15 extraordinary minutes

"When you get here, you're welcomed by the tramway's friendly staff at the ticket booth. We answer your questions and are happy to provide tips regarding clothing to visitors who are wearing too little," says Operations Manager, Frank Roger Petersen.

When you ride the Gaustabanen tramway, the experience starts already at the entrance at 1,125 metres above sea level and ends 15 minutes later near Tuddalstippen, 675 metres higher up.

Foto: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com

Keep in mind that it's colder up there on the mountain summit of Gaustatoppen, 1,883 metres above sea level, than it is down at the parking lot. Therefore, it's a good idea to have everything you're bringing stowed in your backpack and change into the clothes you'll be wearing up top, before you come to buy your ticket.

"Your ticket will have a number that indicates which track you'll be taking. When your departure time approaches, your track number will be announced. Then, you just need to get ready to board," says Frank Roger.

By the way, you can just call Frank the "Frog", which is a nickname he got for being worst at the high jump in third grade at school. He has made it up to greater heights since that time.

"I basically have the world's best job. It's one of Norway's highest job sites at 1,800 metres above sea level," laughs the Operations Manager.

Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan
Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan
Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan
Foto: Ian Brodie

Frequent departures

In the summer, the Gaustabanen tramway departs approximately every 10 minutes. In the winter, the departures are slightly less frequent because there are more skis and equipment to get on board.

"We take a maximum of 18 people per tram in the winter, and a maximum of 25 people in the summer," says Frank Roger.

Foto: Trond Stegarud

You ticket gets scanned at the entrance, and then you need to walk 20 meters further in to board the tram. A cold draft hits you as you enter the tunnel. Next comes a three-minute ride on the rails, 850 vertical metres straight inside the mountain.

"Although it's dark in the tram, there is ample light in the tunnel as the tram moves through it, so you can see well," says Frank Roger.

The tram taking you in to the cable car was originally diesel-powered, but it was replaced by a battery-powered tram in the mid-1960s. During the 50-year period when the Gaustabanen tramway was a restricted system for use by the armed forces, the tram took 10 people at a time. However, a duplicate tram was built after the facility was opened for tourism.

The first car you come to is the duplicate, and the innermost car is the original. The two cable cars are linked together and carry 25 passengers in total.

Foto: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com
Facts
  • The Gaustabanen tramway is pulled by a frequency-controlled motor with a little over one hundred horsepower.
  • The steel cable that pulls the cars is 30.5 millimetres in diameter, and about 1,120 metres long.
  • The driving wheel in the mechanical room is 3.5 metres in diameter.
  • The steel cable is pulled in three figure-of-eight loops toward a matching driving wheel. This means it is insignificant whether one car is heavier than the other.
  • There is 70 metres worth of cable around the driving wheels at any time in the mechanical room.
  • The tramway is radio-controlled, and can be controlled from the mechanical room, the switch or the cars.
  • The stairs along the vertical tracks consist of approximately 3,500 steps.
  • The temperature in the vertical tunnel is always between 5 and 8 degrees Celsius.

Transfer

Just like when you use public transportation in Norway, your ticket here includes a transfer when you ride with the Gaustabanen tramway. In the middle of the mountain, you must switch from the tram to the cable car.

Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan

At the switch where the tram stops, you're 1,130 meters above sea level. Here, you climb up a small staircase to access the vertical section of tramway: 10 steps to the bottom car, and 30 steps to the top car. If you choose the shortest option, you must climb more steps on the top, and vice versa:

"You must climb a total of 40 step no matter what," says Frank Roger, who nevertheless recommends that you sit in the rear car if you have difficulty walking.

Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan
Foto: Trond Stegarud
Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan
Foto: Trond Stegarud

The ride up the mountain

From here, you get to enjoy a 1,040-metre-long and 39-degrees-steep ride up the mountain. The trip takes eight minutes, and the difference in elevation from the switch to the upper station is 670 metres. It's not dark even if you're now in the middle of Gaustatoppen mountain, because there are lights inside the cars and spotlights on the front side of the cars which illuminate the tunnel.

Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan

If you've ridden the funicular in Bergen, you know what to expect. The Gaustabanen tramway is a cable car that is identical to the funicular in Bergen, except that Gaustabanen runs on the inside of the mountain.

Both were supplied by the swiss company, von Roll, and the principle is that a car is suspended at each end of a long steel cable:

"When one wagon goes up, the other goes down, and there are two tracks in the middle section where the cars meet," says Frank Roger.

Foto: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com

The cable cars are also built to carry more tourists to the top of the mountain. The upper compartment where you sit together with the tram operator is the original car, while the lower part is an add-on.

Foto: Benjamin A. Ward / Visit Rjukan

Friendly welcome

When you step out of the car at the upper station, you will meet yet another friendly employee of the Gaustabanen tramway. Don't be too surprised if you're greeted by the Operations Manager himself:

"I'm mostly in the mechanical room, and it's often me who welcomes visitors to the top and tells them a little about the facility," says Frank Roger.

Foto: Trond Stegarud

Once you're out of the cable car, you must go through a 110-meter-long tunnel out to Tuddalstippen, 1,800 metres above sea level. It has now been 15 minutes since you last saw daylight, and here you are rewarded with an amazing view from the top of Telemark.

Foto: Thomas Rasmus Skaug / Visitnorway.com
Capacity
  • The Gaustabanen tramway can transport 75 people inside the mountain at any given time. 25 on the tram and 25 in each of the cable cars
  • Winter capacity: 600 people per day
  • Summer capacity: 250 boardings round-trip per hour during business hours
  • 2017: 70,000 boardings on the tramway. A little over 100,000 people visited the mountain in total.
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