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

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.

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