History and facts

The funicular cable car of Bergen


Fløibanen is Bergen's biggest tourist attraction and one of Norway's most visited sights. It is the only funicular cable car for passengers in Scandinavia, with over 1 million passengers a year over the past few years. Here is a short history of Fløibanen.

History of the funicular

We have made a folder with the comprehensive History of the Fløibanen Funicular.

Download "Heading for new heights"

Read a summary of the history below:

From idea to reality  

The idea to build a means of transport to Fløyen was put forward as early as 1895 by John Lund, a Bergen resident and member of the Norwegian parliament. Factory owner Chr. Pettersen wanted to turn the idea into reality and applied for permission to build and operate "elevators for passenger transport" from Heggen to "Flaggstangen" in the Fjellveien road. The city council approved the project but it was shelved after the operator failed to raise the necessary capital.

In 1907, manager Nordstrand applied for permission to operate a cable car on the same route. He also wanted to extend it to Fløyen. The plan was to connect the cable car to the tram network. Both projects were based on plans to use electricity from Bergen's steam power station.
Bergen's cable car project became known around the world, and European newspapers reported on the plans. A/S Fløibanen was founded in 1912 with Waldemar Platou as the company's first managing director. 
 
Download the brochure "Heading for new heights"
 
 

Work begins 

Work on the funicular commenced in autumn 1914. The project was estimated to be completed in 1 - 1 ½ years, but the First World War and the subsequent product shortage meant that it would take a lot longer. Following some technical problems, the first stage of the planning process was completed in 1915. The planning of the tracks continued throughout 1916 and in November of that year the work of laying the track could begin. However, the rails were delayed for one year from the Swiss supplier.  

The cable cars and engines were ready for delivery from the German manufacturer in late winter 1916. However, Germany had introduced an export ban because of the war, and the transport of the cars, by rail, did not start until late 1916 or early 1917. The transport had been estimated to take one month, but it turned out the cars had been left on a side track in Denmark. Finally, on 22 March 1917 the first cable car was pulled up to the tunnel entrance of Fløibanen's lower station. But only the car bodies had arrived - the engine and undercarriages were delayed. Further delays meant that the cars were left at Vetrlidsallmenningen throughout the summer and were not lifted on to the rails until 12 August 1917.
 

Fløibanen starts operating

The Fløibanen project was based on similar cable cars in southern Germany, Switzerland and northern Italy and its design was similar to that of the Merkur line in Baden-Baden. Fløibanen's first cars - made out of oiled teak and partially open - were made by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen in the town of the same name. The cars could carry up to 65 passengers. The steel cable which pulled the cars was designed to withstand 8-10 times the power it was normally exposed to. In the event of the cable breaking, the cars would stop after a fall of just 1-2 metres. The brakes were designed to screw the cars to the rails and they worked both automatically and manually. Regular passenger traffic commenced on 15 January 1918.  

Operation and renovation

The well-known red and blue colours of the Fløibanen cars were introduced in the early 1950s - around the same time as the first synchronised model of the cable car was installed at the upper station. The cars were replaced for the first time in 1954, after 36 years. Sadly, the old cars were not preserved. Over the 36-year period since the railway opened, manufacturing had developed at a lightning speed and the new cars had a modern and elegant shape. They were supplied by Hønefoss Karosserifabrikk (Høka) and the undercarriages came from von Roll in Switzerland. The cars could carry up to 80 passengers. In these cars, the engine was operated by an onboard driver. Previously, the engines had been operated by a person stationed at Fløyen who maintained contact with the driver with the help of a signal pole. One of the 1954 cars, the red no. 2 car, is now exhibited in the tram hall of Bergen's technical museum at Møhlenpris.

The cars were replaced for the third time in 1974. As in 1954, these cars were also lifted on to the rails at Promsgate station and pulled up to the meeting point halfway up the track. These cars can also carry up to 80 passengers and were made by von Roll in Switzerland. In 1987 the engine room at Fløyen was modernised, and the drivers began operating the cars via radio signals. A new 190 horse power engine was installed together with light signal communication between the cars. These cars were lifted off the tracks on 26 September 2002.
 

