• The FS light electric vehicles

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of Canada and the United States.

Moderators: Komachi, David Benton

  by Benny
I forgot the still existing units.
Two ALe 880 are in the hands of a preservation society at La Spezia waiting for a much needed repair.
Another ALe 880 is owned by a private person near Latina.
An ALe 781 is owned by Museo Ferroviario Piemontese but needs heavy attention too.

Ciao :wink:
  by Benny
The last class of the first generation light electric railcars anticipated many concepts that later became a standard for the new series.
Class ALe/Le 883 born as a trainset composed of two motors with a viper and a flat ends sandwiching a trailer with two flat ends and the two kinds of vehicle were equipped with ample electropneunatic folding doors.
The body structure was reinforced, bogies and traction motors were changed to the kind used under the second series of the ETRs and the gear ratio was shortened to have an hourly power of 750 kW and a top speed of only 110 km/h but better acceleration and tractive effort, being initially intended for the rising commuter service.
The units were rolled out during the war and, after an initial duty around Florence, were sidelined.
As only 26 motors and 19 trailers survived, many times a second trailer was inserted into the trainsets to increase capacity.
Until the beginning of the 50s the class was used for direct and rapido trains from the Rome and Florence depots but from 1953, with the changeover of the Milan-Sondrio line, all of the units were displaced to the Milan Centrale and Lecco depots, were they will pass the entire career.
From the two Lombardy depots the class did a large amount of stopping and direct services, especially on the Milan-Lecco-Sondrio (later Tirano), Colico-Chiavenna, Milan-Bergamo and Lecco-Bergamo-Brescia that, because of their profile, were ideal for these cars, but did runs also on the Simplon line, the Milan-Novara, the Milan-Brescia and the Arona-Novara-Alessandria. For many years Ale/Le 883 made also a daily direct service from Milan to the thermal town of Salsomaggiore. Many services were made by two trainsets (I remember an evening train from Sondrio to return home Sunday trippers that was composed by two four-cars trainsets reinforced with two one-hundred-doors coaches) and, to increase flexibility, the class was modified to be used with more modern units.
In the 80s the Lecco depot became the sole residence of the units but they were following with the hard work until the beginning of 90s when, with the continuous increase of passengers in the Milan area, the class was substituted by high capacity stock and subsequently sidelined, apart some trainsets that were hired to Ferrovie Nord Milano (FNM) and used on the isolated Vanzaghello-Novara stretch during the rebuilding of the Saronno-Novara line and its connection with Malpensa airport. At the same time also Ferrovia Torino-Ceres (FTC) hired some cars before the coming of new stock.
These were the last services of this strong and useful class that was beloved by drivers and depots because of the good reliability and driving simpleness. The story of the class has not been very eventful but was built with day-by-day work thanks to whom thousands of people could displace to work and study.

Today remains only a railcar, ALe 883.007, and a trailer, Le 883.001.
They have been restored and are preserved by the homonym railfans society ALe 883.

Images courtesy of:
Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Stefano Paolini
Donato Rossi

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
After a little KO, here I come again.

From the beginning of the 50s born a second generation of electric railcars that brought with it a new concept: the same front ends containing bellows for motors and trailers to compose trainsets as needed and/or joint or separate sets with multiple destinations without regard to the position of each vehicle.

