass boiler bands, while the four-wheel tender is black lined in red. Altogether a locomotive worthy of preservation.

3. A four-wheel second class coach of early 1870s, which is either of English construction, or based on English practice. It has a varnished timber body, neatly upholstered interior with an interesting central saloon compartment. What struck me about this was that it seemed to be in near original condition and unrestored. I am sure the design is similar to vehicles which operated on Australian railways of the same gauge at that time.

4. A magnificent platform-ended bogie saloon car of the early 1870s built by one of the well-known American coach builders. It was built for the use of the King, though it is difficult to see how such expense could be justified if only used by the King. The whole vehicle looks superb, including the beautifully furnished interior. Again it looks in near original condition and unrestored. [By "unrestored" I am not implying these vehicles are in poor condition, on the contrary, they are in excellent condition, but they have not lost the patina of old age - they do not look "brand new" as most restored vehicles do. To have retained this original quality, I think they must have been very well cared for throughout their life.]

5. An interesting and unusual petrol railcar of 1930, with a varnished timber body.

6. An incredible petrol powered American built inspection car of 1904, of which I took lots of detail photographs because I could not believe it.

There were other locomotives and rolling stock of various gauges, but for me these were the highlights

Tuesday 3 August and Wednesday 4 August - Hamar railway museum

These were the two most important days on this venture, and the prime reason for the trip.

I spent a considerable amount of time in the library of the Hamar Railway Museum, which was first established in 1896. It is now extremely well set up, and perhaps it's nearest Australian equivalent is Workshops Railway Museum [Ipswich, Queensland]. However Hamar is big enough to include several relocated station buildings complete, and with the interiors set up as they would have been about 100 years ago. The selection of buildings and rolling stock is good, they have some gems, but unfortunately the display of some of the rolling stock is very confined, making photography difficult.

I had advised the library that I was coming and what my special interests were. Thor Bjerke, who works there could not have been more helpful. He had already made a large table available for me and had set out many books and documents, and as the day progressed he brought out more. Working with documents in a foreign language has it's own complications, but I was able to photocopy or photograph everything of interest to me, so that I could take it back to Australia and translate it at my leisure. Thor is himself a railway historian of considerable achievement having authored or co-authored some of Norways's most authoritative railway histories, including the standard work on Norwegian steam locomotive, a magnificent production, and now unfortunately out of print. I have been trying to get a second-hand copy for years without success, so had to go to Norway to see a copy.

One of the most moving highlights of this visit, and something for which I felt very privileged, was to handle the original work books of Carl Pihl, covering the period c.1855 to c.1890. Carl Pihl was the architect of the pioneer 3ft 6in gauge lines and these books had meticulous hand written notes, calculations, comparative dimensions and statistics. They included such things as tests on various weights of rails, calculations for various types of bridges, the original specifications for the earliest 3ft 6in gauge locomotives before they were built, and calculations of practical radii for curves.

Much of this was in English, with most of the remainder in Danish (Norwegian did not really exist as a separate written language at that time), and it was obvious that everything they were doing was strongly influenced by English engineering practice, and to a lesser extent American practice.

Some of this material was too fragile to photo-copy, but it could be photographed. For those interested in this I had done some tests before leaving Australia to perfect the technique. Fortunately the lighting in the library was good. I used a Pentax K20D digital SLR with a Pentax 16-45mm zoom lens, generally set around 38mm. I used aperture priority at F8, set the ISO at 800, and this generally gave an exposure of around 1/150 sec, which was good for hand-held shots without flash. This seems to have produced good usable results.

04 August, 2010

Monday 2 August continued

the 15:37 had been delayed, as had the previous train, thus giving me the opportunity to catch the previous train. On boarding it I went to my allotted seat, found it occupied, which did not surprise me, since it was a different train, but the seat next to it was unoccupied, so I took that. I expected to conductor would object that I was on the wrong train, but he did not, so I suspect there has been a major disruption.

On approaching Hamar an announcement was made over the train pa system that the Røros train had been held so that the two passengers on this train booked on it could catch it. The Røros train is unusual in Norway, being a diesel. It also follows the route of the first 3ft 6in gauge public railway in the world.

Anyway the upshot of all that is that I arrived at Hamar almost an hour before I expected to.

Monday 2 August continued

Hønefoss has a platform shaped like two sides of a triangle, being a junction station, with a fair amount of activity for brief periods, and that was certainly the case when I was there, with my train which had come from near Drammen, the Oslo-Bergen train, then the Bergen-Oslo train (which I was to catch), and the train returning towards Drammen. On top of that there were a couple of odd movements with empty passenger trains, one heading towards Oslo, and the other just pottering about the yard, in the way you would expect with a playful steam loco, but not with a multiple-unit electric train (which are without souls after all).

The Oslo train which I caught was one of the modern high-speed multiple unit designs, consisting of two four-car sets coupled together, with a cafeteria car in each unit. The external design of these owes something to the original Japanese bullet trains, but they don't impress me. Nor do they achieve high speed on this line. Following past experience for lunch this time I dare not go for anything looking healthy, and instead chose the house speciality - hot dogs - which was acceptable and edible.

Arrival at Oslo was pretty close to time. Here there were interesting developments, I had a reserved seat on the 15:37 train to Hamar, but was advised by an NSB customer service officer to rush to track 19, where I had three minutes to catch a Hamar train. The reason for this strange instruction was "that there had been a delay" which I presume meant the 15:37 was

Monday 2 August to Hamar

Hotel at Vikersund was very good. A sort of resort hotel on the banks of Tyrifjord, which is like a wide river wandering through agricultural and forest scenery, without the wild ruggedness of the western fjords around Bergen. Had a spacious room with a balcony overlooking the fjord, with a good view of about fifty ducks when they come uponn the scene early each morning, and again in the evening. Hotel has a restaurant which serves good meals at reasonable prices (by Norwegian standards).

