The old Voss railway is a preserved standard gauge line which runs from Garnes to Midttun, with intermediate stations at Arna, Espeland and Haukeland. Garnes is a suburb of Bergen.

It is 18km long, running through a wide variety of scenery. It was part of the mainline from Bergen to Oslo, until replaced by a 7.8km long tunnel in 1964, which shortened a very convoluted entry for the railway into Bergen.

The railway first opened in 1883, and at that time it terminated at Voss, and was of 3ft 6in gauge. It was converted to standard gauge in 1904, as part of the process to extend it over the mountainous country to link with Oslo.

The railway was electrified in 1954 and later de-electrified after it ceased to be part of the mainline in 1964.

The route it takes is difficult and there are several tunnels in the preserved section.

Getting to the railway by public transport is a little tricky, bus to Garnes should be the most straightforward way, but I find the Bergen bus system to be almost opaque to navigate, and the Bergen bus station a place to avoid if at all possible.

The alternative, which I took, is to take the normal train to Arna, walk to the old Arna station (on the preserved line), then travel on the Old Voss Railway to Midttun, back to Garnes, and then back to Arna. Arna is 9.3 km from Bergen by the current mainline route, almost all in tunnel.

There was still the difficulty of finding old Arna station after walking out of new Arna station. It is by no means obvious where it is, nor was there anyone to ask, not even any shops to walk into to ask directions.

The only information I had was that it was 300 metres north-east of the new station. So using a compass I walked north-east in the hope of finding something resembling a railway and/or a station.

I didn't, but I was walking along a road heading north east. Fortunately I found a woman pushing a pram with a baby, so mustering my best Norwegian I asked where is the old Arna station for Gamle Vosseban.

She said it's up there pointing up the road I was walking, and sure enough it was! The railway was pretty well hidden from view behind grass and other vegetation.

Old Arna station did not present a vary prepossessing appearance. It looked in need of painting, and there were weeds and overgrown vegetation about. The only information about the railway was a 2009 brochure attached behind a window.

We then spent 70 minutes at Garnes before the train made it's second and last trip for the day back to Midttun.

Another interesting feature of the ride was that there was a theatre group of three actors, two women and a man, walking down the train hamming it up with the passengers. The women were dressed as they would have been 100 years ago, and the bloke was dressed up in full Norwegian State Railway (NSB) uniform of the same period, and he had a very impressive looking handle-bar moustache.

As with most Norwegian preserved railways, trains only run in Summer from mid-June to mid-September

Frank Stamford

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Arna station, where I joined the train. Inside the station a couple of men appeared to be cooking something, and when the train came in they got on board, with a lot of equipment, and it soon became apparent what they were up to. Shortly after leaving Arna they came down the train pushing a trolley, selling coffee and waffles. Large, petal-shaped waffles with jam, are a great favourite in Norway.

The train from Garnes entering Arna station. It was a rather attractive, and very Norwegian looking, mainline 4-6-0 tender loco hauling about four traditional teak bodied Norwegian mainline passenger cars. However the pace was very leisrely, no doubt to reduce the wear and tear on the train and track.


A view from the train. The scenery between Garnes and Midttun is varied and attractive. It includes a number of tunnels, and takes an indirect path to avoid mountains.

Traditional Norwegian varnished timber former mainline coaches are used.


At the terminus at Midttun, there is a platform but no station building. Only about ten minutes was spent here while the loco ran round the train, and then hauled it tender first back to Garnes. In both directions the speed was extremely leisurely, certainly not the sort of speed the loco would have worked in it's heyday. To the right of the picture there is a pleasant stream.

Leading to bridge

The locomotive running round the train at Midttun. These 4-6-0 locos were used on the Bergen Railway in its early years.

bridge pier

The number and builder's plate on the loco.

The set up at Garnes is quite good, with a lot of effort having been made to recreate the pre-first world war period.


The parcels shed at Garnes has a wide variety of goods of the era, and a stuffed goods shed attendant behind an iron grill where he attended to customers, with his office set up as it would have been 100 years ago.

The station is decorated with a number of original enamel signs.

Garnes station from the road side.

The train waiting to depart Garnes.

Close-up of the maker's plate on the Knorr System airbrake pump on the loco.

Another view of the train waiting to depart Garnes.

The view from Garnes station.

Garnes station.

The Norges Post van brings up the rear of the train.

The side of the van has a letterbox!

Links:

Old Voss Line - Wikipedia entry - in English

Gamle Vossebanen - in English


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All photographs Copyright Frank Stamford, 2008, who may be contacted by email at: frank.stamford@bigpond.com

Last updated: 28 December 2010