Bergensbanen – A Piece of Infrastructure That Hasn’t Been Ignored

UPDATED: A higher-def version of the video.

So the folks in Texas were complaining about the “cold weather.” So here is a video of cold weather from Norway. And an interesting bit of infrastructure.

This is a (somewhat) interesting video from a unique perspective. Train Driver’s View: “Stormy” winter conditions on the mountainpass (Bergen Line, Norway). Bergensbanen is the Norwegian name for the train line between Oslo and Bergen, Norway. Actually it can be a bit hypnotic, but pay attention to the river valleys the train is moving through. The scenery is stunning in parts. The video follows the run from Voss to Ål.

At 2 hours, or so, it is way to long, but some pieces of it are interesting. I will point those out below, and note a few things struck me. (I haven’t seen it all.)

First a couple of the comments on the video:

I can’t imagine British trains operating in these conditions.


Trains in Australia don’t go this fast when it’s sunny.

These trains are constructed with snowplows on the front, and at some point (1:06:03 at Finse, which is about 1200 meters above sea level) the train passes a locomotive-mounted snowblower.

One of the things that struck me, is the driver’s unswerving faith that there is no problem with the tracks, even when you can’t see the tracks, but then you couldn’t stop in time, even if you did see something, so maybe it doesn’t matter.

It becomes very clear that the quality of the rail is amazing. The camera probably has image stabilization, but even given that, the train couldn’t run this fast without the road being so smooth. (Out in the rural area, at about 24:30 into the video, she opens up the throttles a bit, and goes screaming through the snow.) It’s been decades since I traveled by train in the US, but even the dedicated commuter lines around Chicago, that didn’t carry freight traffic, were not this smooth. And the lines that did carry freight, were awful.

The last thing that I will mention is the scale of building a railroad through the mountains. The number and quality of the tunnels.

Construction started with the building of roads to get in supplies to the construction sites, completed in 1902. The construction was exceptionally challenging, at high altitudes in a region without roads and with a climate that saw many meters of snow in the winter and temperatures far below freezing. 113 tunnels, totaling 28 kilometres (17 mi) had to be built; the longest being the 5,311 metres (17,425 ft) Gravehalsen Tunnel, alone costing NOK 3 million and the longest tunnel north of the Alps. It took six years to build, and had to be excavated manually through solid gneiss. Laying of track was started in 1906, and in 1907 the two groups, both having started at their own end, met at Ustaoset. A small celebration was made at the spot.

How long has California been working on its high-speed-rail-to-nowhere? The Bergensbanen is 371 kilometres (231 miles).

A long tunnel starts at 37:30. and on all the tunnels, “the light at the end of the tunnel” is an interesting effect. Mostly an artifact of the video camera, but still… (Hat tip to LB1901)

OK. 2 more things:

Newer videos, with a higher-def, more sophisticated camera, have better views of the tunnels. (e.g. Called out on a day off to FLIRT in 4K UltraHD.

I want to say that there are remarkably few grade crossings. I grew up in a part of Illinois where you could be assured of being caught on the wrong side of 125-car train at least once a week. Given the terrain that line passes through, there are so many cut hills, to keep the grade in spec, building bridges doesn’t seem to be an issue. It probably also helps that in most of the areas the train passes through, the railroad was the first bit of infrastructure built.

4 thoughts on “Bergensbanen – A Piece of Infrastructure That Hasn’t Been Ignored

  1. Strangely addictive to watch that. No, I didn’t watch the whole thing, just jumped around a bit.

    A couple of weeks ago, Victor Davis Hanson did an article on how modern society doesn’t do anything massive compared to our ancestors. This is a good example; completed in 1907, 112 years ago, and everyone using it today takes advantage of those giants who built it. Maybe the big things have been done, maybe it has all moved to the emerging nations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are things we need to do. Even if we just replace bridges that are falling down.

      And there are places, even in America, where trains make sense, but we couldn’t build them on a bet. NIMBY. Environmental Impacts. Whatever.

      Public funds are all going to buy votes. And if private funds were available, public funds would be used to stop it, because you have to have a controversy. What else is 24/7 news for?


  2. Watching a bit of this again, reminded me of “City of New Orleans”

    “And the sons of Pullman Porters, and the sons of Engineers
    Ride their father’s magic carpets made of steel.”


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