The first project to use this new concept was ALe/Le 840 class that born with a new globular front end in which the central upper part could be pushed up and the two central lower parts could be removed to open the bellows that is normally diagonally held between the driving cab and the second driver's place.
Motors and trailers had the same body, 28 meters long, with two para-central vestibules closed by electropneunatic folding doors and three passenger halls, one of them with a classic 4+4 seats bay and a stupid 2+2 seats half bay that looked at the separation wall. (Frankly I never understood why it was impossible to complete the bay or, alternatively, turn the seats to look at the hall).
The electrical scheme was derived from the one of the ALe 883 with strengthened traction motors, still with a 760 kW hourly power, but the bogies were from a completely new design to improve comfort and reduce maintenance costs.
Built for a top speed of 150 km/h, the 68 railcars and 68 driving trailers were quickly lowered to 130 km/h because of problems to the traction motors suspension at higher speed.
Projected for use on every kind of service, ALe and Le 840s were initially used mainly for express services (with the famous white laces to upgrade second class seats to first class ones) but their most famous duties are connected with the three-phase network.
A big amount of lines in the Piedmont and Liguria regions were 3300 v 16 2/3 hz three-phase wired (e.g. the fundamental Turin-Genoa and Genoa-french border), very complicated to manage and with a low average speed due to driving awes and the need of traction changes for direct trains. The conversion of the network to direct current was already expected but should need a long time (effectively the last line was converted in 1976) and FS was searching a meanwhile solution to improve the neglected service on these lines without using diesel railcars, surely not suitable for those services.
The solution came in the form of a basic amphibious couple M+T that could run under the two kinds of current. 26 Le 840s were transformed into Lebc 840.2 (bc=bi-current) with two pairs of special pantographs (remember that three-phase traction used two wires) and the complete rectifier equipment, put underfloor, to feed the coupled railcar when the set was used outside DC. Each converting trailer could feed only a motor and it was possible to form sets until six vehicles in multiple operation.
From 1957, after a long tuning, these bi-current couples started taking care of the most important trains, e.g. Milan-Ventimiglia, Turin-Savona or Turin-Rome, and, as the transformed trailers entered services, the biggest part of the passenger services in the three-phase network became made by the amphibious sets leaving the loco--hauled trains only to few local services or the heavyest long distance ones.
It can be interesting to see the direct Turin-Rome service: from the Piedmont capital started a "rapido" to Genoa made by one or two bi-current pairs that, more, included also a normal Le 840 trailer. At Genoa this normal trailer and a railcar were coupled to a Genoa-Rome ETR and a specular shunting was made on the return journey.
The rectifying trailers, because of their scarce number, the heavy turns and their complicateness never lost the three-phase area.

The units not used in the Piedmont-Liguria, mainly assigned to Veneto, Tuscany and Sicily, were rapidly displaced from the best services by more modern and comfortable units and started their humble work on direct or stopping local trains.

With the progressive conversions of the three-phase lines to DC, the amphibious sets were concentrated at the Turin depot and, when the last line was converted (Alessandria-Acqui, May 25 1976),
the converting trailers were, very quietly, returned to their original status and identities but followed with their daily work.
In general, the class passed nearly all its career working from few depots (Bozen, Lecco, Mestre, Turin, Leghorn, Messina) but their turns took themselves nearly everywhere on the DC network, many times using Le 640 too.
After a progressive lowering to minimal and reserve duties , the last unit were retired from Bozen depot in 2005.

Today remain:
ALe 840.011 preserved by ALe 883 society at Sondrio
ALe 840.046 preserved by Feralp Team society at Bussoleno
Le 840.061 preserved by Trieste Campo Marzio railway museum.

Images thanks to:
Photorail.it, probably the best site for Italian railroad photography
Bernhard Studer
Stefano Paolini

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest

Thanks. So the front separated and formed a walkway when put up?

  by Benny
NorthWest wrote: Mon May 25, 2020 11:14 pm Benny,

Thanks. So the front separated and formed a walkway when put up?

Note also the basements for the three-phase pantographs as this trailer was a converting one.

