Norway – Transportation And Communication

Up to the present time it has not seemed practicable or imperatively important to build railroads in Nor-way on any very extensive scale. The total length of State railways is 1,276 miles ; 204 additional miles are covered by private enterprise. All the towns of any importance were built by the sea (see Maps 1 and 2), and travel by water is so much cheaper that it is still made to answer most practical purposes.

The longest railway line in the kingdom (350 miles) runs northward from Christiania up the valley of the Glommen river, to a point near its source ; then it crosses the watershed between the Glommen and the Gula, and follows the valley of the latter stream down to Trondhjem. This railway line is of much commercial importance, express trains making the trip in seventeen hours. The valley region traversed (known as Osterdalen) is very rich in timber, and the people are exceptionally prosperous, but the country is much less interesting to the tourist than the coast-regions around the mountain-walled fjords.

Another important railway runs southeastward from Christiania across the Swedish frontier and down to the Swedish ports of Goteborg and Malmo, connecting there with lines for various parts of Sweden.

Still another through line runs from Trondhjem eastward across the Swedish frontier, and then down to Gefle and Stockholm.

The most northerly railway in the world runs from the Norwegian port of Victoriahaven (68° 30′ N. lat.), near the fishing banks of the Lofoten Islands, across the frontier and down across northern Sweden to the head of the Baltic.

In southwestern Norway the few railway lines are short and of merely local importance.

A railroad connecting Christiania with Bergen is in process of construction, and will be completed in 1907. This will reduce the transportation distance between the two most important commercial centers of the country from 423 miles by sea to 310 miles by rail, and will reduce the time to one-third. Sixty miles of the line will lie more than 2,300 feet above sea level. On account of the heavy snow, parts of the line will have to be covered. This new mountain route will, no doubt, prove a great attraction to the tourist.

An interesting scheme for getting local freight across-country in one of the southern provinces (Bratsberg) is the connection of already existing rivers and lakes by means of canals, thus completing a waterway from a fjord of the Skagerrak away up into the interior of the country. (Position 24 takes us to the most picturesque part of the Bandak-Nordsjo Canal.) Map 2 shows how thickly southern Norway is sprinkled with lakes and threaded by “streams. Water lies or runs in all the innumerable hollows between the hills, and it would not take many connecting links like the Bandak-Nordsjo Canal, to make a network of water-highways over this part of the kingdom.

As one might expect, when the immense extent of indented sea-coast is considered, Norway’s main reliance for travel is by boat. The Norwegian merchant marine itself includes over 7,200 vessels, large or small, with 1,443,308, aggregate tonnage, and foreign vessels are continually coming and going. In a single year records show that 13,162 vessels (including Norwegian and foreign) have been entered at the various Norwegian ports, nearly as many, having been cleared. Christiania, Bergen and Trondhjem are the three most important ports.

In those interior districts where railways are not yet built, an interesting system of “posting” is in successful operation. The State has greatly improved many of the old highways and constructed various new ones, furnishing excellently kept roads for travel with horses and carriages. Farmers living on these roads at intervals of a few miles (from six to twelve miles, according to circumstances), are licensed by the State to supply horses, vehicles and drivers at certain fixed rates, and to act as innkeepers, furnishing lodgings and meals to travelers. In some cases the license is greatly desired by a farmer, as a means of increasing his too slender income. In other cases, where a farmer is more prosperous, he may not be at all desirous of opening his house to every chance-comer or of finding horses and drivers for everybody who may pause at his door; but, if his home is so located that it offers the only possibility of changing horses without an undesirably long journey for tired beasts, he may be obliged to take the license and charge himself with its responsibilities.

Skydsstationer (Posting-stations) are of two classes —(1) “fast,” where the manager is bound to keep enough horses on hand to provide fresh animals withing half an hour ; (2) “slow,” where the charge is less, and travelers may have to wait anywhere from an hour to half a day, according to circumstances. (In summer, when farm-work is most heavy, it may cause a farmer a good deal of trouble in his own work to let his horses go just when he needs to be ploughing or doing other field work).

The charges at “fast” stations are about nine cents a mile (English mile) for a horse and kariol (for one passenger) or horse and stolkjarre with one passenger. If there are two passengers, a stolkjaerre is essential, and the charge is half as large again. Both vehicles are open wagons, baggage being fastened behind. The driver, usually a boy or girl in the teens, perches on the baggage behind the passengers. Travelers often telephone ahead to have vehicles re-served for them at a certain time.

The horses are small but strong, and, as a rule, well fed and well-treated—seldom overworked—due to a system of inspection. Five or six miles an hour is an average rate of speed on a road of average difficulty; in many places the roads are so very steep the rate must be much slower.

Telegraph and telephone lines have been constructed by the State on a notably generous scale. In 1903 the government owned and operated 8,555 miles of line, using 54,598 miles of wire. There are 762 telegraph offices in the kingdom. Telephone stations are immensely more numerous still, so many posting stations and private houses having installed the apparatus. More than two million conversations take place over the “trunk” (main) telephone lines in a single year.

The mail service is also used for the transaction of a great volume of business and social correspondence, and for the sending of small parcels. In a single year the Norwegian post-offices have handled :

61,197,100 letters, 8,204,500 post-cards, 1,256,400 registered letters 58,140,800 newspapers and magazines, 8,302,300 pieces other than printed matter, 1,161,800 parcels.

Of course, the figures given above include mail sent or received by foreigners traveling in Norway, but, even so, the figures are a very striking indication of the high average of intelligence in a country with only about two and a quarter million people—children and all.