Today I headed from Vikersund by train to Hønefoss, there to change to another train to Oslo, there to change to a third train to Hamar. Departure time was 11:55 at Vikersund, and arrival at Hamar was to be about 17:00, with a wait of about 65 minutes at Oslo. I walked to Vikersund station from the Hotel, a little over 2 km, and got there in sufficient time to study the station building in great detail. It has been destaffed, apparently; though in fact is mostly now occupied by the Krøderen railway, which makes good use of on days that that runs. It is an original Randsfjordban station, dating from about 1870, and is in almost original condition. Randsfjorban was the third Norwegian 3ft 6in gauge line to be built, and the first one to use Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T locos, and the first to use chopper couplings.

Vikersund station is basically a rectangular shed with a hopped roof, built of timber, but it is exceptionally well built. The quality of the architraves, windows, and verandah supports, for example, are way beyond what you would expect in a poor country, which is what Norway was supposed to be at that time.

The trip from Vikersund to Hønefoss is on the route of the original Randsfjordban, standard-gauged for over 100 years, and now electrified. The country is very attractive mostly agricultural country, but not spectacular.

(to be continued)

03 August, 2010

Hønefoss 2


Sunday 1 August - Krøderbanen

Krøderbane - 1 August

Was a very good day today on the standard gauge Kroderen preserved railway, a 25km branch line built mainly for timber traffic in 1871, and converted to standard gauge in 1909. 
Locomotive today was a 2-8-0 tender loco, hauling seven varnished timber coaches. There was a seven piece band at Vikersund station (the mainline junction station) playing traditional Norwegian folk music. mainly on accordions. It was a joyful rhythmic music, entirely appropriate when in the presence of steam engines. 

After departure the band joined the train, and groups of them walked down the carriages playing more of the music, to spontaneous applause.

A coffee and refreshments trolley also moved down the train.   There was a good load on board, mostly family groups, of all ages, and all in a holiday mood.

About three-quarters got off at the second-last station for a "Western Show" at "Deadwood City". This was probably a good thing, as things at the terminal station (Krøderen) are rather confined, and this could only be rectified by altering the layout of the station. I get the impression that the heritage qualities of the station area are strictly protected. The station and goods shed both date from 1871 and are beautiful buildings.

Saw the loco being serviced here, and there is a good display of goods rolling stock, mostly beautifully preserved. A 2-6-0 tender loco was also on display, but was a challenge to photograph at very wide angle and 6400 ISO.

There were quite a number of people photographing the loco being serviced, and lots of digital SLRs about. There were also a number of motorcaders. Because this only runs on Sundays in Summer (plus some charters) every run seems to retain its novelty value, and people wave to the train from their houses.

All the intermediate stations have also retained their original appearance, and the whole railway from end to end seems to be treated strictly as a museum piece.

The pace of the train is leisurely, taking about 70 minutes for the 26 mm. This is probably to reduce wear and tear on the rolling stock and track, The latter is very light.

Krøderbanen - 1 August

Krøderbanen - 1 August

Was a very good day today on the standard gauge Kroderen preserved railway, a 25km branch line built mainly for timber traffic in 1871, and converted to standard gauge in 1909.
Locomotive today was a 2-8-0 tender loco, hauling seven varnished timber coaches. There was a seven piece band at Vikersund station (the mainline junction station) playing traditional Norwegian folk music. mainly on accordions. It was a joyful rhythmic music, entirely appropriate when in the presence of steam engines.

After departure the band joined the train, and groups of them walked down the carriages playing more of the music, to spontaneous applause.

A coffee and refreshments trolley also moved down the train. There was a good load on board, mostly family groups, of all ages, and all in a holiday mood.

About three-quarters got off at the second-last station for a "Western Show" at "Deadwood City". This was probably a good thing, as things at the terminal station (Krøderen) are rather confined, and this could only be rectified by altering the layout of the station. I get the impression that the heritage qualities of the station area are strictly protected. The station and goods shed both date from 1871 and are beautiful buildings.

Saw the loco being serviced here, and there is a good display of goods rolling stock, mostly beautifully preserved. A 2-6-0 tender loco was also on display, but was a challenge to photograph at very wide angle and 6400 ISO.

There were quite a number of people photographing the loco being serviced, and lots of digital SLRs about. There were also a number of motorcaders. Because this only runs on Sundays in Summer (plus some charters) every run seems to retain its novelty value, and people wave to the train from their houses.

All the intermediate stations have also retained their original appearance, and the whole railway from end to end seems to be treated strictly as a museum piece.

The pace of the train is leisurely, taking about 70 minutes for the 26 mm. This is probably to reduce wear and tear on the rolling stock and track, The latter is very light.

On walkabout

Saturday 31 July - to Vikersund, but only just ...

This morning I left Oslo for Vikersund, it is about a 90 minute train journey to the south-east of Oslo.

This was complicated by the fact that the trip was via Drammen, and all train services between Oslo and Drammen had been replaced by buses to enable major track works. NSB had contracted about 300 buses to do this job, and they all left from an area opposite Track 29 at Oslo Central station. They had organised this very well, with customer service officers on hand to answer all questions, and make sure people got on the right bus, and where appropriate to explain where the bus journey would end and you would transfer back to a train. This was at a station just beyond Drammen (Gulskogen, pronounced Goolskewen) as there was apparently no train traffic in Drammen station.

