About the Bergensbanen (The Bergen Line)
Traveling through the scenic beauties and majestic landscapes in the heart of northern Europe is a living dream for all the adventure junkies and vagabonds out there. For years, the Bergensbanen or The Bergen Line has provided the same to its passengers. The railway route is recorded as the highest railway track in northern Europe, with its terminal stations being Bergen and Oslo. The train route is in Norway.
The amazing part of the Bergensbanen is that it is the highest track covering the Hardangervidda National park and the Hardengervidda plateau. The plateau is considered the highest elevated plateau in northern Europe, reaching around 1237 meters above sea level. This article will cover the major bulletin points of the train journey, the landscapes you can enjoy during your travel, and a brief history of the standard gauge.
The Bergen Line is about a 496 kilometres long railway line that connects two major stations in Norway, namely Bergen and the capital Oslo. The whole route covers around 22 stops between Bergen and Oslo that takes about eight hours.
Across the route, there are about 180 tunnels and some interesting spots for adventure sports and overnight stays. The trains run during the day and at night. At night you can sleep in the train and you can quickly reach the city of Bergen or Oslo. Traveling during the day is still preferred by most travelers, because then you can enjoy the special and beautiful view.
History of The Bergen Line
Initially known as the Voss line, the proposal for laying the foundation of The Bergen Line dates back to the 1870s. Hans Gloersen first proposed the idea of building a train line in the daily publication of Bergenposten on 24 August 1871. He proposed to connect the two largest cities in Norway through Voss and Hallingdal that will eventually connect to Kroderen Line. Soon the idea was supported by the city council, and in 1872, the railway director Carl Phil and his two engineers, went out to take a survey tour of the proposed line.
In 1873, an agreement was drafted for the suggested railway line, but Oslo was still out of sight. The local council and municipalities, and private investors started pouring in investments into the project, being common practice at that time. They invested around 20%, and the rest of the funds were covered by the state, mostly through foreign debts and trades.
However, after 1873’s parliamentary election, Peter Jebsen had to hold the new railway projects, including Vossebanen, due to lack of profitability. The analysts at that time estimated the net profitability of such project was below 1%, and thus the idea was put to hold. In 1875, a session was arranged to discuss the feasibility of the Vossebanen line,. Still, it was also soon scrapped as the project costs were underestimated that led to a lack of capital from the local investor. But June 9, 1875, saw a remarkable moment when the whole parliament shifted and voted with 61 votes against 42 to build the majestic railway line that we are talking about.
The first part of the construction of the Voss Line started in December 1875 with narrow gauge, and more than 1800 skilled and unskilled workers worked towards the creation of the marvelous railway track in the history of mankind. Soon the committee realized that even working 12 hours a day was not leading them ahead of the time to build this enormous narrow-gauge track. So, they decided to extend laborers, and people from Sweden were also called to construct the line. The construction was completed by 1882, and tests were conducted. However, the operation didn’t begin before the spring of 1883. Many laborers and engineers settled down on the Vossebanen after construction.
After a grave recession that soon followed the completion of the Voss line, the parliament refused to forego any more construction for the Bergen line. But this was also cleared on March 1, 1894, with some strong local financing and zeal of the workers to build a railway line situated at an elevation of more than 1200 meters from the sea level to connect major cities in Norway. The railway committee decided to build the Bergensbanen on standard gauge, and soon by 1907, the first services of the Bergensbanen (also known as The Bergen Railway) commenced. After many struggles like the heavy snowfall, huge traffic, and construction issues, 1909 saw the revolutionized Bergen train Bergen to Oslo in Norway.
Major tunnels to look out for
- Ulriken tunnel – Ulriken tunnel was the brainchild of businessman Fritz Rieber. Obviously, the first 32 km of the railway line was roundly climbing the rocky plateau. He submitted the idea of introducing three tunnels – Ulriken tunnel (around 8km long), Arnanipa tunnel, and Tunestveit tunnel that could save 21 km from the line and save on the costs of fuel.
- Finse tunnel – After watching the spike in costs and problems in winter due to snow, this tunnel was constructed to avoid snow on the tracks. The tunnel is 10.5 km long, covering the vulnerable parts between Finse and Hallingskeid.
Major cities and highlights during the journey
- The train starts from Oslo that is the capital of Norway. It is one of the country’s largest cities with a hint of old and new settlements. You can experience the glamorous museums and restaurants serving authentic Norwegian cuisines, but you can also find the urban lifestyle creeping into the city. The city also has great nightlife with an opportunity to see the northern lights.
- The scenic beauty from Oslo to Geilo is heart-warming with green landscapes, waterfalls, ski resorts, deep forests, and modest mountains. There is also a bear park where you can glimpse the grizzly bears in their natural habitat.
- You can stop at Geilo and stay for a ski experience. Being located at 795 meters above sea level, Geilo provides leading ski resorts in Norway. The mountains and valleys surrounding the place are mesmerizing and attract tourists throughout the year.
- The journey from Geilo to Voss adds another tincture of beautiful northern Europe. The train travels through the Hardangervidda National Park. You will experience the most beautiful National Park with green landscapes, moist ferns, and snow-covered mountains in a single landscape. The National Park is rated highest for bird watchers and live reindeers. You can find exclusive birds and enjoy a hiking experience if you have one or two days to spare in this beautiful location.
- Hallingskarvet is one of the journey’s highlights, with a history dating back to the ice ages. Yes, you have read that right, and you can expect these mountain ridges have watched the rise and fall of dinosaurs. Ice ages have shaped the ridges and offer varied summits, including hiking trails.
- Finse station is the next step that one must explore. It is not only the scenic beauty that it provides but also its cinematic history. If you are a Star Wars fan (who isn’t?), you can relive some scenes from Stars Wars: Empire strikes back. So, put on your Jedi coat and get hold of your lightsaber.
- After the Finse station, you will experience the Finse tunnel 10.2 km long. The carving of the tunnel and the winter scenes in our head runs a chill down our spines. One can truly appreciate the amount of labor the workers have to create such a masterpiece in the rough weather.
- After reaching Voss, the train halts for rearrangement and refilling the pantry. But it is not just a station for refueling. Voss is also known as the adrenaline capital of Norway. It is famous for its skiing resorts and extreme sports. So, put on your skiing jackets and accessories and hop on to the adventure of your lifetime at Voss. However, Voss is also known for its cultural activities like VossaJazz.
- The terminal station is Bergen in the Bergensbanen. Bergen was once the capital of Norway and had been the hot seat for international trading and seafaring. It was the largest city in the Nordic till the 16th century and in Norway till the 1830s. It is still a tourist destination and is the second-largest city in Norway.
If you are visiting Norway, you must try the Bergensbanen and hop on the journey to explore the beautiful cities of Bergen, Voss, Finse, Geilo and Oslo. Furthermore, enjoy the beautiful sceneries along the way with snow-covered mountains, green landscapes, National Parks, and skiing resorts, and relive the history of the construction of this beautiful train line connecting the two largest cities from east to west of Norway.