Norway’s most scenic train rides
Flåm Railway: A must for any rail enthusiast, the Flåm Railway, one of the world’s steepest railways on normal gauge, is one of Norway’s most popular attractions, and a masterpiece of Norwegian engineering. The line, on which some 500,000 passengers travel every year, takes you through spectacular scenery all the way from Myrdal down to the Aurlandsfjord, 865 metres below. On the 20-kilometre-long stretch you will go through 20 tunnels and past countless waterfalls.
Rauma Line: Not as well known, but arguably just as beautiful as the Flåm Railway, the Rauma Line, which runs between Åndalsnes and Dombås, was completed in 1924. The line is very popular with tourists - 60,000 passengers travelled on the Rauma Railway last summer, 15,000 of whom were cruise passengers. Highlights along the way include Trollveggen, the tunnel at Verma, the waterfall at Mongefossen and the distinctive stone-arched Kylling Bridge. Parts of the film Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were shot here.
Bergen Line: Linking the country’s two main cities, Oslo and Bergen, this line takes in some beautiful scenery, with the most spectacular stretch as the train goes over the Hardangervidda, Europe's highest mountainous plateau. Finse, at 1,222 metres above sea level, is the highest point on the line. Building work, which started in 1875, took 34 years to complete, and employed a workforce of some 15,000 men. The 182 tunnels were carved by hand. The Bergen Line, or "Bergensbanen", as it is known in Norwegian, celebrated its centenary in 2009. The trip between Oslo and Bergen takes about 7.5 hours.
Old steam railways
Indulge in a bit of nostalgia with a trip on an old steam railway. Here are some of the most popular ones in Norway.
Vossebanen: Near Garnes, northeast of Bergen. The only train pulled by a steam locomotive still running on a mainline track. There are four restored stations along the 18-kilometre-long line. The Damplok 18c 255 locomotive, which was built at Hamar Jernstøberi in 1913, has clocked an impressive 2.6 million kilometres – the equivalent of going 65 times around the world.
More on the Vossebanen Railway. (Norwegian only)
Krøderbanen: Norway's longest museum, south in the Hallingdal Valley. Heritage railway with steam locomotive and old teak carriages running on the museum’s 26 kilometres of tracks between Vikersund and Krøderen in the county of Buskerud. The Krøder Line was opened in 1872 as a narrow gauge railway, and converted to standard gauge when the Bergen Line opened in 1909. It was closed down by NSB in 1985, and since then has been a museum operated by the Norwegian Railway and the Krøderbanen Foundation. Trains, buildings and tracks have been preserved as they were, and Krøderbanen is now also a centre for restoration and maintenance of rail museum artefacts.
Setesdalsbanen: This narrow gauge railway dates back to 1896, and originally ran between Setesdal and Kristiansand in southern Norway. Setesdalsbanen was closed down in 1962, but reopened only two years later as a museum. Today eight of the original 78 kilometres are open - the stretch between Grovane and Røyknes stations in Vennesla municipality in Vest-Agder. This is a popular tourist attraction with some rare locomotives, including two Dübs locomotives built in 1894; period wooden carriages and station buildings - not to mention the pervading smell of coal.
Tertitten Urskog-Hølandsbanen: Located in Sørumsand, some 40 kilometres east of Oslo, this 750mm-gauge railway also dates back to 1896, and was in use until 1960. Although it carried both goods and passengers, the bulk of the traffic consisted of trains carrying timber. Today the Tertitten Railway, which has been restored and preserved, is a part of Akershusmuseet. Enjoy a nostalgic train journey with a picnic maybe at Bingsfoss Station. Daily departures from mid-June to the end of August.
The National Railway Museum, located in Hamar, is the largest railway museum in Norway. The collection inside blends artefacts and illustrations from Norway’s railway history with interactive electronic games and animation films, while outside you will find various locomotives and carriages, railway buildings and signalling equipment. The museum also boasts one of the world’s oldest heritage trains, Karéttoget, which plies the line between Hamar and Elverum four times a year. Caroline, the locomotive, is Norway’s oldest. It was built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in Newcastle, England, and came to Norway in 1861.
Rallar Museum, Finse: This exhibition opened in 2009 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bergen Line (see above), and provides an insight into its construction. “Rallar” was the nickname for the construction workers employed building roads and railway. An authentic Rallar hut and forge, film clips from 100 years of operation as well as old and new Rallar songs vividly illustrate what life was like along the tracks. The museum is based in the eastern locomotive shed at Finse. Fagernut lengthman’s cottage, located along Rallarvegen, is also part of the Rallar Museum.
The Lommedalen Museum Railway Line is a small railway in the Lommedalen Valley just outside Oslo. The line is only 700 metres long, but it has three stations which are served by a steam train. The Lommedalsbanen is a 600 mm narrow gauge railway. Trains with diesel and steam engine run during summer and a few days in December. The locomotives and cars have been collected from industrial, defence and construction lines from all over Norway. The museum line opened in 1981 and is the main site for the preservation of 600 mm railway rolling stock in Norway. Here you will find among other things Norway’s smallest steam locomotive, dating back to 1904.
For model railway enthusiasts
Gamlebyen Model Railway, Fredrikstad’s Old Town: Scandinavia’s newest and largest model railway, opened in 2010, boasts four kilometres of tracks and some 3,300 buildings (including a copy of the Old Town) spread out over an area of 400 square metres. 112,000 visitors in the first two years have made Gamlebyen Model Railway one of Fredrikstad’s most popular attractions.
Miniature Railway Fair: Traditional model railway exhibition in October, Bergen, with lots of model railways, and activities for children too. This is the largest event of its kind in Norway. Next one will take place 28-29 September 2013 in Turnhallen, Slettebakken (a short drive from the city centre). More on the Miniature Railway Fair.
Shop: NMJ is the place to order Norwegian miniatures, from locomotives to carriages etc. Established over 30 years. (website in English)
Ride a rail tricycle
Rail tricycles (dresin in Norwegian) were used by fettlers to check the condition of railway lines. Riding them is a great way to travel along tracks that no longer are in use, and has become a popular activity, especially for families with children. You can try this in Flekkefjordbanen, south of Jæren; Valdresbanen in Valdres; Namsosbanen in Trøndelag, Numedalsbanen, north of Kongsberg, and Rjukanbanen in Telemark.
This is Norwegians’ take on the Orient Express. Enjoy dinner on board a heritage train as you whisk through the Norwegian countryside. There are tours around Nordmarka in August and September, or you can join a trip from Oslo to Bergen in September (cancelled for 2012, will resume in 2013). Planning a party and have a few crowns to spend? Rent your own heritage train. Oslo to Bergen costs 85,000Kr (one way). More information and booking at +47 67 10 99 70, or at email@example.com
Thamshavn Line: Norway's first electrical railway
The Thamshavn Railway was built to carry pyrites from the mines at Løkken. When opened in 1908, it was Norway's first electrified railway. Today it is the world's oldest narrow gauge railway running on alternating current. Although initially the Thamshavn Railway was carrying passengers, from 1963 and until its demise in 1974, it was only used for goods transportation. Since 1982, however, the Thamshavn Railway has been restored, and today it is possible to travel by train between Løkken Verk and Bårdshaug in exactly the same carriages as in 1908. The vintage railway operates from May to September; over 11,800 passengers took the trip on the 25-kilometre line in 2008.
For all information regarding train travel in Norway see NSB.
More info on travelling by rail in Norway.