The 4th generation cable cars  

In the autumn of 2002, Fløibanen was closed for seven weeks while it underwent the most extensive renovation in the company's history. The cable cars, tracks, engines, stations and ticketing system all underwent a complete renewal. Fløibanen's upper and lower stations were modernised and expanded at the end of the 1990s. The three interim stations were refurbished in autumn 2002. The new cars have increased Fløibanen's capacity to 100 passengers from 80 previously. The cars normally travel at a speed of 4 metres per second. All stations have an electronic ticketing system and electronic ticket barriers. There are also automatic ticket machines available to passengers when the lower station is unstaffed. The cars, which have been specially designed for Fløibanen by industrial designer Espen Thorup, have a contemporary, yet classic shape with larger windows, improved comfort and better views for passengers. For more information - go to New Fløibanen cars.  

Safety is paramount  

Safety has always been paramount on Fløibanen. The security and safety inspector Det Norske Veritas carries out annual brake tests, cable checks and a general control of the funicular equipment. Fløibanen's own staff also carry out regular checks in accordance with strict internal safety regulations. There has never been a serious accident on Fløibanen. The comprehensive braking system works both automatically and manually and ensures that the cars stop in the event of any irregularities. Cable cars are subject to exceptionally strict safety regulations and Fløibanen is one of the safest means of transport.

 

 

Facts about Fløibanen

 

  • Fløibanen was officially opened on 15 January 1918.
  • The idea to build a means of transport to Fløyen was put forward as early as 1895 by John Lund, a Bergen resident and member of the Norwegian parliament.
  • The work to build Fløibanen started in the autumn of 1914. The line was ready to begin operations in January 1918.
  • Fløibanen's highest station is 320 metres above sea level.
  • The difference in height between the lower and upper stations is 302 metres.
  • Fløibanen's railtrack is 844 metres long with a gradient that rises from 15 to 26 degrees on the steepest section.
  • Two cars, one red and one blue, each with room for 100 passengers, operate between the centre of Bergen and Fløyen every day throughout the year, calling at three stations on the way, (Promsgate, Fjellveien and Skansemyren). From September to April it is open until 23:00, and from May to August until 24:00.
  • The cars normally travel at a speed of 4 metres per second. The journey usually takes 5-6 minutes.
  • The width of the track is 100 cm.
  • The engines are powered by a 315 kW AC-motor which is operated from the cars via signals transmitted through an inductive cable.
  • The undercarriages of the present Fløibanen cars, which were delivered in 2002, were manufactured by the Swiss company Doppelmayr Tramways Ltd. The car bodies were supplied by the Swiss company Gangloff.
  • The present cable cars each weigh 11 tonnes.
  • The present Fløibanen cars are 12.3 metres long, which is 2 metres longer than their 3rd generation predecessors from 1974.
  • The cable is 40 mm thick and has a tensile strength of 66.5 tonnes. A fully loaded cable car weighs 19 tonnes.
  • The greatest tension in the cable is when the car is at the steepest gradient of 26 degrees, some 67 metres from the upper station. The cable is 950 metres long and runs in one section from one car to the other. It is secured to the cars with adjustable fixtures. The cars are secured at either end of the same cable. The cable is attached to pulleys along the railtrack.
  • Each car has two rail brakes which are automatically activated if the speed is too great. This means that the car will stop within seconds. In addition, the cars have normal brakes and emergency brakes which are automatically activated in the event of irregularities. Fløibanen also has diesel-powered back-up engines in the event of power failure.

 

Fløibanen today

Fløibanen in Bergen is one of Norway's most famous attractions and the only cable car of its kind in Scandinavia. We can justifiably claim that you have not really seen Bergen before you have travelled on the Fløibanen. A trip on the Fløibanen is necessary for all those who want the full Bergen experience during their stay in the city.