My new home

I live in a railway village now. Harestua. Part of the Lunner Kommune, it is in the Oppland county of Norway, around a 45 minute train ride from Oslo Sentralstasjon. It is what the Norwegians call a tettsted. It is a small commuter village, which most people would, getting the train from Gjøvik to Oslo or vice versa, almost certainly pass by, not giving it a thought in the world.  There isn’t much to the rows of houses that slope down to Harestua vantnet, to be sure, but it’s worth getting off at the Harestua stop on the Gjøvikbanen to take a walk around. Behind the railway track, going east and slopping up away from the village, there are many trails that, in the summer are good for walking, and in the winter, good for cross-country skiing. Like all such small places, though, there is much more to them than first meets the eye. Harestua is not a historically significant place but that doesn’t mean there’s an absence of history here either.

The railway that runs from Oslo S to Gjøvik, the Gjøkivbanen, was completed between 1900 and 1902. The train first rain to Harestua on Tuesday December 18 1900, including the crown prince, Gustav, son of King Oscar II, leaving Grefsen in the north of Oslo at 9.10 am. As the line extended out from Oslo north towards Gjøvik so too did this the village of Harestua spring up, from among the railway workers, who decided to settle here along the line as they built it.

Harestua train station as it looked in the early 1960s.

The town was, otherwise, a place of subsistence farming, and the combination of poor farmers and railway workers made the village a strongly left-wing place as Det Norsk Arbeiderpartiet rose to prominence. Indeed, as early as 1896, there was a march of workers from Harestua and Grua to Sand, where they marched with a red banner saying: Frihed, Lighed, Broderskap’ or ‘Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood’. Translated another way, that’s Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. As they marched, they were flanked by two white banners. One of these white banners read ‘Vi krever alminnelig stemmeret for alle’ ‘we demand universal suffrage’ and another read ‘Vi krever 8 timers arbeidsdag’, ‘we demand an 8 hour workday.’[1] This early agitation helps to give some flavour of the local politics. But such politics was not local alone, and would in time come to underpin the strong social democratic tendencies of Norway.

Despite this strong leftist bent, Harestua was by all accounts still a strongly Christian village, and people would move freely between the church and the party hall. Before the trains, the nearest place with a church was Grua. To get to church on Sunday, you had to walk there and back. As Marie Aubert Kleven writes:

fram till 1924 måtte befolkningen på Harestua helt till Lunner-toppen for å komme til kirke og kirkegård. Det var lang vei for å få utført kirkelige handlinger – og for å delta i konfirmantundervisning!

Until 1924 the people of Harestua had to travel to Lunner-top to get to the church and cemetery. It was a long way to go to attend church events – and to participate in confirmation lessons! [2]

A photo of part of the Solar Observatory above Harestua.

Harestua has always been a small place. But, its most famous landmark is the solar observatory built high on its eastern flank, tucked away up behind the village and the train
line. Built at a height of 580m, construction began at the end of the 1940s with the way to the site built first. The observatory became operational in 1954 for the University of Oslo. It would remain in operation until 1986. Since then it has served as an educational facility under the care of the Tycho Brahe Institut and also functions as a conference centre.

[1] Stenersen, Helge, Røykenvikbanens historie: og mye, mye mer, Brandbu : Helge Stenersen, 1981, p.32.

[2] Kleven, Marie Aubert, “Kirken og Harestua”, in Ekeberg, Magnus (ed.),  Harestuas historie : en artikkelsamling, Harestua: 1997, p.97.



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