Setesdal Vintage Railway- Riding Norway’s First Preserved Railroad


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When in Kristiansand, one of the ports of call on my Norway cruise itinerary, I decided to take a ride on the Setesdal Vintage Railway (Setesdalsbanen). This Kristiansand shore excursion first appealed to me because I love trains, but it also sounded like a good way to experience a bit of the area’s history and scenic views.

The Setesdal Vintage Railway beside the Otra River.

Before I share my experience on the Setesdal Vintage Railway excursion, here’s some information about this historic railway line near Kristiansand.

Steam engine on the Setesdalsbanen.

About the Setesdal Vintage Railway

Setesdalsbanen is a narrow gauge railway line that opened in 1896 between Kristiansand and Byglandsfjord in southern Norway. At the time of its opening, there were seven stations on the 78 km/48 mi long line.

People taking pictures of the Setesdal Vintage Railway as it passes by a red shed.

By the 1960’s, road vehicles were increasingly used for transporting goods and the railway line wasn’t making any money. Setesdalsbanen closed in 1962 and the track soon started to be dismantled. However, local train enthusiasts managed to preserve 6 km/3.7 mi of the original track between Grovane and Beihølen for use as a hobby railroad.

The Setesdal Vintage Railway alongside the river.

Since then, the Setesdal Line has gone from being used by a hobby club to operating as a living railway museum. Some infrastructure and tracks were reinstated and today the Setesdal Line runs for 8 km/5 mi between Grovane and Røyknes stations. 

The Setesdal Vintage Railway beside the river.

As a heritage railway, Setesdalsbanen has four steam locomotives that are over 100 years old, several preserved wooden passenger carriages, and some recreated station buildings.

Wooden carriage of the Setesdal Vintage Railway.

Riding the Setesdal Vintage Railway- My Experience

The Setesdal Vintage Railway excursion from Kristiansand started with a bus ride from the cruise ship port to Grovane station. There was a guide on board who shared some stories about the area, pointed out the sights as we drove by, and told us about the history of the Setesdal railway.

Steam engine puffing black smoke as it pulls the rail cars.

If you’re travelling independently and not part of a cruise or tour, you can still ride the vintage railway, but your tickets won’t include transportation to and from the train station.

Grovane Station and the railroad tracks.

Once we arrived at Grovane station, the group waited for the train to arrive. This took longer than usual because there was another train that had to pass by on the tracks first. If there’s a bit of a wait, Grovane station has a small cafe you can visit and there’s also some information panels and brochures that you can read about the railway and sights along the line.

Looking from the outside in to the cafe at Grovane Station.
Cafe at Grovane station

I thought Grovane station was very cute with its red paint and yellow trim. I especially liked the clock hanging above the main entrance. 

Clock hanging above the door to Grovane Station.

When the steam locomotive finally arrived, the group excitedly boarded the train. There is no assigned seating, so I recommend sitting on the right side when travelling from Grovane to Røyknes station because there’s more scenery to look at. The left side does have a waterfall early on the trip, but after that, you’ll be looking out at a rocky hillside and trees most of the time.

Train tracks going around a bend beside a river.

The wooden passenger cars were nicely restored to preserve their vintage look and feel. I really appreciated that most of the windows slid open so I could easily take pictures. Just don’t lean out the window too far because there is a tunnel and a snow shed over a portion of the track.

Inside the vintage passenger carriage.

Chugging away from Grovane station the train soon passed a service yard with workshops, sheds, and old railcars. The first scenic point of interest was a small waterfall flowing down the hillside by the hydroelectric power plant. 


After the waterfall, the train crossed the Otra River on a steel lattice bridge built in 1895. The track then curved away from the river into an area of trees.

A few minutes later we passed by Paulen gård, the former home of the lines man responsible for maintaining the Setesdal railway. The old farm and its buildings are now used by the 1st Vennesla Scouts group.

The train coming up alongside a red building.
Red buildings on an old farm.

The best scenery of the train ride was after Paulen gård when the track followed closely along the river. My favourite feature was the old log chute and how it’s now used by friendly, waving hikers. What a unique hiking trail!

