Monday 29 August 2016

Overnight we have sailed around the fjords and we arise to find ourselves moored at Flåm adjacent to the railway.  Not particularly bright today unfortunately.  Our trip today was booked almost with the cruise itself as I was insistent that having missed the line when I did my Interrail I had to do it on this visit.

The Flåmsbana is famous for the quality of the scenery and for being the steepest gradient, averaging 1 in 18 over the 20km of the line as it rises from Flåm to Myrdal.  It is pure adhesion worked, no cogs or other clever gubbins and it has been electric since 1947, after 7 years of steam operation – the steam locomotives were modified with additional braking capacity because the line is so steep.

Passenger numbers have grown rapidly in recent years as cruise liners such as ours disgorge huge numbers of passengers.  Near the top of the line the route passes the Kjosfossen falls where to entertain the passengers we can hear music and are entertained by “maids” dancing at the side of the waterfalls.  Jackie’s eyes reckon at least one if not more of the maids is actually male!

The trip and falls are in photos here.

We disembark at Myrdal and we take a main line train onwards to see some of the beautiful countryside leaving the train at Voss.  This is part of the line between Oslo and Bergen so I have already covered this piece of railway.  A large hotel at Voss provides a huge number of lunches via a very good buffet – Fleicher’s hotel and we can walk down to the lake before taking our coach onwards.

The aim of today is to see some of the sights of the Norwegian countryside and our first stop after lunch are the impressive falls at Tvindefossen, where I seem to have gone completely arty in terms of the photos – not sure how good they are!

Our onward journey to Flåm takes us slightly off the main road – we descend a very twisting road at Stalheim – we use the old Stalheimskleivi  road which can still be used with its hairpin turns and 20% grade.  The new road descends into tunnels and is the only uphill route.  The old road is one way only.  We are three coaches in convoy but one of the coaches lost its suspension and the passengers are transferred into the other two and have to stand until our next stop when a replacement vehicle arrives.

We halt at Gudvangen to admire the views along the lake.  On leaving we plunge into a tunnel and certainly I (and I suspect many others) go to sleep.  The tunnel is over 7 miles long and is the second longest tunnel in Norway.  There is one more tunnel before Flåm and two the other side – of which one is the longest in the world.  Before the tunnel I suspect that a ferry was needed between Gudvangen and Flåm!