One of Norway’s iconic train experiences, the Flåm Railway covers a distance of just 20.2 kilometers (12.5 miles) but changes 863 meters (2833 feet) in altitude, making for a dramatic ride. One of the steepest normal-gauge railways in the world, the route runs between the small highland station of Myrdal on the Oslo-Bergen line and the village of Flåm on the shores of the Aurlandsfjord, an arm of the world’s longest fjord, the Sognefjord.
Starting from Myrdal, the train winds its way precipitously through the mountains — almost 80 percent of the line has a gradient of 55 per thousand, or 1:18 — past expansive alpine vistas, rushing rivers, waterfalls, and farms clinging to the slopes. The journey takes about one hour, including a brief photo stop at the thundering Kjosfossen waterfall, complete with New Age music playing as passengers admire the view. The music is entirely superfluous, but the accompanying dancer who appears on an outcropping overlooking the cascade does — if nothing else — help give a sense of scale to the landscape.
Along the way the train passes through 20 tunnels covering a total distance of six kilometers (3.7 miles). The construction of these tunnels was quite a feat of engineering — 18 of them had to be excavated entirely by hand.
As the train approaches Håreina, about three kilometers from Flåm proper, a cluster of farms along the valley floor comes into view. At the center of the village is the small, brown, wooden Flåm Church, which dates from 1667.
The Flåm Railway Museum, located inside the old station building in Flåm, is worth a stop for those interested in learning about the history and technological aspects of the railroad. Admission is free.
For more information, visit the Flåm Railway website.