Today in Transportation History – 1901: Eidsfoss to Tønsberg? Don’t Mind If I Do!

In southeastern Norway, a new railway line connecting the village of Eidsfoss with the municipality of Tønsberg was dedicated. Jørgen Løvland, who was the minister of labor at the time and would briefly serve as prime minister of Norway later in the decade, officially opened the Tønsberg-Eidsfoss Line (Tønsberg-Eidsfossbanen, or TEB). At the time of TEB’s public debut, Løvland was also chairman of the Norwegian committee responsible for selecting recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Three days after its dedication ceremony, TEB began regular passenger and freight services. Two steam locomotives, aptly named Tønsberg and Eidsfoss, were initially used by TEB to pull all of its railway cars. A third locomotive, Bjørn, went into service in 1904.

TEB, covering about 30 miles, started out as a highly popular segment of a larger regional transit network for people visiting the capital city of Oslo and other travel destinations in southern Norway. TEB also provided a comparatively carefree ride for passengers, with its trains running on flat terrain without any tunnels and only three bridges. Another one of TEB’s advantages is that the railway line became a key transportation link for tourists using steamship services on the large lake Eikeren in the vicinity of Eidsfoss.

During its first several years of operation, TEB had an average annual ridership ranging from 55,000 to 65,000. Passenger traffic on board on these trains reached a high of 71,000 in 1918. Over time, however, the railway line encountered significant financial difficulties due to fuel and labor costs. TEB also experienced a notable decline in ridership, with the annual number of passengers dropping to 45,000 in 1921 and 35,000 in 1926. TEB’s fiscal well-being was further worsened when steamship services on Eikeren were terminated in 1925. The railway line’s amount of cargo transport likewise dwindled considerably during this time.

After hitting an all-time ridership low of 22,000 in 1928, TEB’s fortunes rebounded somewhat and its passenger traffic increased to 33,000 by 1930. Nonetheless, financial woes continued to plague the railway line and it ceased operations altogether in 1938.

For more information about the Tønsberg-Eidsfoss Line, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T%C3%B8nsberg%E2%80%93Eidsfoss_Line

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