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Escape With a Virtual Ride on the World’s Steepest Train

Things are looking up (down, right and left) thanks to a 360-degree video captures a stunning Norwegian fjord

Things are getting steep in Western Norway. (Sverre Hjørnevik)
smithsonian.com

In Western Norway, the sea slices through the terrain, sparkling at the bottom of sheer-faced fjords that glint with rivers and shine with wildflowers. But to get to those beauties, you’ll have to climb—unless, of course, you find someone else to do the dirty work for you. Now, writes Erika Owen for Travel and Leisure, you can take that journey from the comfort of your laptop or VR headset with the help of a new video of the world’s steepest railroad. 

It’s called the Flamsbana, or Flåm railway, and it’s got some of the best views in the world. The two-hour long round trip takes passengers through the Sognefjord, the worlds second-longest fjord. One arm of the fjord, known as Nærøyfjord, is even on the Unesco World Heritage list for its “exceptional natural beauty” and steep rock walls. 


Virtual Flåm by Expedia.no

But exploring the fjord by train comes at a price: The railroad that takes you through it is super steep. Eighty percent of the journey has a gradient of 5.5 percent, and the line has a total height difference of over 2,800 feet. That’s quite the feat of engineering: as Janice Mucalov notes for Nuvo, the railway took 16 years to build and each tunnel was dug out by hand over the course of a month. 

The train cars rely on a principle used in nearly all railroads to stick to the steep tracks. It’s called adhesion, and it happens when the steel driving wheel creates friction on the steel rail. That traction makes the wheel—and the train car—stick to the track despite the steep gradient. 

But for most passengers aboard the train, this won't be the main focus of the trip. The relaxing venture promises views of mountains, rivers, waterfalls and 20 tunnels.

Instead of making the trip, you could watch the virtual movie, which was created by Expedia in 360-degree splendor. But the railroad’s view is so spectacular that it almost begs you to buy plane tickets and head to Flåm.

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