All aboard the Flåm Railway in Norway
|All aboard the Flåm Railway in Norway, one of the world's most scenic railway journeys! Content and photography are the property of EuroTravelogue™. Unauthorized use is prohibited.|
One of the most magical moments along my recent tour through Norway, was the journey onboard one the world's most scenic railways—the Flåm Railway or Flåmsbana. From the Myrdal station, a lofty perch at 866 meters (2,850 feet) in the Norwegian mountains, we meandered through darkness and light as we made our way along our 20-km (12.5 mile) descent to the storybook village of Flåm nestled on the shores of the Aurlandsfjord. This hour-long adventure descends through the Flåm valley along one of the world's steepest railroad gradients (adhesion on normal gauge) at a rate of 1 meter of height for every 18 meters of distance. To quote an old friend, T.S. Eliot, "the journey not the arrival matters" and I couldn't agree more. The train winds around the mountains through some of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever seen— sweeping panoramas replete with precipitous mountain cliffs, cascading waterfalls, enchanting villages and of course the fjord! Welcome aboard the Flåm Railway!
|Newly refurbished interiors of the Flåm Railway coaches. You can see the monitors in each of the cars that recount your journey and provide historical background on the railway. Don't you love the colors?|
|Another shot of the interior by the exit doors.|
We begin in our journey in 1923. They called it a Norwegian masterpiece of engineering and it certainly was! However, the Flåm Railway presented many challenges for the engineers who designed and built her—steep cliffs, sharp bends and precipitous river gorges; all of which necessitated the construction of 20 tunnels totaling 6 kilometers (3.75 miles) of railway and with 18 of them dug by hand with every meter of tunneled distance representing one month of hard labor. Plus, the river below was re-directed through the mountain in tunnels under the railway thus allowing the trains to cross the flowing waters three times without ever crossing a bridge.
|Looking back: The Flåm Railway and surrounding landscape taken near the Myrdal station in 1942. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
With the tunnels almost completed, the first tracks were laid in 1936 and four years later, the Flåm Railway opened in 1940 with steam-powered train service. Four years later and thanks to the Germans who completed a power station near the Kjosfossen waterfall, electric trains were introduced making the Flåm Railway one of Europe's first electrical trains. Read more about the history of the Flåm Railway with a timeline as well.
A real bonus throughout this trip is the on-board LCD monitors and sound systems announcing the details of your immediate surrounds peppered with historical facts about the railway and the region. And the information is communicated in multiple languages too!
|Our adventure onboard the Flåm Railway begins!|
Our first spectacular view comes of the Reinungvatnet, a mountain lake followed by a sweeping panorama of the Flåm Valley at Vatnahalsen. From here, we entered into one of the engineering marvels—a remarkable 180-degree tunnel with openings on each side to allow everyone onboard a chance to enjoy the views!
|A panoramic view of Reinungvatnet mountain lake at the beginning of journey.|
|Followed by a sweeping view of Flåm Valley as seen from the side openings in one of the tunnels we traversed.|
One of highlights of this adventure occurred about 3 miles into the trip when we stopped at Kjosfossen (Kjos Waterfall), a 93-meter cascading waterfall thundering over craggy cliffs and spraying all onlookers in its wake—truly a magnificent sight! But something was amidst, pardon the pun. According to legend, mysterious sirens of the waterfalls dwell in these sylvan lands—the Huldra—who bewitch unwary male travelers with their hypnotizing song and lure them into their wooded realms. Suddenly, the mist carried with it a beautiful melody of Norwegian song, an enchanting song, a bewitching song; and looking deeper into the mist, we saw these mystical Huldra standing atop the rocky ruins on the right of the falls. It was enchanting as well as magical!
|Beware of the Huldra who dwell in these sylvan lands! Here's a shot of Kjosfossen (Kjos Waterfall)and if you look carefully, you can see these mysterious sirens at the right center of the picture.|
|The 21 sinuous bends of Rallarvegen Road winding its way back up Myrdal Mountain.|
Moving along, we passed by Rallarvegen road with its 21 sinuous turns heading up Myrdal Mountain. Further down, in Berekvam, the single lane of track splits into two allowing for the two trains, ascending and descending, to pass each other along the way. At this point in the journey, we've descended about 500 meters (1,600 feet), with another 350 meters to go.
|In Berekvam, the single lane of track splits allowing for the two trains to pass each other along the way.|
We passed the majestic Vibmesnosi Mountain with its plunging Rjoande Waterfall or Rjoandefossen—a magnificent vertical drop of 140 meters (450 feet). Incredible! At this point in our journey, only 50 meters remain until our arrival in Flåm!
|Vibmesnosi Mountain and the Rjoande Waterfall or Rjoandefossen in Håreina.|
|Looking back to 1942 when this photograph of the Rjoande Waterfall or Rjoandefossen was taken. Photo: WikiMedia.org.|
Nearing the end of our journey, the views of the valley opened up allowing our first look at the picturesque village of Flåm with its colorful buildings, historic churches and the greenest pastures! It was magical, enchanting, evoking images of a model-train village that you've probably built yourself or have known someone who has. A closer look at this little hamlet of approximately 450 residents reveals a wooden church built in 1667 and the historic Fretheim Hotel with its formidable but friendly ghost. You'll hear more haunting tales of Norway's venerable inns soon!
|Picturesque doesn't begin to describe the storybook charm of Flåm as seen from the railway! Magical!|
|Another view of old Flåm with its old wooden kyrkje or church built in 1667.|
|Close-up view of the wooden church with cemetery behind.|
I hope you enjoyed your journey aboard the Flåm Railway and the next time you find yourself in Norway, take the Bergen / Oslo line to Myrdal and hop on board one of the most unforgettable railway journeys in the world—the Flåm Railway.
|Adjø from the Flåm Railway!|
Now, sit back, relax and enjoy this 9-minute journey aboard the Flåm Railway!
If you go:
The Flåm Railway runs year-round with four departures each way during the winter and nine in the summer months. See VisitFlam.com/en/theflamrailway/timetables for exact times! The price for one-way trip is 300 Nok ($45) and 150 Nok ($22) for children. Roundtrip fares are the better deal at 400 Nok ($60) and 300 Nok ($45) for kids. If you're a Eurail passholder, you'll receive a 30% discount on single tickets and only pay 210 Nok ($31). Be sure to check prices before you leave. For more ticket information, visit VisitFlam.com/en/theflamrailway/prices/.
The Flåm Railway departs from the Myrdal station which is one of the stops along the Oslo/Bergen line.
For those of you who arrive in Flåm via cruise ship, you can find the rail station and ticket office just a few blocks away from the port. You'll need to book a round-trip ticket but what a fantastic journey on the rails it will be!
Did you know?
- In 2010, National Geographic Traveler Magazine named the Flåm Railway one of the 10 most beautiful train journeys in Europe.
- The following year, the Society of International Railway Travelers ranked the Flåm Railway in the top 25 most beautiful train journeys in the world.
- A new annual passenger record was set in 2012 when the Flåm Railway carried 635,368 guests—a far cry from the projected 22,000 expected each year when the railway opened.