So far so good. When I booked this trip I booked it on the Internet through the NSB's website, which I have usually found very good. It booked me on a train from Oslo to Hokksund, and another train from there to Vikersund, giving the precise start and end times of both trips, and the train numbers. The first train was replaced by buses for the first part of the journey. The system had indicated a train change at Hokksund As this is where the Kongsviger line and the Hønefoss lines part from each other. Nevertheless it would seem from subsequent events that a train change at Hokksund wasn't necessary, though it might have been if Drammen trains were running normally. But if Drammen trains were running normally I could have got a direct train from Oslo to Vikersund, as I had in 2008!

Anyway I got to Hokksund all right, with about six minutes to wait for the next train. Trouble was there were three tracks through Hokksund, with an island platform serving tracks 2 and 3, and a single platform serving track 1. I arrived on the island platform but it was not clear whether the next train would be on track 1 or 2. There was no signage on the island platform, and the whole station had been de-staffed. I rushed over to the Track 1 platform to see if there was any helpful signage there. This involved a fairly long walk down to a subway then up steps to the other side dragging my roller case, which is a problem going up steps. Found a sign on the platform (in Norwegian) which appeared to say all trains left from tracks 2 and 3. There was also a large sign listing all trains, including the one I wanted, and the appropriate Tracks, but the track number for that one was blank! In any case this large sign was for the normal train service, not for the modified service arising from the closure of Drammen station.

Found a young Norwegian bloke who was aiming to catch the train and he said it left from Track 2. So we both went to the island platform, and I arrived short of breath after all this running up and down ramps and steps with luggage! Then a train came in sight, and I saw the young Norwegian tearing down the platform for the subway. The train was on Track 1!

On the principle of nothing ventured nothing gained, I followed him as fast as I could, but I did not think I would have a hope of making it, with a combination of old age, heavy luggage, and steps it up again. I had hoped that the Norwegian bloke might have told the conductor there was another passenger coming.

Anyway as I cam up the steps I saw the three-car train a fair way down the platform, with the conductor giving the driver the all clear signal. Though I thought the effort futile I waved my free hand violently in an effort to catch attention. The conductor did not see this, he was looking the other way, but the train didn't move, so the conductor gave the all clear again, and the train still didn't move. Meanwhile I was getting closer. The conductor looked around, saw me, came up to me grabbed my luggage, I gasped "Vikersund", he said "ja" as he put my luggage on board, I got on and we went on our way.

I suspect the driver had seen my hand waving in his mirror, and waited. The conductor looked at my ticket incredulously, and said there was no need to change at Hokksund, as the train I was on had started from the same place! Why the NSB system had made such a weird booking I don't know, it certainly wasn't the sort of complication I was looking for.

Unfortunately I am no longer young and fit enough to cope with all this. On arrival at Vikersund I had a 2km walk to the hotel, where I arrived about one o'clock, but it took all the afternoon to recover.

However I did recover (I think) and had a very good Norwegian dinner at the hotel, including superb bread, and asparagus on salmon with a cheese sauce, washed down with a very good mineral water made by a company called Aass.

Had difficulty getting to sleep, with a bad headache. Eventually got to sleep, woke up about 1:00am, headache gone, and I decided I really had recovered.

Just as well, Sunday was to be warm and steamy.

01 August, 2010

Sunday 1 August, Tyrifjord Hotel, Vikersund

Won't be much in the way of detailed posts for a few days. Cannot get iPad to work with wi-fi in these parts. Using a wi-fi equipped phone, which is laborious.

About to catch steam train on Kroederban railway, a 25km trip.

31 July, 2010

From the balcony of my room at Tyrifjord Hotel

From the balcony of my room at Tyrifjord Hotel

From the balcony of my room at Tyrifjord Hotel

At Oslo Central Stasjon again

At Oslo Central Stasjon 31 July

Its kilometre not kilometer!!!

I have just looked at my previous post and find that the iPad I am using to type this on has, to my horror, changed the spelling of kilometre to kilometer without my permission. I will need to try to retrain it.

Did more walking in the afternoon, to another "sacred site", the old Oslo East railway station. There used to be two main railway stations in Oslo, "East" and "West". Both were replaced about twenty years ago when a new "central" station was built. This required the building of an expensive underground tunnel.

"East" was important from my point of view, because it started out as the 3ft 6in gauge station serving Drammen and points west. It became a very busy place, with Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0T locos running most of the trains. This became so busy that standard-gauging began in the early twentieth century, and electrification soon after.

The station is, like so many in Norway, an impressive piece of nineteenth century architecture, and somewhat different in appearance to the others. It is in an attractive location near the waterfront, with a pair of tram lines sweeping past it in a graceful curve, and to add to the overall appearance, the road and the tram lines are paved with large stone slabs.

Anyway, the station was not demolished when it went out of service as a station, and it has become the Nobel Peace Prize Centre. There are exhibitions and displays inside, but unfortunately these have mostly covered up the internal architecture of the place. Nevertheless, I felt compelled to go inside to imagine the presence of busy little Beyer, Peacock 2-4-0Ts.

That was just about the end of my day, most of it spent walking. Went back to the hotel to recover.

Friday 30 July in Oslo

This morning was heavily overcast and grey in Oslo, with frequent rain. This was annoying as I set out to walk to the former residence of Carl Pihl, at 2 Gustavs Gate, a few kilometers north of Oslo city centre. I put the address into my TomTom navigation device and followed it's directions.

Carl Pihl was an important man - he "invented" the concept of 3ft 6in gauge railways for normal goods and passenger use. He also developed a number of other concepts and ideas to reduce the cost of railways in "rising countries". For some time in the nineteenth century he was in charge of Norwegian railways, and was the highest paid civil servant in the country. Nevertheless he was offered double the salary by a Canadian railway, but declined.

