Just over 1 kilometer of the old railway track from Neslandsvatn has been converted into a new pedestrian and bicycle path.
The Kragerø line was simply called "The line" on Neslandsvatn. The settlement south of Drangedal was an important train junction on the Sørlandsbanen line, with the siding to Kragerø, until 1 January 1989, when the line from 1927 was closed.
Attractive communal walking and walking path
A few years ago, parts of the disused railway line between Neslandsvatn and Eskilt were removed, and turned into an attractive hiking trail. On the first part of the approx. 1 km long stretch, you will today find climbing wall, climbing pyramid, bocce court, campfire / barbecue hut, playground, bathingplace, exercise benches, beach volleyball court, peton court, street lights and adapted picnic areas.
Further down the course is Oterbekkbua, which is a gathering place at Oterbekk swimming area, with outdoor kitchen, covered seating, barbecue and toilet. The track ends at the old stop Eskilt, where a path goes down to Fiskesteinen, where Neslandsvannet ends in the Heldøl river.
The work on continuing with the footpath will begin in the autumn of 2021 and will extend the track by 5.5 km to Merkebekk.
The Kragerø line is a disused railway line between Neslandsvatn station on the Sørlandsbanen line and Kragerø. The track was opened on December 1, 1927 and was 26.6 kilometers long. From 1927 to 1989, passengers and goods were transported on this stretch. After opening in 1927, the Kragerø line had five stations (Merkebekk, Farsjø, Sannidal and Vadfoss) and 11 tunnels.
A continuous railway connection was to be established between Oslo and Stavanger and as part of this, the Sørlandsbanen line was extended from Lunde to Kragerø. For a time, the line was the terminus for the Sørlandsbanen line. From December 2, 1927, it went into ordinary traffic. But when the Sørlandsbanen was extended further to Arendal in 1935, the Kragerøbanen became a sideline to the Sørlandsbanen.
After this, passenger traffic dropped drastically. So it went as it had to go, in 1989, passenger traffic was stopped by a Storting decision. Since then, it has been quiet on these tracks.
The inhabitants of the town of Neslandsvatn wanted to have this old railway line turned into a pedestrian and bicycle path. After Jernbaneverket gave the land to the municipality, the work was started.
Just over 1 kilometer of the route from Neslandsvatn has been converted into a new pedestrian and bicycle path. 600 meters of the old train line was opened on 9 November 2017, and in September 2019 there was great joy at Neslandsvatn. Then the stretch of 1 kilometer, which was the first pedestrian and bicycle path on a disused railway in Telemark, was officially opened.
Hiking trail along the entire old Kragerø line
Drangedal and Kragerø municipalities are investigating the possibility of creating an attractive and long walking and cycling path along the rest of the route to Kragerø.