Our history as a bus company for more than a 100 years

Family tree 2010

The family tree says a lot about the development from 1910 to today:

Both geography and history play a big part in the coach company Telemark Bilruter AS. The name came to after the merger between Vest-Telemark Bilruter LL and Grenland Nord Trafikkselskap AS in 1998. Both companies had a solid background in their portfolio. Vest-Telemark Bilruter had their roots in Western Telemark. The first transportation enterprise in this area was established in Fyresdal in 1909. The previous year the first coach in Norway had started running. In 1910 Fyresdal Automobilselskab bought a French car - a "La Buire" - and established the first passenger service in Western Telemark. That car was one of 320 cars in the country at that time and it received the royal license plate number H-7.

Fyresdal Automobilselskab. The French car "La Buire" with the royal license plate number H-7.

In 1911 some visionary men from Vinje and Mo started a project for the future - "to transport passengers from Dalen across Haukelifjell and side roads".
This marked the start of Automobillaget Haukeli.

Automobillaget Haukeli.

In the years to come several coach companies were established in Lårdal, Mo, Rauland and Vinje. There are traces of coach visionaries in all of these villages, among others Bjørn Gardsjord in Rauland/Vinje and Olav Lie and his sons in Skafså. In Seljord the first coach company was established in 1919 with Seljord Automobillag. Tourism was the main source of income for these companies.

Seljord Automobillag. Bus on the route Flatdal-Seljord-Bø. Bø stasjon. Probably early 1920's. Car: Studebaker. The driver is Tor Sannes from Flatdal. He was a driver for many years. Sometimes he had to carry sacks of flour up Sandsdalbakken when the engine could not muster. The bus was called "Sannesen".

This was also the driving force behind the growth further south in Western Telemark. In 1920 the bus route Treungen-Vrådal-Smeodden (Kviteseid) was established with the legendary coach pioneer Tjostov Fossli behind the wheel.

In 1920 the bus route Treungen-Vrådal-Smeodden (Kviteseid) was established with the legendary coach pioneer Tjostov Fossli behind the wheel.

At Straand in Vrådal a coaching inn had already been running for several years when the car was introduced. Both Olav Straand, his son Johan and his sons used horses for transportation for decades. They also ran an inn and hotel. In 1917 Johan Straand bought a car - a Devids with seven seats. This was not the last car. One car after the other with exotic names came to Johan’s stable - Briskov, Dodge, Durant, Ford and Chevrolet. It was enough to make up a coach company, and so it was, Straand Bilruter was established.
Now both Fyresdal, Nissedal and Vrådal had a coach company. In 1952 the three companies merged to F.V.N. Billag AS. Nine years previously, the other coach companies in the upper parts of Western Telemark had merged to Vest-Telemark Billag LL.

Straand Bilruter. "Blåen". Chevrolet truck running on wood gas. Model 1938. Wood gas from 1943.

During the next 20 years many talented men developed the coach business in Western Telemark. The managers Olav Hovelsrud in Vinje and Jon Straand in Vrådal are worth mentioning. They had worked for a merger from both sides long before it happened in 1972 and they continued to work together after the merger. As early as the 1950’s there was talk of a merger between all the coach companies in Western Telemark. In 1972 this became a reality. The new company was named Vest-Telemark Bilruter LL.

Vest-Telemark Billag, Seljord Billag and Fyresdal/Vrådal/Nissedal Billag stepped into the new company Vest-Telemark Bilruter LL in 1972.

The seasoned managers continued for many years, but in 1976 the board brought in a younger force - Kjell Gunnar Heggenes. He became manager a bit later and he played a vital part in the development of the coach company up to the end of the century, first and foremost together with a new member of the Straand tribe, the present manager Svein Olav Straand. In the book "Bakke opp og bakke ned" (published in 1997) you can read more about the development of the coach enterprise in Western Telemark.

NEW TIMES, OLD TRADITIONS

One of our veteran coaches with our driver Ansgar traveling from Kviteseid to Rjukan with the "budstikke" (newspaper baton) in connection with the 100th year anniversary of the dissolution of the union between Norway and Sweden.

FRESH EFFORTS IN THE 1980'S AND 1990'S

If we follow in the tracks of Vest-Telemark Bilruter from 1972 we are in for an exciting journey and a colossal growth. The freight division evolved tremendously. Today Telemark Bilruter is one of the largest carriers for Linjegods in Norway. In 2001 the subsidiary company, Telemark Transportservice AS, had a Linjegods related turnover of NOK 15 million.

Telemark Bilruter also provides chartered tours with modern coaches and experienced drivers. Correspondence between the boats on the Telemark Canal and Kanalbussen (Canal Bus) has proved to be a huge success. The traditional coach company also started early with express bus service. Haukeliekspressen was established in 1986. Suleskarekspressen left for its first trip in 1990.

Haukeliekspressen

The traditional coach company also started early with express bus service. Haukeliekspressen was established in 1986. Suleskarekspressen left for its first trip in 1990. Today the company's express routes tie together large parts of Southern Norway. By- og Landekspressen tie Western/Mid-Telemark to the Grenland area. Restructuring in the coach marked in the 1980's and 1990's led to the merger between Vest-Telemark Bilruter and Grenland Nord Trafikkselskap in 1998. This way two solid and traditional companies lived on in a new and vital organization.

Telemarksekspressen

FURTHER DEVELOPMENT

Flybussen from Seljord-Skien to Sandefjord Airport Torp was established 1st January 2002. The route's name is Telemarksekspressen. The name By- og Landekspressen has become an integrated part of Telemarkekpressen and is therefore not in use anymore. TELEMARK BILRUTER will continue to follow the development and be an environmental friendly alternative to private motoring. In other words: TELMARK BILRUTER IS READY FOR THE FUTURE.