Found his house and photographed it with much difficulty, as the location was fairly confined, and there were lots of large trees about. It was a large two story rendered brick or stone house of a style somewhat reminiscent of the gold rush era mansions of Melbourne, and had a tower. It was amongst many other magnificent houses of the same era. This was the house that Carl Pihl and his English wife, and eleven children, and one cat and one dog lived, no doubt with several servants to help out. It was claimed that Norway was the poorest country in Europe prior to the building of the first Railway there in 1854, but that railway seems to have unleashed rapid development, as these opulent houses show.

Returned back to my hotel using my own navigation, as I knew a more scenic route, through gardens (Slottsparken), past the Royal Palace, past the University, and down Karl Johans Gate (gate means "street" and is pronounced gahta), past the National Theater (I have used Norwegian spelling for theatre), and then past Stortinget (parliament house). Over several kilometers this area was developed in the latter half of the nineteenth century when Norwegian independence was flowering. It includes all sorts of features characteristic of that era, including beautiful buildings, decorative public gardens, plenty of public seating, many statues of famous people, fountains and other water features, and a beautiful long tree-lined avenue (for walking) down the middle of Karl Johans Gate. All of this has been lovingly maintained, and not desecrated to allow cars to drive faster. It is interesting to note that the statues are all, or almost all, of people involved in the arts, such as writers, poets, musicians and dramatists; not politicians or military types, nor scientists or inventors.

At this stage I was reminded of the expensive chore from the past of changing the film in the camera, as I had filled up the memory card in the camera with 333 dng files. This had taken about a week. It is much easier to change a memory card than a film, and more difficult to make a mistake.

30 July, 2010

Oslo - Henrik Wergeland statue with seagull

Oslo - large cabbage in front of Henrik Ibsen statue

Oslo - Henrik Ibsen statue at National Theater

Oslo - Karl Johans Gate

Thursday, 29 July

Not much doing today. Weather in Oslo is very wet today, which puts me off my incessant habitual walking. Went to a Narvessen store this morning (a sort of combined newsagent and snack food store, which are all over the place) in an attempt to buy a pen, but they did not sell them!!! So then I went to a supermarket, but they did not sell them either. I do not know what kind of shops sell pens in Norway, maybe they are considered obsolete.

Went for a tram ride with the expectation of ending up at the Norwegian Industrial History Museum, supposedly at the terminus, but it was nowhere to be seen, and far too wet to go searching, so I came back.

In the evening I went to the Norwegian Railway Club's headquarters, which they occupy at Bryn railway station, about 3km from Oslo. Looked through a large number of back numbers of their magazine, and bought some with 3ft 6in gauge material. Then had to get back to Oslo - this was about 7:30. Unfortunately after the 7:14 train there is only one train an hour so had to wait huddled under the small station veranda until 8:14 for a four minute train trip. The annoying thing was that there was an alternative - the T-ban - which is a separate metropolitan train service. I could see the T-ban trains not far away up the side of a hill. There must have been at least ten in the time I was waiting, but the location of the T-ban station was not at all obvious, and the incessant rain discouraged looking.

In any case the train eventually arrived, I got back to my hotel by about 8:25 then went next door to an inexpensive (by Norwegian standards) Italian restaurant for a rather nice pizza.

Beware the NSB focaccia

Most of Wednesday was taken up with the train ride from Bergen back to Oslo. There is not a lot to add to the description of the trip in the opposite direction.

One feature which stands out in my mind was the appalling NSB focaccia, which I had for lunch. Until that regrettable event I had laboured under the misapprehension that a law had been passed in Norway against poor quality bread. I will go out my way to get good bread, and until the NSB focaccia incident, I had never had to in Norway. The bread was always excellent, and with a wide variety.

In 2008 when I travelled on the Oslo - Bergen train I was able to purchase on board an excellent salad roll, so good that I took a photograph of it before eating it! This time I was all psyched up for the same experience. No such luck, nothing available that looked very appetising. The least worst was the NSB focaccia, so reluctantly I chose that.

The first bite was sufficient to show that this was barely edible. The bread was without texture, grain, or taste; and amongst the strange ingredients the meat substitute seemed to have been made of an alloy of leather and polyvinyl chloride. I cannot understand why a railway would throw away its natural advantage in being able to serve good food by selling this industrial cross.

There were two silver linings though. As well as the dreaded focaccia I purchased a large flat object vaguely resembling an Anzac biscuit, which had lumps of good healthy chocolate in it. This turned out to be as good as it looked, and it looked very good to me! The second silver lining was that when I was eating this next to a window in the cafeteria car, the train stopped at Finse station, and right outside my window, perfectly placed for photography, was the rotary steam plough I mentioned in a previous post.

One thing which NSB does do very well, and where they exploit their natural advantage, is in the "family car". This is a passenger car specially designed for people traveling with young children. It includes a large play area specially set aside for young children, and was well used on the train I travelled on.

The trip which was scheduled to take 6 hours 54 minutes arrived 5 minutes late, which - unlike the focaccia - is difficult to complain about.

I think the only safe lunch option on this train is the NSB hot dogs, which appears to be their speciality.

28 July, 2010

Tuesday 27 July - addendum

I should add that by 7:00 pm I had recovered from my state of decrepitude, and had also recovered my lost appetite, so headed into town for dinner. I am staying at a bed and breakfast type place called Hotel Park Pension. It is in a 120 year old mansion about a fifteen minute walk from the city centre, which is not a problem, except that its up a pretty steep hill!

Tuesday 27 August at Bergen

It has been raining in Bergen this evening. That is not unusual in a city in which it allegedly rains 267 days a year. What is unusual is that it's the first rain I have seen here since arriving last Saturday afternoon. Furthermore, when I was here two years ago it didn't rain.

Today I had a list of possible touristy things to do, and managed to do three of them before giving up in an exhausted heap at about 2pm. I am getting too old and decrepit.

