Adventure: The Flåm Railway in Norway

Laura Maudlin - Feb 22, 2010
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Every year close to 520.000 passengers travel on the Flåm Railway making it one of Norway’s major and most spectacular tourist attractions. The Flåm Railway is one of the world’s steepest railway lines on normal gauge. The gradient is 55/1000 on almost 80% of the line, i.e. a gradient of one in eighteen. The twisting tunnels that spiral in and out of the mountain are manifestation of the most daring and skilful engineering in Norwegian railway history.

Hand-made Tunnels

The Bergen Railway from Oslo to Bergen was inaugurated in 1909; work on the Flåm branch line started in 1923 to ensure the transport route down to the Sognefjord. It was a major challenge for railway engineer to build this railway. The journey on the Flåm Railway takes one hour, through 20 tunnels totaling a distance of six kilometers. Eighteen of these tunnels where excavated by hand, each meter claiming a month’s hard labor for the railway workers.

To avoid risk of avalanches, the Flåm Railway crosses the river and the bottom of the valley three times in the course of its journey. It took nearly 20 years to complete the Flåm Railway, and it was opened for steam trains on 1st August 1940, and got electric trains in 1944. The Flåm Railway has an interesting history which you can learn more about by visiting the Flåm Railway Museum. Open all year, free entrance.

The journey from Flåm at the innermost part of the Aurlandsfjord, takes you through the Flåmsdalen valley to the high mountain station at Myrdal on the Bergen Railway, is a railway experience unparalleled in Europe; 20 km long with a height difference of 865 meters. The journey provides some of Norway's wildest and most magnificent scenery. You can see rivers that cut through deep ravines, waterfalls cascade down the side of steep, snow-capped mountains and mountain farms cling dizzily to sheer slopes. The train travels slowly and even stops at the most scenic spots, photo stop at the Kjosfossen waterfall. The Society of International Railway Travelers has listed the Flåm Railway as one of the world’s top 25 train journeys!

Hiking & Cycling Adventures
It is ideal to combine the Flåm Railway with a hiking or cycling tour in the Flåmsdalen valley. Take the train to Myrdal station and return on foot – a hike to Flåm takes approx. 4 – 4 ½ hours. It is also possible to hop in the train as the railway has 8 stops along the route. This type of pastime is in particular popular among families. If you choose to cycle back to Flåm get ready for approx. 2- 2 ½ hours of magnificent views and wilderness.

The train journey has been given a new dimension by extending the platforms and improving the viewing points. The waterfall at Kjosfossen is gradually illuminated in white, blue and green. This winter experience can be seen on the two last departures on the Flåm Railway in the months of December through February. A test project has been launched with LCD screens on board the train, with information about the railways history and scenery, as well as practical and technical information to the guests.

Photos: / Morten Rakke

By Monna Kjos Almenningen

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