Welcome to the Setesdalsbanen
In November 1896 a 78-km (48,5 miles) long Setesdalsbanen was opened up to ordinary service between Kristainsand and Byglandsfjord. The railway line was built to link the Setesdal to the coastal town of Kristiansand. With this town’s port and connections to other Norwegian coastal towns and Europe, it opened up a valley, which up to that time had been very isolated.
The gauge chosen, 3’6″, was commonly used at the time. During its heyday it extended over 1300-km (800 miles), mostly on single isolated lines.
The products of the valley were shipped out on the railway. This consisted mainly of timber, barrel staves (for wooden herring barrels), pit props, fire wood, feldspar (to the Belgian glass industry), paper and refined aluminium. The railway also played an important role to the Byglandsford Steam Sawmill, Evje Nickelmines, Evje Armycamp, Hunsfos Papermill and Vigeland Metal Refinery; all big enterprises by local standards.
When the standard gauge Sørlandsbanen (1435 mm or 4’8½») reached Kristiansand in 1938, the Setesdalsbanen was truncated at Grovane where the two lines met. Grovane, thus becoming a station for the transfer of goods and passengers. This was a labour intensive operation that, in the long end, could not win the battle against increased road transport after World War II. Even if railcars were introduced in 1928, the ever-increasing stud of private cars stole the passengers from the line. Eventually this led to the closure of the Setesdalsbanen in 1962, the last narrow gauge line to be operated by the Norwegian State Railways.
But, there were strong forces behind the scenes not willing to let this gem pass into history forever. A society was formed, and the volunteers playing an important source of manpower staffing the railway on the days of operation and in maintaining the raliway in nearly all aspects. The line is open during the summer season (June, July and August) running trains with steam engines and old wooden bodied coaches offering a journey on a railway typical of its time with sharp curves, a bridge spanning the river, a tunnel and a snowshed. Most of the time running parallel to the river Otra.
Treat yourself and your family to travel the way which years ago was the most common way of transport, and enjoy the nearly unspoilt scenery along the line. At Grovane station it is possible to buy light refreshments and souvenirs.
The railway represents part of our transport history and is one of the greatest tourist attractions in the southern part of Norway.