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Following in the footsteps of Star Wars: Oslo to Bergen by rail

17 December 2015

It's March 1979 and on a sparsely populated icy plain near the quiet Norwegian village of Finse, Hollywood stars Mark Hammill and Harrison Ford are preoccupied with leading the Rebel Army in defence of their base, currently under barrage from a squadron of 20-metre tall Empire AT-AT walkers. Filming for the much anticipated Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is well under way. Creator George Lucas has chosen this Scandinavian snow-field to double up as the icy planet of Hoth. The Empire Strikes Back would later go on to hold a position amongst the most critically acclaimed films of all time and now, nearly 40 years on, there is no better time to revisit the village of Finse.

Board the iconic Oslo to Bergen line and you'll cross this snow-covered expanse along your way, passing over the same spot that was once the hub of Hollywood activity; undulating hills once populated by braying Tauntauns and bustling film crews, where snowspeeders zipped past overhead and some of cinema's most iconic characters continued their story in a galaxy far, far away. The Line has been dubbed as one of the best in Europe, crossing over the stunning Hardangervidda Plateau and stopping at the country's most elevated train station.

Now just over a century old, the Bergensbanen crosses 308 miles between two of Norway's largest cities, passing over and under the mountainous terrain that makes up the backbone of this cold environment. Leaving the cultural hotbed of Oslo behind, the popular route passes Finse, an astounding 1222 metres above sea level and the highest point on the line, before ending in the traditionally Norwegian city of Bergen, a journey that takes around 7 hours to complete. The famous fjordland and the beautiful Flåm Railway are also accessible via this line, branching off on a local service just outside of Myrdal. The rail line cuts a path through the rocky terrain, via 11 ¼ miles of tunnels that delves through the Scandinavian mountainsides as well as trailing past the edges of the Tyrifjorden lakeside. Other points of interest during the journey include the world famous Geilo winter sports centre and the cascading waters of the River Vossa, peppered with cautious looking footbridges and roped crossings.

Passing through this cinematic countryside, it's easy to see why it was chosen to represent the harsh and inhospitable climate of the planet Hoth; you may travel for hundreds of kilometres at a time and come across no other human life. Despite this, it still provides some of the most beautiful panoramas in Northern Europe, there is something remarkably peaceful despite the whipping wind and biting cold outside of the carriages. At the time shooting on The Empire Strikes Back had begun, this area of Norway was experiencing its worst storm in half a century, with temperatures of   -29ºC and over 18ft of snow. It isn't just George Lucas that took on the challenges by this particular white expanse of Northern Europe, Robert Scott and his men also used this area as a training base in the years leading up to their ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole in 1912, to which they were beaten by Norwegian Roald Amundsen.

So later this month, when you find yourself lining up with the legions of other customers eagerly awaiting the next adventures of Luke Skywalker and Co, at that same time, a little electric train may be making its way through the treacherous conditions and prevailing winds of the scenic Hardangervidda Plateau. That same train will soon arrive into the sparsely populated village of Finse, a location that doesn't take a Millennium Falcon to visit.