Image thanks to:
photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Stefano Paolini.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
The three phase network was not the sole strange electric system used by FS: after WW2 the Milan-Varese-Porto Ceresio was still feeded by 650 V DC third rail.
Because of the increasing of traffic and to avoid the complications of different systems, between 1947 and 1951 FS converted the line to the standard 3000 V DC.
The need of stock and the robust structure of the more modern third rail railcars made that they were converted too.
These ones were boxy shaped units that were originally classified as classes EAiz 10 and EACiz 60, differing only for being first class or first and third class and were supported by similar driving trailers.
To convert them the two classes were obviously equipped with pantographs, the traction motors were modified and permanently connected in pairs and the rest of the electrical equipment was made similar to the one of ALe 883. Given the need of traction, also some trailers were motored and the entire class became E 623.1 if only first class or E 623.6 if first/third class.
The resulting 33 railcars, built in 1932, had an hourly power of approx. 800 kW and a top speed of 110 km/h. To meet the increasing patronage were formed sets with an E 623 and a driving trailer (first/second, second or luggage/post) sandwiching one or two cabled "Corbellini" coaches.
Interestingly, during the conversion work the two feeding systems remained on use and trains composed of two sets, each one using a different current collection, were running on normal duties.
Surely not very comfortable with their wooden benches and the "kick in the bottom" when starting, these heavy railcars helped very much in the economic boom between the afterwar and the 70s and on the following "oil crisis" time mainly on their original line but with escapades on other Lombardy lines (the entire class was assigned to the now disappeared Milan San Rocco depot).
With the coming of much modern commuters stock the class was sidelined in the 80s (frankly without regrets). Probably the last FS use was the connection between Milan yards, depots and stations for railwaymen (the so-called "corsette" or little runs)
and four units were sold to La Ferrovíaria Italiana, a tuscan granted railroad, that used them until the the end of the decade.

Today still exist E 623.100 dumped at LFI depot;
E 623.106, returned to the third rail appearance, inside the National Railway Museum at Pietrarsa;
E 623.612+629, returned to the brown livery and operating, in the hands of ALe 883 enthusiasts society.

Images courtesy of Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Bernhard Studer
Werner Hardmeier
Gianni Demuru

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest
Built like tanks!

They have the same front window styling as many of the boxy early electrics.
  by Benny
E 624, the only other class of heavy electric railcars, was really composed of three different kinds of vehicles.
E 624.001 and 002 were similar to the E 623 class but born in 1935 for 3000 V DC.
E 624.003-008 were ordered by private Società Italiana Ferrovie e Tranvie (SIFT) that owned the Piacenza-Bettola and Piacenza-Cremona lines but, during building, the Cremona line was ceded to FS and consequently the six units destined to it and the relative trailers became part of the national operator stock. To be noted the strange, for Italy, design similar to some USA tramcars.
During the WW2 some units were destroyed and substituted by motored trailers.
E 624.009-010 were obtained motorizing pCiz 320.001-002, the driving trailers of 624.001-002.

In the 50s needing more traction units, FS equipped some E 623 driving trailers with the same electrical equipment of the first two units and reclassified them as E 624.011-018.
With an hourly rate of around 540 kW and a top speed of 120 km/h, the class passed all their career on the "FS Neaples metro", a cross-city partly underground commuters line in the Campania's capital.
Curiously they operated generally in pairs with three "Corbellini" coaches, one of them transformed into a pilot, instead of sandwiching the trailers.
Another setting was an ex-SIFT unit with one or two "Corbellini".
Heavily used until 1980, after the retirement four units were sold to La Ferrovíaria Italiana private operator where units E 624.009 and 012, much rebuilt, are still on use, sole vehicles of this class existing today.

Images courtesy of Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Paolo Gregoris

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest

Indeed, they do have an American interurban appearance. I think it's the proportion of height to width and the front window arrangement.

They're nice looking cars (says an American...)
  by Benny
After the horrors and disasters of the war, at the beginning of the 50s Italy was returning to normality and a little of welfare. On the railways too it was finishing the misery of freight cars with wooden benches or de-engined railcars at the back of steam locomotives and new or rebuilt stock was entering in service.
The symbol of this "renaissance" was a a new luxury "elettrotreno" , ETR 300, that in 1952, when it was presented to the general public, many people defined as "the most beautiful train in the world".
These electric articulated railcars, built initially in two units and immediately nicknamed "settebello" (lucky seven, from the playing cards) with name and card painted on the end cars, were seven bodies 165 m long first class only trainsets that incorporated technical and stylistic very advanced solutions for the time. The front ends were rounded and aerodynamically shaped and hosted a parlor, the so-called belvedere, to gave an unusual point of view.
The driving cabs were over the parlor with excellent view to the line and signalling (but during shunting movements a driver had to stay in the parlor and instruct the colleague). The first two coaches were set in ten-seats parlors designed by Gio Ponti and Giulio Minoletti, two of the most famous architects of the time that projected the entire train decor.
The third body was instead a luxury restaurant and bar and the fourth one hosted kitchen, pantry, and service rooms.
The entire fifth coach was a luggage room but later it was reduced and three ten-seats parlors occupied the rest of the space: the last two bodies were identical to the first ones.
Here the scheme of ETR 300s, from the FS archive:
https://www.archiviofondazionefs.it/Arc ... 94dbe67ded
The wheels arrangement was Bo'2'Bo'+Bo'2'2'Bo'+Bo'2'Bo' with twelve traction motors that gave an hourly power of 2280 kW and 160 km/h, practically the maximum possible speed on italian rails at the time.

