April 20, 2009

One of the world's most beautiful railroads

Bergensbanen is one of the highest placed main railroads in Europe, and also one of the most spectacular.
It was in 2005 awarded as one of the “Top 10 finest railroads in the world” (by the American travel expert Gary Warner).

Bergensbanen celebrates a 100 years jubilee this year.
When built, it was characterised as:

“The monumental work of our generation” (King Haakon VII at the opening in 1909)

And it was.
The cost equalled a whole year’s national budget.
It posed enormous challenges in engineering and in handling the tough climatic environment passing through the mountains.

Norway was separated from the union with Sweden in 1905.
It was a poor country, with a long rugged coastline and a lot of mountains.
The capital Oslo (Kristiania) is in the East, separated from the second largest city, Bergen, in the West through high mountains.

Somwhere through those mountains the railroad had to go.
This poor country used a whole national budget on a project that no-one believed in.
It was to think the impossible, and then to do it.
I doubt that the politicians today would have the guts!

To build the railroad in the beginning of the century was a challenging task.
They had to decide where to put the track through tunnels (to be chiseled by hand, expensive and time consuming) and where to put it in the open.
How would it be possible to protect the track from wind and snow?
Shields? Would they stand for the harsh weather?
Where would avalanches be a risk?

Still in our days, the train might stop due to too much snow (latest March 31st this year).
And the roads between Oslo and Bergen might also be closed in the winter due to strong wind and snow.
But when the railroad was planned, cars and aeroplanes were not an alternative.
People had to go by boat along the coastline. The weather could be harsh there too.

So I took Bergensbanen (in a more up-to-date execution) to Voss, to meet my friend Ann-Carin and to throw some lessons.
I enjoyed the train ride; beautiful scenery outside the window, and a crime book in my ears through my mp3-player.
Unfortunately my camera did not work, so all I had was the camera on my cell phone – but I was lucky I had that!
The train worked its way up through the mountains.
The spring down in the lower areas was gradually replaced with snow.

The highest placed train station is Finse, 1222 m above sea level.
It is the highest placed train station in Northern Europe.

In the old days this was a place for the rich and famous.
Still in the 70'ies it was black tie for dinner.
Not any more though! Now it is a place for winter sports enthusiasts.

Finally I arrived in Voss, and was met at the station by Ann-Carin.
Next day I met some nice people and horses in Voss.

Here we are having lunch outside the stable.
It was nice spring weather the whole weekend.
Below you can see the view just further on behind us.

I had anticipated quite a few Fjord horses, but it turned out to be only one, and the schedule was a bit hectic, so all I managed was to take a picture of the horses out after work…(sorry OnceUpon and RuckusButt!)

I arrived home late Sunday evening.
I was happy to my own horse again, and I think Fame was happy to see me too.
Our outdoor arena had dried up, so it was possible to work on it again, and yesterday we had a nice session.
We worked with canter-walk transitions, counter canter, shoulder-in in trot and canter and also some extensions. Fame worked well, and I feel that things are coming along nicely.
AND she remembered to stop quietly after the canter extensions on the diagonal. Good girl!
We also did some turn on the haunches. I have forgotten to train on them lately, having focused more on the work with canter-walk-counter canter, so they could have been better. Have to put in some effort there.
But all in all, she did well.
Now we have to find some shows!


Irene said...

Måste ha varit en otroligt fin resa. Kul att du berättar. Norge är verkligen vackert!

Anonymous said...

I marvel at our trans Canada trains for the same reason. the magnitude of the job they undertook.

RuckusButt said...

Thanks for the history and information on Bergensbanen, very interesting! I agree with anon that it's amazing to think of the magnitude of work.

I'm glad you had your cell phone to capture a few pictures! I think Once Upon and I will forgive the lack of Fjords...this time :)

Once Upon an Equine said...

That looks like an incredible train ride.!

I will forgive the lack of Fjords too, HorseOfCourse. I'm sure you will come across more another time.

Thank-you for the pictures and the information about the railroad. Glad you had a nice time.

HorseOfCourse said...

Thanks all for your comments!
It was a beautiful train ride, and also a very nice weekend.
At this time of the year the passing over the mountains was a pieceful one; still I am convinced that we sometimes need a reminder that even in our modern society man is small compared to nature.
This is easy for me to say as I don't have any family on the west coast, and therefore doesn't have to take the consequences of foul weather - getting stuck along the road etc...
But those men that built the railroad, and also those that kept the railroad open in the old days did a marvellous job. They lived along the railroad, and the inspector there had to go out on skis to check the snow depth. In all weathers!