About the Flåmsbana (The Flåm Railway)
Norway has always been a major tourist destination and attracts many tourists throughout the year. Apart from the cultural activities and adventure sports, the country also offers scenic landscapes with lush green forests, aesthetic wildlife, and many mountain ridges. However, one of the major tourist attractions is the journey through the Flåmsbana (The Flåm Railway).
The Flåmsbana offers a wide array of photographic sceneries that will indent your mind with a blissful and awestruck beauty. Here, we will discuss the amazing serenity the journey beholds and a history of how this railway line came into existence.
Flåmsbana – a brief introduction
The Flam Railway is considered one of the most beautiful train journeys globally that attracts a lot of tourists. The route is between two terminal stations, namely Flåm in the Aurlandsfjord and Myrdal station. Situated above 867 meters above sea level, the journey is one of the steepest among other standard gauges globally. About 80% of the total journey runs on a slope of 3 degrees with 20 tunnels along the way. The duration of the trip is around 2 hours and is open throughout the year. It covers the major portion of the Fjord area and operates daily.
Through mesmerizing forests, waterfalls, vertiginous mountains, the trail follows the track. Although it is a short train ride, the passengers can be assured of the beautiful landscapes that will create a lasting impression for the rest of their lives. The train doesn’t have a pantry car attached to it, but one may find basic amenities and refreshments for the trip.
The Flåmsbana (also know as The Flåm Line of Flåm Railway) is about a 20 km long stretch between Flåm and Myrdal and is a branch line of the Bergensbanen. It has about ten stations along its route and serves as the third-most visited tourist attraction in the country. After running through the valley of Flamsdalen, it connects with the mainline to Sognefjord with a single-track movement.
Train stations along the route:
History of the Flåmsbana
The plans to construct a railway network connecting two major cities in Norway were proposed in the 1870s between Bergen and Oslo. Andreas Tanberg Gloersen also proposed short branch lines connecting fjord areas, majorly Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord. After completion of the Bergensbanen as a standard gauge in 1909, construction for the Flåmsbana (The Flåm Railway) began to connect to the nearby areas of Myrdal station. Horse carriages and cars initially used the roads to access the route, but the road was too steep and narrow for heavy vehicles to pass through. This led to the proposal of a train line with a single track to access the place.
The engineering surveys were performed in 1893 that yielded negative results for any railway track to be laid on such a route. The normal railway tracking and planning adheres to a maximum of 2.5% gradient. However, they decided to go for the rack railway system that can attain up to 10% gradient, and thus, the engineers proposed to have a narrow-gauge railway track that would be about 18 km long.
The NSB (Norges Statsbaner) and railway committee put on their thinking hats and estimated the cost of building such a track to be about 3.3 million Norwegian kroner, They estimated the traffic of about 22,000 annual passengers. The local investors soon revolted the idea as they were feeling the heat from the recession.
1911 saw the rise of a new concept of a mixture of adhesive and rack railway, and Engineer Ferdinand Bjerke traveled to other parts of Europe to study the concept of combined railways. He published a report in 1911 recommending an adhesive railway. However, the estimated traffic was smaller than predicted, and the building cost was three times more than the estimate, nearly 5.5 million NOK.
The plans were discussed in detail by the ministry of labor and NSB and were soon approved by parliament in 1916. But the first world war impacted this project deeply. There was huge inflation in the materials and laborers, and the estimated cost to build Flåmsbana plunged to 14.5 million NOK. Due to a large public funds deficit and lack of foreign investments, the project was postponed. The final call was taken to begin the construction in 1923, but geographical challenges disrupted the construction flow again.
Landslide in 1924 covered the area that was proposed for laying the railway tracks. The region had phyllite that made the geography unstable for the construction. Tunnels were also proposed but were soon rejected due to high costs. But soon, the proposal reopened, failing to provide an alternate solution to the construction. Tunneling was a difficult part of the construction as hands, and only tunnels used machines carved out 18 tunnels.
Ten stations were made on the line afterward, and the port facilities in Myrdal were upgraded. Laying of tracks began in 1936, one year after the railway committee decided on electric traction of the rakes. The Flåmsbana Railway symbolizes hard work and engineering marvel combined.
Highlights of the journey
You will experience the height difference in only one hour as the train takes you from the Flåms valley (Aurlandsfjord) to the Myrdal station located at 867 meters above sea level. Since Myrdal is also on the Bergen Line, you can also board the beautiful train journey from Bergen to Oslo. The trains on the Flåm Line have designed vintage compartments from where you can enjoy the beautiful valley of the Aurlandsfjord.
Before hitting the gradient, the train passes through serene agricultural fields and old Flam village that resonates the country aura. Along the way, you will find many small farms. You will also find blue water running alongside you till Kjosfossen. As soon as you reach Kjosfossen, you can disembark at the station to capture the beautiful picturesque image of the waterfall nearby. You also don’t have to worry about the train leaving because the train waits for a while at the station. It is also called the 5-minute photo-stop for the Flåmsbana train.
The train then follows the track through the snow-covered mountains that will blow your mind. It is just like paradise on earth. Click photos and selfies of the train when it runs along the crevices of the valley and mountain and ccheckfor the slope.
The train reaches Myrdal after 1 hour from where you can board trains towards Oslo or Bergen. Oslo and Bergen are two of the largest cities in Norway, and both of them hold cultural and tourism values for the tourists. You can not only find mesmerizing beauty and scenic landscapes on the route, but you can also book yourself with ski resorts and enjoy extreme adventure sports.
If you plan to stay overnight or for more days in Flåm, you can also rent a bike to visit nearby villages and explore the valley on the road. However, you may expect the roads to be rough, but the experience of hiking and biking through the meadows is worth the expense.
You can also enroll in the Brekkefossen waterfall hike, where you will experience a rocky and steep trail. After 30 minutes of the hike, you will find a lush green ledge with a view of villages and the glamorous waterfall. It is a 5 km hike, and therefore, it is recommended to bring a water bottle and other necessary accessories to help out through the hike. Outdoor clothing and hiking shoes are recommended, and you will also get a personalized guide to listen to the rich cultural heritage that the place has.
Apart from that, you can also book a night on the Fjord cruise and enjoy the tranquil environment there. You can also enjoy some of the native cuisines of the Fjord area and taste the Viking cuisine when you are onboard. There is also a tourist package offered to the visitors in Aurlandsdalen. This includes a guided hike through the valley. Although the hike is pretty challenging, it is a must-do for young tourists who want to live the experience of the Fjord safari. The trip length is about 8 hours and can be quite challenging. In Aurlandsdalen, you will explore the Grand Canyon of Norway, rich in flora and fauna, history, and impressive features. A guide will be available on the trek to show you around and tell stories of the valley. However, the trek is only available from June till October. So, if you wish to enjoy the trek, you will have to plan accordingly.
Visiting the Flåmsbana not only excites the nature-lover in you but also makes you think about the history and cultural treasures that it has hidden from the rest of the world for so long time. The high and rugged mountains, beautiful valley landscapes, waterfall, and construction history bring out joy and awe for every tourist.