Berekvam, the last flag station in Norway

Berekvam station on Flåmsbana (Myrdal - Flåm) is the last station in Norway to introduce automatic control with light signals and road gates. The signals and gates are installed, but not in use yet.  As far as I know, the last day with flag control was supposed to be June 30. 2009.  As per July 23rd, it is still controlled by flags, some technical installation is still missing.  An interesting era in the Norwegian railway history is soon over.

Berekvam is between Flåm (altitude 2 meters) and Myrdal (863,5 meters higher), approximately in the middle, 343 meters above sea level.  Berekvam is the only station on the single track Flåmsbana where trains can cross.

This is the story about a train crossing and the signal flags, made the afternoon of the nice day of June 21st 2009.

Berekvam station from further up the track.

A young lady, Ms. Olaug Brekke, is the station master of Berekvam, handling up to ten train crossings per day.  She has to walk a lot, back and forth between the signal boxes in each end of the station, approximately 900 meters per train crossing.  Photo from July 23rd 2009.

15:25 - The station master is preparing for the next train arrival, setting the switch for the upwards going incoming train.  She told us that the next train will arrive Berekvam in one hour.

15:26 - Checking the switch.  The red flag in the other end of the station can be seen far away as a small red dot, a little bit to the left of the picture centre.

15:48 - The entry flag is red and the switch is correct. Now it is just to wait for the trains.
When it is dark, a small lamp, either the upper red or the lower green, may be lit in the signal box.

16:20 - The upwards train is soon coming, time for the green flag.

16:25 - We heard the train horn around the curve, before we saw train 1862 climbing up the steep hill.

16:25 - A bit closer.  Note the 55 ‰ gradient (1:18), the third steepest adhesion railway in the world.  Almost 80 % of the 20,2 km long line has the 55 ‰ gradient.  Standard gauge, 1.435 mm.

16:25 - Train 1862 passes us.  Ms. Brekke puts the green flag into the signal box.

16:25 - When the train has passed the switch, she sets it for the downwards train.  The two train sets have one El 17 locomotive in each end.

16:26 - The upwards train 1862 is waiting for the downwards train 1861.  The station master has started the long walk to the other end of the station, to wait for the downwards train.

16:27 - I went up on a small hill to get a different view

16:29 - Talking to the locomotive driver

16:35 - The downwards train 1861 further up the valley, soon arriving.  Just a road crossing and two more tunnels before Berekvam.

16:36 - Train 1861 is approaching.  This photo was shot with a focal length of 100 mm, to indicate how far away the downwards entry signal is.

16:36 - The station master is waiting for train 1861 with the green flag

16:36 - A closer look

16:37 - The downwards train enters Berekvam station as she packs the green flag away and changes the switch for the upwards train.

16:37 - The upwards train 1862 starts.  The station master waits by the switch until the train has left and sets the switch for the next downwards train.  She can be seen as a small green spot along the track.

16:38 - When the train 1862 has left, she puts the red flag up again and starts the long walk back to this end of the station.

16:39 - The downwards train 1861 is leaving

16:39 - The front locomotive, 17 2230

16:39 - The rear part of train 1861.

16:39 - the rear locomotive, 17 2227

16:45 - The empty station.  The red flags are up and the switches are set, ready to receive yet another train or two, on one of Europe's most famous railway lines.

A part of the new signal system, including the road gates.  The warning lights for the road has yellow signs that tells the drivers that the signals are out of order.  The train signal is facing away from the track.

From a different angle

A quite new thing is the axel counters, installed on the tracks at several locations in the station.  The yellow "center contact" is there to lift any low snowploughs or other things that may hit the counter.  Maybe some kind of inductive sensors?

July 23rd 2009:  The signals and gates for the road are operative, but the flags for train control are still in use.  A nice combination of the old and new age.

About Flåmsbana, source Flåmsbana's website:
Length 20,20 km
Altitude difference 863,5 metres
Upper station 865,5 metres above sea level
Lower station 2 metres above sea level
Steepest gradient 55 ‰ - 1:18
Stretch > 28 ‰ 16 km - 79,3 %
Minimum curve radius 130 m
Track width/gauge 1435 mm
Voltage 15.000 V - 16 2/3 Hz
Maximum speed 40 km/h
Duration of journey Approx. 60 min.
Brake systems 5
Tunnels 20
Bridges 1
Water tunnels 4
Stops/halts 8

Station Altitude (m) Distance from
Myrdal Flåm
Myrdal 866 0,00 km 20,20 km
Vatnahalsen 811 1,13 19,07
Reinunga 768 2,20 18,00
Kjosfoss 669 4,40 15,80
Kårdal 556 6,34 13,86
Blomheller 450 8,40 11,80
Berekvam 343 10,51 9,69
Dalsbotn 200 13,90 6,30
Håreina 48 17,21 2,99
Lunden 16 18,60 1,60
Flåm 2 20,20 0,00

Updated 08.04.2013