Europe’s steepest non-funicular railway is in southern Norway, covering 10 miles from the high plateau of Myrdal to the tiny fjord-side town of Flåm.
The historic Flåm Railway (Flåmsbana in Norwegian) passes through wide valley vistas and alongside dramatic waterfalls, and chugs at a leisurely pace through 20 tunnels, some with “windows” carved in the side so passengers don’t miss a beat.
Starting construction in 1924 after decades of planning, it took more than 15 years to complete the short line, including the steepest grade of any European railway that runs on standard gauge track. Funiculars and miniature railways may rise at more of a slant, but the Flåm line’s five and a half percent grade is hard work for a locomotive, and the payoff is some of the most beautiful fjord landscape in Scandinavia.
With a grade on this much of a slope, keeping control of the train’s speed is crucial, both going up and coming down. The engine averages around 19 mph (30 km/h) on the downhill trek to Flåm, and tops out at 25 miles an hour (40 km/h) on the way up to Myrdal. You can almost hear the train whispering “I think I can, I think I can…”
Know Before You Go
Flåm is in southern Norway, at the bottom end of Aurlands Fjord. You can get your tickets at the station, or on-line through the Norwegian National Railroad website (https://www.nsb.no/en/frontpage). It can be crowded during cruise ship season, and a seat is not guaranteed (or reserved). You can go round trip or one way (one way is about an hour). A popular alternative is to take the train from Flam to Myrdal and rent bikes to ride back down to Flam on the nearby paved road.