Firstly visited the Hanseatic Museum, which is a very well presented museum illustrating the lives of Hanseatic merchants in Bergen between 1360 and 1754. They were at the centre of commercial activity in Bergen at that time, exporting fish and cod liver oil, and importing grain, flour and beer.

The building dates from 1702 when it was built following a great fire. It displays storage rooms, private living space, and administration rooms, with furniture and fittings dating from that period. I took a lot of photographs, mostly in challenging conditions, adjusting the ISO ratings between 800 and 6400 depending on lighting conditions. Whether the 6400 ones will be useable remains to be seen, they might need to be converted to black and white to give an acceptable image. Most of these pictures were taken with the 16-46mm zoom lens at 16mm, but would have been much better if it went down to 14 or 12mm.

Apart from furniture and fittings also included in the display were artifacts like original account books, and paintings and other artwork which decorated the walls.

The second place I visited also dates from the same period, and was the communal hall where the Hanseatic merchants had all their hot meals, celebrations and ceremonies. There were fire places and iron stoves to keep them warm. In their living quarters there was no heating, because of the risk of fire, so it must have been very cold in winter - hence the attractiveness of the heated communal hall. Again there is original furniture and fittings, including a model of a ship suspended from the ceiling, light fittings, artwork. And I discovered that the concept of roller-towels goes back hundreds of years. The kitchen here was vast and very different to a modern kitchen. It included much of the cooking equipment. Following my experience at the Hanseatic Museum, most of the pictures here were taken with the 10-17mm fisheye zoom lens, and will need to be defished. Just about the only thing I don't like about digital photography is the risk of getting dust on the sensor, and the only time that could happen is when changing lenses. As a result I take a lot of care when lens changing, and change them much less often than I did in the dim dark ages of 35mm film photography.

The third place I visited was the Bryggens Museum, which is a modern museum built around the site of an archaeological dig at the site of Bergin's oldest known buildings, dating from the 12th century. It is very interesting, very well done, and very well explained. This museum also had the attractive feature of a cafe where lunch could be obtained, coffee was free, and there was plenty of space to sit down, relax, and recuperate, which I needed.

There are now trams again in Bergen, using modern 5-unit articulated trams on a route from Bergin city centre to Nesttun, where there is a tram/bus interchange. Most of the route is on it's own right-of-way, and there are a number of tunnels. I did not get to ride on it. Nor did I get to ride on the Ulriksbanen funicular. The other funicular - Fløibanen I travelled on on my previous visit in 2008.

So, tomorrow I return to Oslo by train.

27 July, 2010

Ole Bull's house

Ole Bull's house

Ole Bull's house

More about Ole Bull's modest cottage

This visit prompted much photography, both on the walking tracks on the island, and of the house, both inside and out.

Two years previously I had visited Edvard Grieg's house "Troldhaugen", which is much closer to Bergen. There, they did not allow photography inside the house, and I expected the same restriction here, but that was not the case. Photographing the extraordinary features of the house was quite challenging, and a wide angle lens was essential. Many of the photographs were taken with the Pentax 10-17mm zoom fish-eye lens, and it will be interesting to see how successful they might turn out to be when de-fished.

This visit was extremely interesting, and the location of the house was magnificent. But it was interesting that when I visited "Troldhaugen" I found that a deeply emotional event. "Lysøen" was not. There are probably two reasons for this. Firstly I already knew Grieg's music and liked it a lot (the first LP I ever bought was the Pier Gynt Suite). Secondly I think Grieg's taste in architecture was much better developed than Bull's. "Troldhaugen" is a beautiful timber house, without the over-the-top decoration of "Lysøen". Both use timber extensively inside, but in "Lysøen" it draws attention to itself, it yells at you. In "Troldhaugen", to my mind, it provides a superbly beautiful backdrop.

To Ole Bull's modest cottage - 26 July

My destination today was the residence of Ole Bull, on the island of Lysøen, about 25km south of Bergen. To get there unfortunately involved a bus journey. This meant finding my way to and through the Bergen bus terminal, finding the right information counter (which is a long way from where the buses actually depart from) and finding the right bus. This became so frustratingly complicated that I was inclined to give up on several occasions, as Bergen has much else to offer, without needing the involvement of buses.

However, I am glad I persevered, for the visit turned out to be very interesting. The bus journey included a section up and over a mountain, with winding narrow road, natural bush and rock formations towering above the road. Then followed a short journey in a boat to get to the island.

Ole Bull was a nineteenth-century Norwegian musician, a virtuoso violinist, who travelled through Europe and America giving performances. He was also a strong promoter of Norwegian folk music, and a mentor for Edvard Grieg.

Ole Bull must have done very well from his musical activities, for he built a summer residence on the island of Lysøen, about 25 km south of Bergen, and laid out about 13km of tracks crisscrossing the natural bush on the island.

Bull died in 1880 and his house and the island has become a museum piece. The house is timber and lined with pine. It includes a lot of intricate fretwork and carved timber features. The main room of the house is a performance hall, of very large proportions with a very high cathedral ceiling, and ten elaborately carved columns supporting the roof.

Gamle Vosseban - the old Voss railway Sunday 25 July

The old Voss railway is a preserved standard gauge line which runs from Garnes to Midttun, an 18km stretch through a wide variety of scenery. It was part of the mainline from Bergen to Oslo, until replaced by a long tunnel, which shortened a very convoluted entry for the railway into Bergen. The railway first opened in 1883, and at that time it terminated at Voss, and was of 3ft 6in gauge. It was converted to standard gauge in 1904, as part of the process to extend over the mountainous country to link with Oslo. The route it takes is difficult and their are several tunnels in the preserved section.

