Thamshavnbanen: A Piece of Railway History in the Heart of Norway

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Orkanger's heritage railway makes a great day trip in the Trondheim area. Here's what you need to know.

Whether you’re a railway enthusiast, a history buff or a lover of everything Norway, the Thamshavn railway has something for everyone.

Thamshavnbanen Orkanger heritage railway in Norway

Many of Norway's railways are among the world's most scenic. Thamshavnbanen is far less well-known than the Bergen line or the Flåm railway, but it's a must-see for those with an interest in railway history.

Join us for a virtual tour of the world’s oldest railway running on alternating current.

The story of the Orkanger heritage railway

First a bit of history. Like many early rail lines, the Thamshavn railway saw the light of day because of the need to transport minerals.

Unprocessed ore from the copper and zinc Løkken mine needed to be moved to the Orkanger port, nestled at the end of a fjord arm, about 20 km away.

The idea was the brainchild of local industry tycoon Christian Thams, who purchased the mine in 1896. He soon found out that it would be unsustainable to continue mining operations with manual pumps (the water accumulating in mines has to be pumped out as long as the mine is in activity).

Carriages on the Orkanger railway.

Upgrading to electric pumps meant electric power would have to be made available. This would in turn make it feasible to build an electric railway to transport the raw ore.

Building work started in 1906, and railway service began between Orkanger and Svorkmo in 1908. The king himself, Haakon VII, was there to officially open the line. In 1910, the line as it is today was completed, with the last stretch from Svorkmo to Løkken completed.

From day one, the Thamshavn railway was a hybrid line, carrying both mineral ore, freight and passengers. This continued until 1963, when passenger service stopped.

About ten years later, a drop in production at the mine meant the train stopped running entirely.

Thamshavnbanen tourist attraction.

In 1983, 75 years after the rail line's official opening, passenger service resumed, this time as a museum train. It has been operating as such ever since.

A journey into the past

An old schedule still hanging inside the train shows that the 22 km (14 miles) journey from Orkanger to Løkken takes just as long today as it used to 70 years ago – just under an hour.

The wooden carriages are striking. Walking into them, the look – and smell – is more reminiscent of a heritage building than it is of a train carriage.

The doors are ordinary wooden doors, and the seats are church pew-like wooden benches – unless you pay 50 kr extra to travel in the first class compartment.

Inside Thamshavnbanen

Electric fixtures provide lighting, and large windows let you take in the views. The three passenger cars are all original. The restaurant car was built in 1995.

Expect stunning views of the Orkla river. You are almost certain to spot a few anglers trying to catch salmon. You will also see the villages of Fannrem and Svorkmo.

The train makes a short stop near the entrance of the line’s only tunnel, where a monument commemorates the sabotage operations targeting the line during the war. The tunnel itself was actually built by the Germans during the occupation.

Orkla river view from the heritage railway.
View of the Orkla river

In Løkken, you can visit the old mine (guided tours are available) which has been in operation since the 17th century, and the mining museum that’s part of the station complex. Concerts and cultural events are organised regularly in the mine.

Check with the Trondheim tourist office for scheduled events at the time of your visit.

Getting there

You can visit the Thamshavn railway as a day trip from nearby Trondheim. This is most easily done by car, but there is also a regular bus service between Trondheim and Orkanger.

If you have the time and budget you can combine your visit with a stay at the Bårdshaug hotel in Orkanger. This Agatha Christie-esque historic hotel offers fine dining featuring local ingredients. It also serves afternoon tea.

Right next door to the Bårdshaug hotel is another sight worth seeing: the Norway Building.

The Norway Building in Orkanger.
The stave church inspired ‘Norway Building' in Orkanger.

This unique stave church-inspired building was a star attraction at the 1893 Chicago World Fair, and has only recently been brought back to Norway and refurbished to its former glory.

If you’re really just interested in the rail journey itself, drive to Løkken and start from there. The train has a 20-minute turnaround in Orkanger.

Otherwise, starting in Orkanger gives you just under three hours to see the sights in Løkken before heading back to your starting point.

Prices and schedule

Note that the Thamshavn railway is a seasonal attraction, with regular service only in July and August.

A one-way ticket will set you back 120 kr (100 kr for seniors and students). Children travel for free but must be accompanied by a guardian. Visit the Thamshavn railway website to plan your journey.

About Daniel Albert

Daniel was living a perfectly normal life as a journalist in Canada until he was swept off his feet by a Norwegian. He now lives in Trondheim where he still works in communications.

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