The Bergen Line, also known as Bergensbanen or Nynorsk: Bergensbana, is a 371-kilometre (231 mi) long scenic standard gauge railway line between Bergen and Hønefoss, Norway. It's the highest mainline railway line in Northern Europe, crossing the Hardangervidda plateau at 1,237 meters (4,058 ft) above sea level. The line opened from Bergen to Voss in 1883 and was extended over the mountain to Oslo in 1909. It's served by Vy Tog and CargoNet.
The Voss Line
The idea of building a railway between Norway's two largest cities was launched in 1871. The Voss Line was built with narrow gauge and completed in 1882. The official opening was on 11 July 1883.
Construction of the Bergen Line
The construction of the Bergen Line was challenging due to high altitudes and harsh climate. 113 tunnels were built, with the longest being the Gravehalsen Tunnel. The line was completed in 1909, with King Haakon VII praising it as a Norwegian engineering masterpiece.
World War Two
During WWII, the line was heavily used by both German military and civilian transportation. An accident in 1944 killed 25 civilians and an unknown number of German soldiers.
The line was electrified in stages from 1954 to 1964. The electrification was driven by Norway's abundance of hydroelectricity and the high cost of importing coal. The line has been served by various electric locomotives and multiple units over the years.
The line was operated by the Norwegian State Railways (NSB) until 1996. After various organizational changes, the train operator was renamed Vygruppen and rebranded as Vy in 2019.
The Ulriken Tunnel was a significant project to reduce the line's length. A second single-track tunnel was completed in 2020, and refurbishment of the old tunnel is due to finish in 2023.
Opened in 1980, the Oslo Tunnel allowed trains to go to the new Oslo Central Station. Passenger trains were rerouted via Drammen, increasing the length but maintaining travel time.
The Finse Tunnel was part of efforts to keep the line snow-free during winter. Large diesel-electric snowploughs were stationed at Finse, and the tunnel helped in maintaining the line.
Thought-Provoking Questions or Insights
- Engineering Challenges: How did the engineers overcome the extreme weather conditions and high altitudes to construct the Bergen Line? What innovations were required?
- Impact of WWII: What were the specific challenges faced during the German occupation of Norway, and how did it affect the Bergen Line's operation?
- Sustainability and Electrification: How has the electrification of the Bergen Line contributed to sustainable transportation in Norway? What lessons can be learned from this for other countries?
The Bergen Line's rich history, engineering marvels, and continued upgrades make it a fascinating subject of study. Its role in connecting major cities and adapting to modern needs reflects Norway's commitment to efficient and sustainable transportation.
Route of the Bergen Railway
The Bergen Railway offers a breathtaking journey that spans from the coastal city of Bergen to the capital city of Oslo. Here's a detailed look at the route:
Bergen to Voss
- Bergen: The journey begins in Bergen, a city known for its beautiful harbor and the gateway to the fjords.
- Arna: The first stop after Bergen, offering a glimpse of the stunning fjords.
- Voss: Known for outdoor activities like skiing and hiking, Voss is a must-visit destination.
Voss to Myrdal
- Myrdal: A junction for the Flåm Railway, Myrdal offers a chance to explore the famous Flåm Valley.
Myrdal to Geilo
- Finse: The highest station on the line, Finse provides access to Hardangervidda National Park.
- Geilo: A popular ski resort town, Geilo is a hub for winter sports enthusiasts.
Geilo to Oslo
- Gol: A small town known for its traditional Norwegian architecture.
- Drammen: The last major stop before Oslo, Drammen is known for its riverside setting.
- Oslo: The journey concludes in Oslo, Norway's vibrant capital.
Best Time to Travel on the Bergen Railway
- Spring: Witness the melting snow and blooming flora.
- Summer: Enjoy long days and mild temperatures.
- Autumn: Experience the colorful fall foliage.
- Winter: For winter sports enthusiasts, this is the time to travel.
The Bergen Railway offers unparalleled views of Norway's famous fjords. The Sognefjord, Norway's longest and deepest fjord, is a highlight of the journey. Stretching over 200 kilometers, it's a breathtaking sight with its deep blue waters and towering cliffs. Other notable fjords include the Hardangerfjord and the Aurlandsfjord, each with its unique charm and beauty.
