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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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The highest rail route in northern Europe

The highest rail route in northern Europe

Attaching Norway’s trendy funding with its most picturesque city, the 496km, 39-station Oslo-Bergen train is among the globe’s most stunning train trips.

On a chilly November morning in Oslo, I boarded a train bound for Bergen.

I’ve been checking out Norway for more than a decade, returning a minimum of a lots times given that my wide-eyed initial trip. I have actually been to the northern most point on the Norwegian landmass (Knivskjelodden) and to its southernmost pointer (Lindesnes Fyr, where my sunglasses blew clean off my head as well as bent on sea in a wind). I have actually seen whales and walrus. I have treked across glaciers in Svalbard and also stood under the nation’s only hand tree in Kristiansand. And I have watched the northern lights in winter season and also partied under the twelve o’clock at night sunlight in summer.

But also for factors passing all understanding, I had never before travelled the Oslo-Bergen train. The even more I thought about it, the stranger this seemed. This is, besides, rated regularly among the world’s most gorgeous train trips. It was time– even long overdue.

I had actually done my research study. I understood, for instance, that on a brief November day, only one of the five day-to-day separation times, 08:25, would certainly make sure that I made the entire six-and-a-half-hour, 496km trip throughout daylight hours. I understood enough additionally to schedule a home window seat on the left side of the train (on the right if taking a trip from Bergen) to obtain the very best views.

And when the train pulled away from the system, I felt unexpectedly that, without understanding it previously, I had actually been waiting on this moment for a very long time.

At first, there was absolutely nothing to recommend the dramatization that lay up ahead. As the train scampered from the city centre, there were short lived looks: of the satisfaction craft of Oslofjord; of stylish wood houses climbing up hills; of signs to Bygdøy where museums informed epic stories of expedition as well as the Viking past.

Gathering speed out past Asker as well as Sandvika, the train then crossed the fjord and also hurried past the burgeoning commuter city of Drammen, its hillsides colonized by urban sprawl of the prettiest kind.

Not far west of Drammen, the track transformed for the north. So skillfully has this track been crafted that the change in direction hardly registered. One minute we were taking a trip west, the next we were bound for the north and also it was left to the landscape itself to introduce the modification: suddenly, the hills were higher, as well as beautiful alpine meadows and also pine-clad foothills scaled deep valleys studded with little towns as well as lone farmhouses holding on to precipices.

Change came gradually. The slowing train hinted at subtle gains in elevation. We went into a valley down by the shore of a quite fjord. When we left, it was across a pass high over the valley floor; recalling to where we began, it all looked so awfully far down below.

And after that, without clear warning, we arised from a passage as well as right into the high snows of Hardangervidda, a substantial hill plateau.

I love watching people’s faces when they travel this route for the first time

” I love seeing people’s faces when they travel this path for the very first time,” Jørgen Johansen told me. Johansen has actually worked the line for Norway’s rail authorities for greater than 3 years. “I never obtain tired of the view, however it’s the appearance of marvel on individuals’s faces that I appreciate one of the most.”.

With the train now atop Europe’s largest high plateau– Hardangervidda covers virtually 6,500 sq kilometres, with a typical elevation of greater than 1km above water level– the trip became something various completely. For the very first time, it proved out that this was both north Europe’s greatest mainline train and also a marvel of engineering.

Among the oldest geological formations on the continent’s north, Hardangervidda and its valleys and shapes were formed over centuries by glaciers gouging down off the icy wastes towards the sea. And yet, what took countless years under the weight of ice and also the inexorable march of time, Norway’s rail and also road home builders accomplished in decades.

When the Bergensbanen (the Bergen Line), as it’s now in some cases called, was first surveyed in 1872, Norway was a poverty-stricken outpost of an extra flourishing Europe; the exploration of oil that would transform the country was still nearly a century away. At the time, there was much debate concerning where the money would certainly originate from, and there were many false beginnings; at the time, the export of sardines and herrings maintained Norway’s nationwide budget afloat, with not a lot left over for framework projects on this range.

Job nevertheless started on the line in 1875. By 1909, it was finished, its 39 terminals (several of which are for local trains just– the inter-city solution quits at 21) connected by a serpentine path across some of the most challenging landscapes you can envision. Hardangervidda is infamously unwelcoming, its capricious modifications in weather condition simply one difficulty among lots of that dealt with the building contractors of the line. To make the railway work, to find the most direct course possible, they constructed 180 passages– one passage for each 2.75 km of track.

” The Oslo-Bergen Railways tells an extremely Norwegian tale,” Lisbeth Nielsen, a Norwegian transport chronicler told me later in Bergen. “There’s constantly something in the way when it comes to navigating Norway. If we let mountains or arms stop us, we would certainly never go anywhere. So, they developed tunnels as well as roadways as well as train lines that appear difficult to every person else. It’s part of what makes us Norwegian.”.


By the time we reached the ski town of Geilo, altitude 794m and the trip’s middle, the world whereby we travelled birthed no similarity to what went before it. Deep snow sank the landscape and also cross-country skiers left the train as well as skied out off the platform as well as over the hillsides. High over Ustaoset (990m) and also its ice-bound lake fringed with nation cabins, a reindeer’s antlers stood silhouetted versus the puncturing blue sky; Norway’s greatest herd of wild reindeer, 10,000-strong, still strolls totally free throughout Hardangervidda. At Finse– the highest possible terminal along the line, at 1,222 m above sea level– a team of walkers in hefty wintertime gear boarded the train, ice still holding on to beards as well as boots.

This is my favourite part of the journey. Everything is drama, and up here on Hardangervidda is where the carriages always fall silent

” This is my favourite component of the trip,” said Johansen. “Everything is drama, and up below on Hardangervidda is where the carriages constantly fall silent.”.

He was right: nobody spoke, and also when the commentator broke the silence to announce our brewing arrival in Myrdal, I was not the just one that flinched at the sudden noise of a human voice.


At Myrdal Station (867m), a train waited on a branch line that is one of the steepest train lines on Earth. From Myrdal to Flåm, down by the financial institutions of Aurlandsfjord, an inner arm of Sognefjord, the track twists and also dives down with 20 tunnels, losing 866m in altitude in just 20km, falling at a gradient of 1:18. There was, it seemed, no place that a Norwegian train could not travel.

If the climb to Hardangervidda had actually appeared steady, the descent to the community of Voss took place far as well promptly. The snow thinned. The planet came to be environment-friendly. And rivers, lakes and then fjords were clear as well as blue. Right here was yet an additional Norway, one where the track hugged one arm after one more. As it had since we had actually left Oslo hrs previously, the track both conquered the challenging topography and also surrendered to it. There disappeared enjoyable hour to be had in the whole trip than this last fjord-side meander.

And after that, Bergen. The train wove between the 7 hills and also seven fjords of this graceful city. Whitewashed wood buildings climbed up the hillsides over the city centre as well as fall leaves provided the city a golden cast right into the stately, muralled train station. It was a fitting end to an impressive journey, and also, in the excitement of arrival, I felt as if I had actually just seen Norway for the really very first time.

Last Updated:  01 February 2023

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