Newspaper clippings

The Friends of the Mines in media (links to news items on external sites). Below you will find short English summaries from each of the items.

Creative Enthusiasts
(Sunnhordland February 11th, 2011)
Not only do they spend thousands of voluntary work hours to preserve and develop an important part of our local industrial history, they have also got to invest time and energy in fund-raising to run their operation. Thus the latest FOM concept is the introduction of a special mine type of bread, in the hope that it will bring in sorely needed cash for the further development of a potential tourist attraction: a living mine environment.

More often than not, clubs and organizations working for a deserving cause experience financial difficulties. Even though both public and private funds prove supportive of such voluntary engagement, the money received is seldom sufficient. On festive occasions, abundant lip service is paid to those who make a free cooperative effort to make the local community a nicer and more rewarding place to live. More rarely money is put where the mouth is.

Consequently, the volunteers have to spend time and do extra work raising money for their labour of love. We think that the FOM are correct in saying that the effort made in restoring the old mining community at Litlabø has the potential of resulting in a veritable tourist magnet, not only benefiting Stord but Sunnhordland as a whole. Here railway ties and locomotives have been acquired to show how pyrite ore was carried inside and out of the mine, in its time the largest industry at Stord. Here drifts have been made accessible to the public, who may come and get a vivid impression of working life at Stordø Kisgruber, a company that was closed down in 1968.

The labour done by the industrious volunteers to save and preserve a unique historic site deserves high praise. Hopefully, the FOM may continue using their power to develop the area in behalf of the local community and visitors. For that, money is badly needed, and the new bread is a creative way of making some of it. Such an important job is deserving of larger support from public means and from private benefactors.

Young Clearance Crew on Historic Ground
(Sunnhordland September 11th, 2009)
Public Day tomorrow with various activities in the mine area, which has been made nice and tidy by Litlabø Elementary Schoool pupils.

The organizers hope for a great number of visitors, participating in a variety of activities. Sunnhordland Geology Association invites people to their mineral display, where sawing and polishing of minerals will be demonstrated. A treasure hunt and other fun-filled events are also on their schedule. The FOM is well prepared to present their work to the public.

In addition, the Photo Club is going to have a stand. So is Fitjar and Stord Dog Club. In other words, the old mine area will be quite lively tomorrow. Visitors will be bound to notice how nice and tidy the area is. Clearance has been carried out by 5. to 7. class pupils of Litlabø Elementary School. This effort is part of a national program called “Tidy up our Cultural Heritage”. During two Thursdays they have cleared away lots of brushwood and shrubbery. Besides, the pupils have filled road holes with gravel and done other useful tasks.To Amalie Stokken Sørdal and Anna Vassli Valvatne working in the mine area gives a special meaning, as their great-grandfather, Mikal Stokken, was a mine worker.
– He ran the hoist and worked here for many years. Also, we know that he wrote “The Litlabø Song”, say the pair, who would not mind being involved in more activities at the mine.

Were you at the mine?
(Sunnhordland May 2nd, 2009)
See our photo series.
Few people attended the 1.of May rally at Leirvik, but there were long lines for train rides at Litlabø.
Public Day at Litlabø May 1. brought a great turnout. In the afternoon, 300 people were present at the opening of the arrangement at the mine. Ivar Helleland, Olav Hellesfjord and the other FOM enthusiasts were inspired by the interest shown by the public. Soon the cafe is going to open in the shaft tower, where Mr. Hellesfjord promises to serve tower cake.
The Monday paper will bring reports from inside the mountain.

Train work not halted after all.
( April 28th, 2009)
A meeting between Stord Council and the FOM concluded that the FOM’s mine- and railway restoration work has been carried out according to oral agreements with Stord Council. All formalities have now been settled, and a written agreement will be made between the two parties. Trains will continue at Litlabø, says a brief press release.