Getting to the railway by public transport is a little tricky, bus to Garnes should be the most straightforward way, but I find the Bergen bus system to be almost opaque to navigate, and the Bergen bus station a place to avoid if at all possible. The alternative, which I took is to take the normal train to Arna, walk to the old Arna station (on the preserved line), then travel to Midttun, back to Garnes, then back to Arna, then take the normal train back to Bergen. This was the course I adopted. There was still the difficulty of finding old Arna station after walking out of new Arna station. It is by no means obvious where it is, nor is there anyone to ask, not even any shops to walk into to ask directions. The only information I had was that it was 300 metres north-east of the new station. So using a compass I walked north-east in the hope of finding something resembling a railway and/or a station. I didn't, but I was walking along a road heading north east. Fortunately I found a woman pushing a pram with a baby, so mustering my best Norwegian I asked where is the old Arna station for Gamle Vosseban. She said it's up there pointing up the road I was walking, and sure enough it was! The railway was pretty well hidden from view behind grass and other vegetation.

Old Arna station did not present a vary prepossessing appearance. It looked in need of painting, and there were weeds and overgrown vegetation about. The only information about the railway was a 2009 brochure attached behind a window. There were a couple of blokes inside who appeared to be cooking something, but they were not selling tickets, nor did they say hello.

Anyway a small crowd of potential passengers gathered, and I took up a spot to photograph the train when it came into view. A man beside me who had the same idea said something to me in Norwegian (I think) and I said "jeg er ikke Norsk, jeg snakke litt Norsk" (I am not Norwegian, I speak little Norwegian). And he said in broken English that he wasn't either, that he was German. So my mind was racing and I said "Sind sie ein Eisebahnfreunde?" (Are you a railway enthusiast?). At least my German was good enough for him to understand, and he replied in German, which I could not understand. So he explained in very broken English (but infinitely better than my spoken German or Norwegian) that he was, but he did not have a serious detailed knowledge.

After that interesting diversion the train came into view. It was a rather attractive, and very Norwegian looking, mainline 4-6-0 tender loco hauling about four traditional teak bodied Norwegian mainline passenger cars. We got on board and had a very pleasant trip to Midttun, where there was a platform but no station building. Only about ten minutes was spent here while the loco ran round the train, and hauled it tender first back to Garnes. In both directions the speed was extremely leisurely, certainly not the sort of speed the loco would have worked in it's heyday.

While we were boarding at Arna I noticed the two blokes who were in the station at Arna also got on board, with a lot of equipment, and it soon became apparent what they were up to. Shortly after leaving Arna they came down the train pushing a trolley, selling coffee and waffles. Large, petal-shaped waffles with jam, and sometimes cream as well, are a great favourite in Norwey.

We then spent 70 minutes at Garnes before the train made it's second and last trip for the day back to Midttun. The set up at Garnes is quite good, with a lot of effort having been made to recreate the pre-first world war period, with for example, a goods shed with a wide variety of goods of the era, a stuffed goods shed attendant behind an iron grill where he attended to customers, and his office set up as it would have been at the time.

Another interesting feature of the ride was that there was a theatre group of three actors, two women and a man, walking down the train hamming it up with the passengers. The women were dressed as they would have been 100 years ago, and the bloke was dressed up in full Norwegian State Railway (NSB) uniform of the same period, and he had a very impressive looking handle-bar moustache.

Back to the modern railways, the Bergen to Arna train service is a rather peculiar local service. It runs hourly on Sundays, and more frequently on other days. It is a distance of about 9km, and there are only two stations, Bergen and Arna. The reason there are only two stations is that the railway takes a direct line between the two places through a tunnel (part of the mainline to Oslo). It goes straight through a mountain, and provides the fastest route between the two places, as the roads all take a great way round to avoid the mountain.

26 July, 2010

Sunday 25 July 2010 at Bergen and the Old Voss railway

I knew Bergen had made a good impression on me in 2008, but almost as soon as I had left the station this time it dawned on me just how attractive the city is, with water features, public open spaces, sculptures, gardens, monuments, and impressive buildings of reasonable size.
Problem is Bergen is surrounded by mountains and hills, and my hotel was not far from the station, but the street up to it got progressively steeper, and dragging my relatively light roller-case up the hill was an effort. Its time somebody invented s roller-case with power-assisted wheels. Place where I am staying is a magnificent building about 110 years old, amongst similar buildings, and it's full of interesting antiques.

Today, Sunday, I visited the Gamle Vossebanen - Old Voss railway - a standard gauge (originally 3ft 6in) preserved line. Was a good day, weather perfect.

Will continue tomorrow, too late, need to sleep!

Gamle Vosseban 4-6-0 loco

Gamle Vosseban. 4-6-0 loco

Gamle Vosseban 4-6-0 loco builder's plate

25 July, 2010


Flåm train at Myrdal

Another view from Oslo - Bergen train

View from train Oslo - Bergen

To Bergen - Saturday 24 July

Today I travelled by train from Oslo to Bergen, departing Oslo 10.39, arriving Bergen 17:54, two minutes late, which in a 7 hour 13 minute journey is pretty respectable. Train was loco hauled, and like the majority of Norwegian railways, is electrified. The normal route for this service is via Drammen, but at the present time until around 10 August all Oslo - Drammen services are replaced by buses while the railway is upgraded. This corresponds to Norwegian school holidays, when business activity is low, as everyone tries to take advantage of the Norwegian summer (which is a reasonable thing to do, since the winter is long and harsh). Anyway the route currently being taken out of Oslo is north via Roa, meeting up with the normal route at Hønefoss.

Some things noted on the trip:

Many of the stations show very fine architecture, such as Grefsen in stone, and many other beautiful examples of timber buildings.

Only 14 minutes out of Oslo suburbia was left behind, and the railway was running through natural scenery, with little tracks running through the pine forest, many rivers and streams.

At 12:40 I noticed a disused branch going off to the north, junctioning west of Sokna.

