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

10 August, 2010

To Oslo via Røros and Hamar

I gave the background to this route in my previous post, so I will not repeat that here.

Trondheim seems to host a number of diesel train services, as I saw two other two-car sets while waiting for the Røros - Hamar service to depart. One serves the long line which goes up the east coast to Bodø. The other had a Lerkendal destination, but I do not know where Lerkendal is. The two unit railcar was quite comfortable and roomy, and for most of the journey averaged only about 55% full, which made for a more relaxed journey. It was air-conditioned and well insulated, as a result it was quite quiet, there was little diesel rumble to be heard. Part of one car was designated a "Quiet zone" and the meaning of this was explained by no loud talking, no mobile phones, no portable music media-playing devices, and no laptop computers. Why laptop computers should be banned in the quiet zone I don't know, in any case I think they were foolish in being so specific, as it means the playing of bagpipes is acceptable.

The electrified mainline was left at Støren, about fifty minutes in to the journey, which was scheduled to take about six hours in this railcar. Immediately the track felt a little rougher, and the speed felt a little faster, but I suspect it was actually a little slower. It gave the impression of being faster because of the rougher track, and tighter clearances, vegetation and trees were closer to the train and the width of cuttings was less. I do not know how extensively this route was upgraded when it was converted to standard gauge, but the curves used on the Norwegian 3ft 6in gauge lines were not less than nine chains radius (with the exception of the Setesdals line, but that was in another part of the country), which is usable on standard gauge, but sharper than desirable on a secondary mainline.

By this time the grey weather had gone, the sun was out and the sky was blue! This route is quite varied in it's scenery, and interesting much of the time. Around Røros, where the elevation is around 600 metres, there are stunted trees. In other parts the railway follows wide rivers with stoney banks, passes through forests in all stages of growth, as there is much timber cutting in this area, as there has been since long before the coming of the railway. Particularly in the southern part of the route there seems to be quite a few secondary industries, mostly based on timber I suspect, and there is a lot of agriculture.

In an area to the north of Røros the railway is high up on the side of a hill, giving magnificent views into the wide, verdant green valley below dotted with villages, houses, barns, and churches, looking like scenes from a Swiss calendar from this viewpoint. Wonderful.

There are a number of original timber station buildings dating from the 1870s and 3ft 6in gauge days, and I think they are protected as historic relics.

Although this trip is timetabled as two trains, with two train numbers (with Røros being the change point), and appears as two separate journeys on the passenger's ticket, the same railcar is used throughout, with a crew change at Røros, where the stop is only for a few minutes.

Further down the line we spent about fifteen minutes at some remote small station (Alta if I remember correctly) waiting to pass another railcar coming in the opposite direction. We did not regain this lost time, despite some very spirited running a little later, and arrived at Hamar at 16:02 instead of the scheduled 15:46. This was just in time to do a cross-platform interchange to the electric train to Oslo, which had come from Lillehammer, and was due to depart Hamar at 16:04. To NSB's credit they have the platform tracks at Hamar signalled for two-way running, and seem to schedule the electric trains which operate between Oslo and Lillehammer to use whichever track creates the least effort for the majority of Røros line passengers when they change trains. I had visions of a mad scramble down the subway to Track 1 for the Oslo train, instead there was an easy cross-platform walk over to Track 3. Track 2 is a stub used by Røroas trains.

The journey into Oslo was uneventful and pretty much on schedule. Many passengers got off at Gardermoen airport, and not many got on, meaning the train was now unusually empty, maybe about 30% occupied. Arrival at Oslo was around 17:35 and I made for the Thon Terminus Hotel again. I have noticed that the Thon Hotel chain seems to place their hotels next to "ethnic" restaurants of quite good quality and value. The Terminus Hotel at Oslo is next to an Italian restaurant where I have eaten a few times, including tonight; and the two Thon Hotels at Trondheim are next to an Irish Pub restaurant, and a Scottish restaurant. The Norwegian summer school holidays end this week, and business will return to normal in Oslo. This means rates at Thon Terminus Hotel will go up about 50% to business rates and be far less attractive to casual travelers.

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