I sat in the waiting room at Bodø station alongside a few other souls who had turned up way too early for their train. A charming little display of historical railway memorabilia harked back to an earlier era. The present-day station is a modern affair, with two tracks for passenger trains either side of an island platform, and a small freight yard.
I was leaving Bodø behind to return to Oslo, a journey which would see me on the rails for 18 hours or thereabouts. The first leg of the journey would last just under 10 hours and take me to Trondheim for an onward connection to Oslo.
My journey would take in the full length of the Nordlandsbanen, the 450-mile route that winds its way through northern Norway to Trondheim. I was pleased to be on a train this time, unlike my rail replacement bus experience a few days earlier.
I stumbled out of bed at 6.45am, and groggily made my way to the bathroom, in an attempt to wake myself up with a shower. The early start was needed to get myself back to the railway station for the 7.58am rail replacement bus to Bodø. Yay!
It was so early that the hotel had not put out the full breakfast buffet, and I had to make do with some cereal and a croissant. I ate in a deserted dining room, with a solitary other diner who looked about as happy as I was.
I checked out of the hotel and headed back to the railway station, where I joined other intending passengers on the concourse. Tucked away in one corner was the check-in point for the sleeper train, just to taunt me.
I headed straight for the ticket office at Trondheim Sentral and enquired about the sleeper train to Bodø.
“They are all cancelled this weekend,” said the friendly woman on the information desk. “Engineering work is taking place.”
So this ticket I have, is for a train that does not exist?
“Yes, you will need to take it up with your booking agent.”
Oh, don’t worry. I WILL.
I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and dialled the travel agent, thankful that my mobile provider still offers European roaming at no extra charge.
There was a long phone call, which involved extended periods on hold. The woman at the travel agent was very helpful and apologetic, but could only come up with one option: instead of the sleeper train, I would be on a rail replacement bus departing at 8am and taking 11 hours to reach Bodø.
To be fair, they also arranged an extra day’s hotel stay in Bodø, but on the downside, I would have almost no time in Trondheim. I would have to leave early the following morning, rather than spending most of the day there and leaving by train in the evening.
Next morning I was at Oslo Sentral bright and early – well, early, anyway – for the next phase of my trip. Exploring Oslo was all well and good, but the purpose of this trip was TRAINS! So I was happy to be back on the rails again.
Oslo Sentral is a typical European railway terminus. In other words, it’s a giant shopping mall with the trains almost an afterthought amidst the branches of Starbucks.
I found my platform for the 08:02 to Trondheim, which was operated by an offshoot of the Swedish state-owned railway operator, SJ.
Twenty years is a long time to work in the same place. Two decades of showing up to work on time each and every day, diligently working hard with my esteemed colleagues to add value to the business. Since the day I was on-boarded, I have relentlessly pursued corporate synergies and leveraged the opportunities and challenges that have arisen in my workflows.
(Did the above sound good? Please take my word for it, and definitely don’t go through my Twitter archive)
My lack of ambition was finally rewarded on my 20 year anniversary, when my employer offered to purchase a gift to celebrate my inability to get sacked. The only rule was that it had to be a single, tangible gift (no asking for a cash alternative).
I briefly toyed with the idea of buying Hornby’s new model of the Advanced Passenger Train, together with the additional coaches to make it up to a full length prototypical train, but I quickly realised that I would never be able to actually run it anywhere, due to lack of space.
Thoughts then turned to the possibility of a holiday and — because I have a brand to maintain — I started looking at train trips.