Bilfergen (The Car Ferry)
Identification signal: LFOU
Home port: Molde
Original function: Ferry
Length: 58 ’
Gross tonnage: 34
MS «Bilfergen» was built by Johan T Nerhus in Ølve in Hardanger in 1921. The vessel was originally contracted as a fishing cutter in 1919, but the hull was for various reasons taken over by the newly founded A / S Aalesund Færgeselskap to transport cars between Vestnes and Åndasnes. The boat was completed as a “car and passenger ferry”, had a run-in from the side and could take 3-4 cars transversely.
The “car ferry”, as she was immersed, was 33 grt. 64 feet long. She was towed to Volda and got a two-stroke 2-cylinder crude oil engine of the Bolinder type. It gave her a speed of up to 9 knots.
Møre Fylkes Ruteselskap took over the ferry in 1923. The first two summers were the “Car Ferry” between Geiranger and Hellesylt, before in 1925 she was eighteenth in her original route Vestnes-Åndalsnes-Vestnes three days a week in July and August. In 1925 she opened the ferry connection Molde-Vestnes.
In 1934, the ferry was rebuilt, so that the cars could run on board both aft and over the bow. The rudder house was located amidships on a boat deck. The stern was cut to make more room to drive in, and the deck was laid out a little over the side of the ship. The length was thus reduced to 58 feet, but the ferry now had room for 5 cars. In 1942, the wheelhouse was extended to cutlery / skipper hatches. The last major rebuild was done in 1954. At that time, the wheelhouse had to be moved to a deckhouse / casing on the starboard side, so that the throughput height for large cars was good enough.
With a break in the war years 1940-45 when she was requisitioned by Die Deutsche Kriegsmarine, Admiral Norway, the “Car Ferry” was in the service of MFR / MRF until 1960. Then she was sold to Sund municipality, later Øygarden and Sotra Rutelag L / L . There she walked the route Steinsland -Toftarøy until the bridge came in 1972.
After three years in circulation, with condemnation as a relevant alternative, Søndeled Veteranship Club at Risør took over “Bilfergen” in 1975. The club put a lot of work and a lot of money into repairing the ferry and leading it back to the appearance from 1934/1942.
In line with Søndeled Veternskipsklubb’s wishes, MRF bought the “Car Ferry” on the 18th to the home county in 1999. The ferry is classified as worthy of protection with the National Heritage Board.
In the period up to September 2006, the ferry was in operation during the summer with trips and as a restaurant boat in Ålesund and Molde. Former employees in MRF and other interested parties have been responsible for staffing on trips and at the quay.
In 2005, rot damage was discovered in the frame construction on the starboard side. Upon closer inspection, it was decided that one was facing a major repair. Between 1999 and 2005, the deck plank and temporary repair of frame tops were replaced. Hardanger Vessel Protection Center was contacted and in September 2006 the boat went to the shipyard in Norheimsund. After some demolition, it turned out that fungi and rot damage were very extensive. Total repair was necessary, and one chose not to build in damaged wood, but change to new. This also in consultation with the National Heritage Board.
The refurbishment was originally to be completed in May 2008, but after great work pressure at the yard, this was changed to the spring of 2009. The refurbishment was done according to antiquarian principles and in line with the National Heritage Board’s intention. The costs were calculated at NOK 5.1 million. While the final bill came to NOK 7.3 million. During this period, the National Heritage Board provided grants totaling NOK 5.4 million. The old boat was renewed, but is still as it was in 1934. With the old engine from 1916 that gave the boat progress, the “car ferry” is historically in line with both a sailing ship or a steamboat. A living document about sea transport in a fjord county, and a visible sign of man’s way there and now his destination.
In June 2009, the boat was eighteenth in Ålesund and its permanent berth at Dronning Sonja’s place in Skansegata in Ålesund. The engine was not overhauled at HFS due to a lack of technical personnel at the yard. The boat still got to Ålesund mostly with its own help, even though it was late.
From the audience’s side, there has been great interest in boats and motorbikes. The first vessel built to transport cars. The boat shows the development, from simple solutions to today’s modern ferries and fjord crossings. The “car ferry” was protected by the National Heritage Board in 2012.