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

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.