Scandinavia Railways Society

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50 years ago : Mystery Accident - by Mike Whitley

50 years ago, a mystery accident occurred on Norway's Numedal line.

The Numedal branch line was officially opened in November 1927 in the presence of King Haakon VII and Crown Prince Olav, who joined the inaugural train on the 92km journey, from its junction with the Oslo line (later part of the Sørlandsbane to Kristiansand and Stavanger) at Kongsberg, northwards up the Lågen river valley to Rødberg.

Originally intended to serve hydroelectric power stations at Gvammen and Rødberg, the branch also handled timber, woodchip, sawdust and, not least, stone ballast from the Svene works (about 15km up the line) for use on the railways.

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The wreckage of the class 21e no 207 in 1963

On Tuesday 1 October 1963, at around 11am, a goods train with six ballast wagons came off the rails at Bevergrenda, just outside Kongsberg. The locomotive, a 2-6-0 Class 21e No 207, along with its tender, ended up at the bottom of the embankment. The footplate crew managed to crawl out uninjured, though the local paper reported that one of them was complaining of pains in his foot and was taken to hospital.
Nobody seemed to be sure what exactly had caused the train to derail. Maintenance work to the track was being undertaken before the accident, but the morning train from Kongsberg had just passed the spot (single track) without incident and the line foreman had driven over the line on his trolley shortly before, but had noticed nothing amiss.

A brief inspection of the loco failed to shed any further light on the mystery. "Just at the moment, the derailment presents a huge question mark," commented a traffic inspector to a newspaper reporter, "But it's of the utmost importance that we get the line clear as quickly as possible, as we need to resume the movement of ballast from Svene". The inspector added that five or six work teams in the Drammen district were awaiting ballast from Svene, with their maintenance work delayed if the 20 metres of damaged track at the accident site were not quickly repaired.

The next station up the line, Spiten, became the temporary southern terminus for the line and buses carried passengers from there to Kongsberg station. The track was relaid and the line reopened at around 9.30pm, less than 11 hours after the accident ­ not bad going.

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Class 21e no 207 in 1971 at Loden after repair Photo Sveien Sando

Interestingly, No 207 was preserved by Norway's railway museum and is currently based on the Krøderbane.

The Class 21s and 20s were the mainstay of the Numedal line's services until the first railcar arrived in 1937, but during the wartime occupation, passenger trains were again steam-hauled. Post-war goods trains on the line were steamhauled until 1971, with passenger railcars often having a van or wagon attached for the journey up the line.

Passenger traffic along the line ended on 31 December 1988, when the line north of Rollag was closed.

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