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

30 July, 2010

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.

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