The train crosses the Hardangervidda plateau, offering stunning views of snow-capped mountains and glaciers. This plateau is the largest of its kind in Europe, and the train reaches an altitude of 1,237 meters (4,058 ft) above sea level. The views of the Hallingskarvet and Jotunheimen mountain ranges are particularly awe-inspiring.
Numerous waterfalls can be seen along the route, including the iconic Kjosfossen waterfall near Myrdal. This waterfall has a drop of 93 meters and is especially powerful during the spring melt. Other waterfalls like Rjoandefossen and Skarsfossen add to the visual delight of the journey.
The journey offers views of serene lakes, reflecting the majestic mountains. Lakes such as Lake Finse and Lake Ustevatn provide tranquil scenes, often with small wooden cabins dotting the shoreline. These lakes are also popular fishing spots.
Dense forests provide a lush green backdrop, especially during the summer months. The train passes through various forested areas, with trees such as pine, spruce, and birch. These forests are home to diverse wildlife and offer a peaceful contrast to the rugged mountains.
Many hiking trails are accessible from the Bergen Railway, including the famous Trolltunga hike. Other popular hikes include the Aurlandsdalen Valley and the Hardangervidda National Park trails. Whether you're looking for a challenging trek or a leisurely walk, there's a trail for every level.
Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy skiing at popular resorts like Geilo. The Bergen Railway provides easy access to various ski areas, offering both downhill and cross-country skiing opportunities. Snowboarding and snowshoeing are also popular.
Try your hand at fishing in the numerous rivers and lakes along the route. From fly-fishing for trout to angling for salmon, the options are plentiful. Local guides are often available to assist with equipment and knowledge.
For the adventurous, camping near the railway line offers a unique experience. Many spots along the route are suitable for camping, with facilities ranging from fully-equipped campgrounds to wild camping areas.
Keep an eye out for wildlife such as reindeer, foxes, and various bird species. The diverse ecosystems along the Bergen Railway provide habitats for a wide range of animals. Binoculars are recommended for the best viewing experience.
Tips for Travelers
How to Book Tickets
Tickets can be booked online or at the station. Early booking is recommended, especially during peak seasons. Various ticket options are available, including family packages and seasonal discounts.
Where to Stay
From luxury hotels to cozy cabins, accommodation options are plentiful along the route. Consider staying in historic railway hotels or mountain lodges for a unique experience.
What to Pack
Packing depends on the season of travel. Warm clothing is essential for winter, while summer requires lighter attire. Don't forget essentials like sunscreen, a camera, and comfortable walking shoes.
The Bergen Railway in Popular Culture
How the Bergen Railway has Changed Over Time
From steam engines to modern electric trains, the Bergen Railway has evolved to meet the demands of the times. The introduction of new technology, renovation of stations, and enhancement of onboard services have all contributed to a modern and comfortable travel experience.
The Future of the Bergen Railway
Plans for further upgrades and increased connectivity are in the pipeline, ensuring the Bergen Railway continues to be a vital link in Norway's transport network. Initiatives include expanding the line, improving accessibility, and implementing sustainable practices.
How Long Does it Take to Take the Bergen Railway?
The journey from Bergen to Oslo takes approximately 6-7 hours. The travel time allows passengers to fully immerse themselves in the stunning landscapes.
How Much Does it Cost to Take the Bergen Railway?
Prices vary depending on the class and time of booking. Discounts are available for children, seniors, and students. Flexible tickets and rail passes offer additional savings.
What are the Best Places to See on the Bergen Railway?
The entire journey offers stunning views, but highlights include the fjords near Bergen, the high plateau at Finse, and the waterfalls near Myrdal. Each season brings its unique beauty, making every trip a new experience.
The Bergen Railway is not just a means of transportation; it's a journey through Norway's stunning landscape and a testament to human engineering. Whether you're an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or simply looking to experience Norway in a unique way, the Bergen Railway offers something for everyone.
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With its rich history, breathtaking scenery, and modern amenities, the Bergen Railway stands as a symbol of Norway's commitment to excellence in transportation. It's a journey that stays with you long after you've reached your destination.