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

03 August, 2010

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This was complicated by the fact that the trip was via Drammen, and all train services between Oslo and Drammen had been replaced by buses to enable major track works.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.

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