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The history of Krossobanen

On January 21, 1928, over 600 people gathered at the Lower Station. The name became Krossobanen, consisting of two carriages and two stations connected by thick cables. One carriage per cable. One rescue carriage per carriage.


The carriages met in the middle, and passengers felt butterflies in their stomachs as the carriage passed the mast just before the top. That's still the case!

Krossobanen was named after one of the few farms that characterized Vestfjord Valley before the major transformation that began with the development of Rjukanfossen in 1907.


At the lectern on that January day stood Norwegian Hydro's then CEO, Axel Aubert, surrounded by a number of celebrities. Some shook their heads in disbelief that Rjukan - of all places - would be getting Northern Europe's first two-cable cable car, stretching the dizzying meters between 385 meters above sea level to almost 900 meters in just five minutes. The ascent gains 60 centimeters for every meter.

Some believed that a tramway along the mountainside a little further into the valley would have been better. It would have provided more jobs in Rjukan, not least.

But Hydro founder Sam Eyde had been clear: the cable car was the right choice and would ensure that Rjukan's sun-starved residents and visitors had sun all year round. In Rjukan, the sun disappears behind Gaustatoppen in September, only to return for a full solar celebration in March.


Perhaps the cable car was a result of the founder's desire for everything in Rjukan to be a grand and enticing destination for investors, workers, and tourists alike.


The city was designed by renowned architects from A to Z, and since its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015, it has been the most spectacular of Norway's company towns – cities that have emerged around a power source or an industry. The architects had fun. Even mailboxes, fire hydrants, and park benches got their own design.

Overall, Rjukan and industrialization are about the transition to industrial and welfare societies, both materially and culturally.

In recent times, there has been speculation about whether Sam Eyde's real motive was to secure access to one of the country's next major hydroelectric developments, namely the Måra development, the large river and lakes located some distance inland from the upper station of the Krossobanen.

The Klondike atmosphere would characterize Rjukan for a long time, even though the thirties brought both unemployment and crisis.


The idea of ​​installing the sun mirror (which now stands there in all its glory above the square) came early, as did the plans for the World Ski Championships on the other side of the valley. (It failed when World War II broke out in 1939)

In Paris on May 14, 1919, 973,000 kroner was allocated for the cable car. A significant amount of money in a Europe characterized by downturns.

The world-famous German company Adolf Bleichert & Co developed this technology. They supplied the cable car, and Siemens-Schuckert supplied the electrical equipment. Today, Krossobanen is probably the only nearly original Bleichert cable car still in operation.


For a fifty-øre coin for adults and 25 øre for children, the people of Rjukan could be transported with sleds, skis, and poles up to Gvepseborg and to one of the world's most beautiful mountain plateaus, namely Hardangervidda. From here, Gaustatoppen looked like a sugar cone, with the city resembling a winding snake far below.


To the right of the viewing terrace, one could see the Vemork facility, which was the subject of the famous heavy water sabotage. At the top, there was a kiosk, a café, and countless ski trails into the plateau.It was also a favorite spot for summer berry picking, cycling trips, walks, and hunting.

If one didn't want to take the cable car back down, they could walk, sled, and ski along the breathtaking Ryes road, which winds beneath the cable car. That's still the case.

In the first year, almost 36,000 people were transported by the cable car; 10 years later, the number was 82,000. In 1928, 190,000 pairs of skis were transported on the Krossobanen!

The Austrian Stephan Gollner was the chief installer who would keep the heavy-duty facility running for many years. He had knowledge of cable cars from his homeland. He and his family lived at Gvepseborg from 1940, and they kept control of both the cable car and the café. The Gollner house, which now stands opposite the upper station, served as both a café and a warming hut.

There was a big fire at the end of the German occupation in 1944, when a simple little heater ignited an ammunition depot and set the entire upper station on fire. The Germans initially thought it was sabotage but soon dismissed it. Instead, a massive rebuilding effort was launched. New cables and a new station at Gvepseborg were ready for use as early as 1945. It was probably strategically important for the Germans to have quick access to that part of Hardangervidda. Gvepseborg also had a Russian prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

Now it's Tyttebæret and Blåbæret that welcome you on the journey to the mountain. Nevertheless, many of Rjukan's children remember how the housewife group fetched the children at the bus stops throughout the city, kept them in check by letting them walk along a long rope with knots, and got them up to the outdoor mountain nursery in the winter sun. In storms with: many red cheeks and cold feet, moms met them at the bus stop in the afternoons.

The attraction of the cable car declined with increasing car traffic. The cable car has faced threats of closure many times, most recently in 1981. Since then, there have been many campaigns to save the cable car, which finally found peace with its designation as a heritage site in 2015.

Since then, there has been investment in Gvepseborg. Krosso mountain lodge rests on the edge facing the valley, and a climbing park has been established. Many have built cabins into the mountain, and in 1993, the Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT) erected the Helberghytta near Våervatn, 8 km from Gvepseborg, in honor of one of the heavy water saboteurs and former general secretary of DNT, Claus Helberg.

Sources: Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage

Tom Nilsen / Helge Songe "Krossobanen"

Historical gallery

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