A Book about the Last Train – and the Next one
(Sunnhordland December 5th, 2008)
Industrial train enthusiast Per Ivar Tautra took an interest in the railway town of Stord and wrote a book about it, “Nye og gamle spor i Gruo – Jernbaneminne frå Stord”. The book was promoted in the presence of Stord councellor and mayor, an event indicating its local importance. The book is sold on a non-profit basis, in that the author has donated his manuscript to the FOM, Mediehuset Sunnhordland has published the book free of charge and all sales income goes to the FOM. The publishers recognize their responsibility as a local newspaper for helping to preserve local history.
Mr Tautra refers to a late 30s Bergen newspaper article, which maintained that Litlabø must be the most beautiful mining site in the world, with its almost idyllic scenery and its quaint lilliputian train. Alas, it carried ore and not passengers, to whom this ride would have been a wonderful experience. Almost eighty years later Mr Tautra and the rest of the FOM are working to make this dream come true in the near future.

The open-air part of the railway is still short compared to the miles of rails at 16 mine levels inside the mountain.

In part, the book is based on Mr Tautra’s interviews with old miners, some of which sadly have passed away since. Fortunately a rich, comprehensive archive remains.

Mayor Eskeland herself is proud of the mine and believes it will be a major Stord attraction in the future. On behalf of the Council, she has ordered 100 copies of the book .
Arranging concerts in the roomy mine cavities and rebuilding the railway were regarded as utopian ideas when launched in the early 90s. Later they were incorporated in a state development program for communities based on single industries. Museum manager Tore Lande Moe expresses his great appreciation of the FOM’s work. Photographer Tor Resser has made both old mine photos and drawings, including his own photos, available for printing and is still documenting FOM operations every Monday. In the book preface author Arnfinn Haga reminisces of his boyhood adventures as a Jack London–style hobo with the railway train, pretending that the Litlabø hills were the wilderness of Nevada.

A Showering of Gifts
(Sunnhordland June 23rd, 2008)
This news item lists the organisations and societies that were given financial support from Sparebanken Vest in June 2008. Among them was the FOM, which received NOK 300 000.

Rails Crossing Roads Call for Safety measures
(Sunnhordland August 29th, 2008).
In a letter to the Town Council the FOM requests permission to block cars from two roads leading on to the mining area where they meet with the new railway. The object is to prevent accidents when passengers try out the reconstructed trains. The roads may be blocked simply by placing large boulders on them.

Is the Bath Insurance Money here?!
( May 7th, 2008)
The Bath House of Stordø Kisgruber was destroyed by fire in September 2003. On several occasions Council member Berit Alsaker Haynes (Labour) has questioned the whereabouts of the insurance money, which she feels should be allotted to the FOM in recognition of the society’s great reconstruction work. Last year she was told that the money had been placed in the Council investment fund, but this winter the information was that the Council was working on documentation in order to get the sum from the insurance company. Haynes was promised that this rather confusing situation would be sorted out at the next Council meeting. She was worried that time was running out in terms of getting the insurance money at all.

A Celebration in the Hoist Building
( April 18, 2008)
Neset Art-and-Nature Kindergarten concluded a full year’s work on mine history and culture by a song and dance performance in the hoist building last Thursday. The children’s families were invited, the tots were treated to a train ride surprise, and a jolly good time was had by all.
Kindergarten employees tell of a noticeable increase in the children’s interest in local history, with frequent questions about the war-time raid, the smell of pyrite, working clothes, the hoist accident, the railway track and the uses of pyrite. The little pupils express pride in their local environment and the FOM are greatly pleased with the choice of kindergarten theme.

Faithful Workhorses
(Sunnhordland March th, 2008)
After 7000 hours of voluntary work and 43 years after the last train ground to a standstill at Stord, wagons were once again rolling at newly-laid rails at Litlabø. Engine driver and train enthusiast Per Ivar Tautra Was all smiles, seeing the result of years intensive work to collect rails and locomotives for the reconstructed railway. The FOM are now the proud owners of two mining locomotives.
(Then the article goes on to list FOM projects, information that is to be found elsewhere on this homepage)
In conclusion the writer states that this is one of several examples of great work done by enthusiasts on a voluntary basis.