At 14:44 we stopped at Geilo, another beautiful timber building displaying various styles of architecture.

There are a number of stations with very short names around the middle of the line, such as Gol, and Ål (pronounced Awl).

The train made lots of brief stops at small stations where the railway is at a high elevation, and the trees are stunted. There appeared to be a lot of people enjoying holiday in this area, like hiking, fishing and bicycling. The thought went through my mind of what it would be like to live in this area in winter, it would surely be pretty grim. There are small wooden houses dotted about most of which I suspect are summer holiday houses of people normally living in the cities.

At Finse, which is at an elevation of 1,222 metros, there is a "Rallarmuséet". This is a Navvies museum and traces the history of the Oslo-Bergen railway and the 15,000 people who built the railway. There was a magnificent steam rotary snow plough on display there.

The scenery on this railway is spectacular, more so on the south side than the north side. At Dale, which is between Voss and Bergen, there are some incredible rocky outcrops.

For long stretches in the high country the railway is either in long tunnels or in snow shelters, and often the snow shelters are joined to the tunnels. You know when you are in a snow shelter as they have holes or gaps in them, letting in the sunshine. So there are often brief glimpses of spectacular scenery between these blind spots.

24 July, 2010

Friday 23 July

Was having major and frustrating technical difficulties with modern technology yesterday and today. I could receive emails, but not send them, getting the unhelpful message that they were being rejected by the server. Eventually I was able to resolve this finding on the Bigpond website that I needed to have SMTP authentication turned on. Unfortunately they offered no advice on how to do this so I had to guess and make some assumptions, which amazingly worked.

Today was scheduled as a recovery day with nothing too critical to do. However this morning I did have some time-critical shopping which I wanted to accomplish, then needed to find a post office to send the items back to Australia.

This afternoon I spent a couple of hours wandering around the city taking photographs of interesting, and mainly nineteenth-century buildings, mostly using the remarkable but challenging Pentax 10-17mm fish-eye zoom lens. When de-fished using appropriate software this can produce very interesting results, but more often than not produces awful results. So the solution is to take lots of pictures, and hope you get some good ones! One of the many advantages of digital photography is that that approach costs nothing. Another is that lenses of that type are practical. They would be too big and costly for 35mm film cameras.

Addenda to trip report, Emerald to Oslo

Entering Norway for a foreigner is very easy, at least if you are a resident of a country for which Norway does not require a visa, and Australian citizens don't require a visa for a holiday of less than 90 days. There are no landing cards to be filled out, just a brief inspection of your passport and a rubber stamp. Then there is no queueing to go through customs, no sniffer dogs, no x-raying of everything you bring in, just walk through. If you have anything to declare you are expected to declare it. Nor is there any apparent visual surveillance. For a system like this to work, there must surely be random inspections.

If you Google "How to survive a long haul flight" you will get numerous web sites offering good advice. One piece of recurring advice is to keep hydrated, therefore buy a bottle of water after going through the security process. I did this but with Qantas it was not necessary as they offered water (and fruit juice) frequently during the flight.

Dimly discernible banana

In the depths of the night (the equivalent of about 3:00am) on the 12 hour flight from Singapore to London I vaguely discerned a figure approaching through the gloom of the darkened cabin. The figure turned out to be a flight attendant, carrying a very small light rather like a candle, and she was waving around a barely discernible object, which turned out to be a banana, and offering these to any who wanted them. Seemed bizarre to me.

Photographs uploaded

Have just uploaded three phone-camera photos taken this afternoon.

One is of the old Oslo Ostban station, a grand nineteenth century station of the train-shed variety which became redundant in the 1980s when the new Oslo Central station was built, which replaced two disconnected stations (west and east). Oslo Ostban now houses shops and restaurants.

Another of the photographs is of a large and savage animal in front of Oslo Ostban station. I don't know what the relevance of this is to Norway or Oslo, but if it is to frighten away trolls it seems to be effective, as I have not seen any since arriving yesterday.

The third photograph is of a tram near Oslo Ostban station.

Large animal in front of Oslo Ostban stasjon

Tram near Oslo Ostban stasjon

Oslo Ostban stasjon (now a shopping centre)

23 July, 2010

Trip report Emerald, Victoria to Oslo, Norway

There were eight stages in this journey which took about 35 hours to complete, with no opportunity to sleep properly at any time during the journey.

Stage 1 was taxi from home to Belgrave, supplied by Emerald taxi service. Taxi arrived on time, driver knew where Norway was, and provided the opportunity for good conversation on the way.

Stage 2 was 5ft 3in gauge electric train from Belgrave to Spencer Street station, Melbourne (though the powers that be - in their infinite wisdom - have renamed the station Southern Cross). This is the first time I have travelled on a Melbourne suburban train this year, and it ran efficiently and to time. From what I here on the radio and read in the papers, this is not normal!

Stage 3 was the Skybus service from Spencer Street station to Tullamarine airport, and as with my previous experiences on this service, it ran with awesome efficiency and reliability, which makes it difficult to justify a rail connection to the airport, unfortunately.

Stage 4 was Qantas flight QF9 to Singapore. Now we get to the long and gruelling stages! International travel for third class passengers has lost all its relaxed charm, but on the other hand it is affordable, which is a new phenomenon. Flight was uneventful, hardly any turbulence, and it ran to schedule. I got an "exit seat" which was a very good investment of $160, as it provided leg room, thereby avoiding the mysery of being crammed into a confined space for too long. By the way, the $160 covered both stage 4 and 5. This lasted about 8 hours, arriving Singapore about 9:00pm (11:00pm Melbourne time). Two meals were served during the flight, and the only highlight was the "Toasted sweet potato, spinach and feta sandwich" provided as the main part of the second meal. This was amazingly good wholemeal grain bread with a very tasty filling which all looked very healthy to me.