Hikers on the log chute beside the Otra river.
Hikers on the log chute.

Continuing along, I had a great view of the rock-framed river, the forest and hills along its banks, and the wooden log chute. I was impressed by how far the chute runs!

Log chute suspended over the Otra River.
Log chute on the rocky banks of the Otra river.
Log chute on the rocky banks of the river.
Rocks and trees framing the river.

Next up the train went through a short, narrow tunnel so there were a few moments of darkness before the train re-emerged beside the river.

View looking out a window as the train goes into a tunnel.

During this section of the journey, there were more wonderful views of the forest and river on the right as the train hugged the mountainside on the left.

Rocks and log chute beside the river.
Rocks in the river.

Eventually, the train passed by the Beihølen Dam and we got to see a waterfall flowing down from a fenced-off portion of the log chute. Just south of the dam is also where the original tracks end.

Dam, log chute, and waterfall.
Water falling from the log chute.

Now on the section of rebuilt track, we rode along a wide and very scenic stretch of the river. Soon we passed Beihøldalen station, which is not original. It was established in 1996 and served as the upper terminus of the line until 2004.

Forested hill beside the river.
Small red building between the train tracks and the river.

Nearing the end of my ride on the Setesdal Vintage Railway some pretty islands came into view. There was a bigger island near Røyknes station that had some houses on it and I couldn’t help but think it looked like a nice place to live.

Two small forested islands in the river.
River and islands and some houses in the distance.

After pulling into Røyknes station everyone disembarked the train and the next group got on for the return trip. An interesting thing about Røyknes station is that it’s not original to the line, having been taken apart and moved from Svenkerud on the Bergen Line and re-erected at Røyknes. Even though it’s not original, it is identical to the station building that stood here from 1914 until 1962.

Doorway to Royknes station.

We had a little time to walk around the station area so I took some pictures and watched the locomotive fill up at the water tower. Then we boarded the buses to be driven back to Kristiansand.

Steam engine filling up at the water tower.
Brown house on a hill overlooking the river.
White house with a large lawn.

Final Thoughts- My Review of the Setesdal Vintage Railway

I love being on trains and watching the scenery go by so my ride on the Setesdal Vintage Railway was as enjoyable as I expected it to be. The river and forest views were beautiful and seeing a dam and old log chute was a nice bonus. 

Suspended log chute over the river.
Rocks and forest beside the river.

The train carriages were well-restored but still had a nostalgic, old-timey feeling. The stations and other historic buildings along the line added to the experience as well. One of the best parts was the steam engine- that really made me feel like I had gone back in time!

Steam locomotive and passenger carriage on the tracks.

There was no commentary during the train ride so I was glad I took a brochure because it had a guide to the main sights along the line. With the brochure, I could follow along and know what I was seeing.

The Setesdal Vintage Railway going past an old farm with red buildings.

The train ride was fairly short, only about 30 minutes. I kind of wish it was longer, but I’m also glad it wasn’t so I had time to explore Kristiansand afterwards. The only other downside was the long wait at the station for the train to arrive, but this might not always be the case.

River with houses and hills in the distance.

Overall, the Setesdal Vintage Railway excursion was a good experience that train lovers and people looking for a relaxing way to see the sights will enjoy.

Forested hill beside the river.

Tips for Riding the Setesdalsbanen

Location: The Setesdalsbanen is located about 21 km north of Kristiansand near Vennesla.

Schedule: The Setesdalsbanen operates from June to September. The train runs on Sundays plus some Saturdays and Wednesdays. Confirm the current schedule here.

Tickets: Tickets for the Setesdal Vintage Railway can be bought at the terminus stations and on the museum’s website. Round-trip or one-way tickets are available.

Steam Locomotive: Unfortunately, there are some times when the steam engine isn’t able to pull the train, like when there is a risk of forest fire. In those instances, an alternate engine is used.

Facilities: Snacks can be bought at the stations. There are also toilet facilities. There are no toilets on the train.

Brown house and trees by the river.

Accommodations in Kristiansand

For your convenience, here is a list of hotels in Kristiansand. Please consider booking your Kristiansand accommodations through the included link. It costs nothing extra and helps support this website. Thank you!

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