Back to the Railway
(Sunnhordland May 21nd, 2007)
Up to 1967 trains rolled from Litlabø to Grunnavågsneset. Thursday you may take a stroll along old tracks.

-Everybody is fascinated by railways when they are kids. I just have not grown out of it, says Per Ivar Tautra, an engineer by profession, with mining railways as a hobby. While others are interested in ordinary trains, Mr Tautra is absorbed by industrial narrow- gauge railways. On Thursday he is going to share his knowledge when the Historical Association arranges a walk along the 3,2 km long track where rails lay 40 years ago.

– It was one of the first electrified railways in Norway, says Tautra. The railway was started in 1911 and was kept running until 9 months before the mine closed down. The wagons carried ore and gravel, taking consumer goods on its way back to the mine. – Everyone I have talked to and who grew up at Sagvåg in those years, rode the trains on the sly.
The walk is going to start at Blåbygget, Sagvåg, and end at the hoist building at Litlabø. Tautra, only a five-year resident at Stord but an FOM activist, has got his information from people and written sources. The FOM is currently restoring parts of the mine railway, 250 meters plus side tracks, connecting many of the old m,ine buildings.

– We have laid some rails and cleared 100 meters of track foundation, says Tautra, who expresses the hope that next year locomotives will roll at their working speed of 12,5 km an hour.
Photo caption: This locomotive was used by the SKL in the building of Blåfalli power station until 1980. Now placed at Litlabø, it still functions after 26 years of tunnel work.

The FOM Receives Large Gift
(Sunnhordland Decemer 12th, 2006)
Yesterday DNB Nor (a Norwegian bank company) handed out half a million NOK in support of the FOM at Litlabø.

– This is like Christmas, beamed Ivar Helleland, FOM, receiving the check from local DNB Nor manager Jørn Olav Myhre in the hoist building last night. Helleland is positive as to how the money is to be spent.

– We are immediately going to safeguard the mine tunnels, a job that will be done by professionals. Helleland says the bank gift is instrumental to carry on the FOM projects, among them a reconstructed railroad to carry passengers around in the mine area.
Crossties and three locomotives are already in place. As a first step the projected railroad is going to have a length of 360 meters, of which 250 will lie in the open and 110 inside the mountain. There recesses will be made to give room for light and sound effects and life-size dummies in work situations. Mine walk participants will be able to hear sounds of mine work, such as hammering and blasts. Hopefully the trains will roll come summer, according to Helleland.

Myhre informs that the FOM application for support was a very good one. Yearly the bank gives between 70 and 80 million NOK to public-spirited projects, in particular culturally enhancing ones, and the FOM work fits the description well. – It is with great pleasure I hand this money to you, said Myhre.

Newly Opened Second-Hand Shop
(Sunnhordland June 19th, 2006)
This shop donates its net income to the FOM and is run by The Sagvåg Community Club. Bargains are made on everything from teacups to pearl necklaces and everything is done in high spirits. Customers had lined up before opening hours, indicating the popularity of this summer attraction at Sagvåg. The shop is open Fridays and Saturdays.

Rails Stolen from the Mine Museum
(Sunnhordland May 23rd, 2006)
At the end of April. Six iron rails were reported missing from the Mine Museum at Litlabø. FOM members discovered three of them on the premises of a private home, the police were called, and when questioned, a man admitted having taken the rails from the museum. He claimed that he did not know that he was doing anything illegal, believing that the rails were just scrap iron, and needing them for building purposes.
Per Ivar Tautra, one of the many FOM volunteers, is quite dejected at the amount of extra work created by the theft. He expects people to feel respect for the FOM’s labour to save a cultural heritage. Now he and other FOM members have had to move 25 tons of iron rail to a safe place, where the material is are to be stored until used in reconstructing the mine railway.