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

25 July, 2010

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.

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