Stage 5 was the continuation of Qantas QF9 to London. This was the long haul stage - over 12 hours - mostly in darkness, and mostly spent in a non-sleeping semi-stupor. From extensive research on the Internet I get the impression that Qantas has a good reputation for trying to make long-haul flights for third-class passengers at least bearable, and my experience on this and the previous trip to Norway supports that view. I was tempted to take a different route this time, via Amsterdam, and mostly by KLM. It had the very attractive feature of being $1000 cheaper, but from what I read on customer reviews on the Internet, KLM does not have a similar reputation for long haul flights. A pity because KLM is the oldest airline in the world, and a pioneer of long haul flights. It beats Qantas by one year, which is the second oldest. This flight departed Singapore around 11:15pm, and arrived London around 5:15am London time, which was close to schedule. Again the flight was remarkably devoid of interesting turbulence.

Stage 6 was a very short one, but I count it as a a stage because it involved another vehicle - a bus from Heathrow Terminal 3 to Heathrow Terminal 5, which is a sufficiently long and convoluted trip that it takes about six minutes, and despite the time being 5:50am the bus was full to capacity. I must say that Heathrow is exceptionally well signposted, and it would be difficult to get lost transferring from one terminal to another.

Stage 7 was a British Airways flight to Oslo, which is about 900 miles and takes about two hours. The aircraft was an Airbus A320 and with more comfortable seating than on the Qantas 747, which was rather elderly. I already had my boarding pass for this flight, which I got on departure from Melbourne, requesting a window seat if possible. And the attendant in Melbourne said you have got seat 7A.which is a good window seat, and he was right! It is always interesting viewing unfamiliar territory from above. In this case England was about 50% cloud-covered, though this varied from about 80% near the start of the trip to about 20% in the east.

The really interesting bit came when the southern Norwegian coast came into view near Kristiansand. I new that the western Norwegian coast was very convoluted and complicated, but I had not realized that the southern coast was equally so, with numerous islands, many of very odd shape, and many parts of the mainland attached to the rest of the mainland by a tiny stretch of land. It is no wonder that the Norwegians are experts in building underwater tunnels, big bridges, and running ferries.

Stage 7 ran to schedule, again without any turbulence. A very small (but good quality) cheese roll and orange juice was provided as part of the service, and the service was good.

Stage 8 was "Flytoget" (the Air-train) which provides a high-speed train link to Oslo central station. I think the distance is about 75km, and the speed about 160km/h or possibly faster. After my Belgrave-Melbourne trip the difference in track quality was a revelation. Absolutely rock steady, no bumps or jolts, and almost silent.

So that's the end of the trip report, at 11:18 pm Thursday local time. Please make allowances for any spelling mistakes or other errors - I am getting tired!

Arrived Oslo

Am now ensconced at the Thon Terminus Hotel at Oslo, and have been since about 2:00pm local time (10:00pm Melbourne time) Thursday. Then had what I intended to be a short siesta, but turned into a deep sleep.

Woke up some hours later and looked at my watch, which has Australian Eastern time and Norwegian time on it. It said 20:00 and 4:00, so then I had to work out whether it was 4:00am Friday or 8:00pm Thursday. In either case it was much later than I expected. Worked out that it must be 8:00pm Thursday, in which case it was desirable that I have a short walk and get some dinner to start to reset my body clock! (At this time of year there are very few hours of darkness in Norway).

So, not in no mood to get lost, I decided to stick to familiar territory and went to Oslo Ostban, a magnificent nineteenth century railway station of the train-hall variety, which is no longer in use as a station, but rather than demolishing it, has been made into a shopping hall, with pubs, restaurants, newsagents, a supermarket, and various other shops. There is even a McDonalds there, which I avoid like the plague.

Normally when in Norway I would look for Norwegian food, but I wasn't particularly hungry, nor did I want to spend much time, so I found an Indian fast-food place, and got a "mixed grill" for 99 kroner - about $A18.00, with a large glass of water supplied without asking, which was much appreciated. This demonstrates that it is possible to eat in Norway at a reasonable price, and was way below what I had budgeted to pay for dinner!

Weather here is fine, but at some time in the afternoon there was a lot of rain, but it was brief. I notice that the hotel provides each room with two umbrellas for guests to cope with the changeable weather. However they are red, and the thought of using a red umbrella is very discombobulating, I am sure people would think I was a communist.

Will give a run-down on the trip over shortly.

18 July, 2010


When creating this blog I needed to find a name for it in a hurry, so I chose "Powellite".
Powellite was one of the six locomotives which worked on the 3ft Yarra Junction - Powelltown tramway in Victoria, a tramway which has actively occupied my mind since 1953 or 1954.
Powellite was an 0-6-0 tender locomotive built by the English firm of Bagnall in 1913. It worked at Powelltown until 1944, then spent a few years on the island of Nauru before being scrapped in the 1950s.
I thank Mal Dow for allowing me to use the beautiful header photograph which was taken by his father in 1938. The chimney on the loco is not original, it was a replacement fitted by the Victorian Railways not long before this photograph was taken.


The purpose of this blog is to use the latest technology to replace the handwritten travel diaries I have written since the first interstate trip I took in 1960. That was a five day visit to Tasmania with my uncle and a railway-enthusiast friend of his.

As its prime purpose is a travel diary it may not be rivetting reading, but it will act as a memory jogger when I make use of photographs taken on trips.

Unfortunately there will be few photographs, and they will be of the limited quality that a phone camera can produce. This is because I will be using an iPad to write the text, and at the present time there is a four to six week delay in the supply of the simple device that enables the connection of a digital camera to the iPad!

If the blog entries suddenly stop then it probably means that the high-tech solution has failed, or I have decided that the low-tech hand-written diary is easier.