It follows...
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  by Benny
At the beginning the initial two units were used, only in summer, on a Milan-Rome-Naples top level service but from 1959, with the coming of the third "elettrotreno", the class began an all year round service between Milan and Rome becoming the most famous Italian train whose passengers were important businessmen, politicians, top models etc. The Settebello was so important that each journey was escorted, besides the drivers, by a chief instructor to avoid every kind of problem.
In 1969 bogies and traction motors were changed to more performing ones that gave an hourly rate of 3150 kW and rheostatic braking was installed permitting an increase in speed to 200 km/h and in 1974 the couple of trains made by ETR 300s entered in the prestigious Trans Europe Express (TEE) group.
In 1984, because of the need for more seats, they were substituted by rakes of Gran Comfort coaches and reused on a triangular service between Milan (their historical home depot), Venice and Florence
until 1992 when, also because of the presence of asbestos, they were retired from service.
Two of the Settebellos were demolished but ETR 302, after an expensive asbestos removal, was transformed for charter services with new interiors, bigger windows that spoiled the original design and seating augmented to 340 from the original 190.
Not very much used, it was sidelined in 2004 because of the end of the permitted mileage and dumped in various places according to the need of space.
Its original and precious furnitures, prudently stored for a future restoration, were demolished some years later.
In 2016 FS historic foundation took in charge the wreck but only on these days the symbol train has been sent to a private workshop that will restore it as it was in its better times with a complete rebuilding of the lost interiors (hoping... I am always very skeptical about Italian big projects).
Well, theoretically in 2022 we will see the reborn Settebello, stay tuned!

Images courtesy of:
Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Bernhard Studer
Enrico Paulatti

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest
Beautiful sets, but I can see why there would be worries about blind spots from the cab!

There are some EMUs in Japan in a similar configuration.

Hope we see the restored unit soon!
  by Benny
The front glasses were armoured ones and at the time there were far less whims about safety.
It can be a problem if the restoration will be completed and train will need new approval.

Ciao :wink:
  by Benny
The evolution, technical and aesthetical, of the ALe 840 born in 1956.
After the post-war reconstruction Italy was in a progressive economic and social improvement time and higher standards of travel were requested by more people.
The sole stock that could run at a good speed on the lightweight Italian tracks were self-propelled vehicles, the so-called "light stock", but for the many "Rapido" or "Direttissimo" services that born in those days the fleet of ETR 200s was not enough and the "Settebello" flagships were reserved to the Milan-Naples top service; the pre-war railcars, and the recent ALe 840 too, were no more up to expectations so a new group of electric railcars and trailers was purpose built with the improvements to solve some defects of the previous projects.

They were built in three batches:
ALe 540.001-007 and ALe 660.001-015 born from 1956 and the sole difference between the two classes was the presence of only first or first and second class seats.
Although similar to the previous ALe 840, their body was differently assembled resulting in bigger windows; the front ends saw the elimination of the central upright, that improved the aesthetic, and a better bellows system.
On the technical side bogies, traction motors and circuits were the same of the 840s but with more performing contactors; as in the previous class the rheostat, put underframe, showed some overheating problems, a forced ventilation system for it was added. Top speed was 150 km/h.
With the same body were also built 15 Le 800 80 seats second class and 7 Le 600 60 seats first class driving trailers.

The second series, composed of ALe 540. 008-022 and built from 1958, gained a new internal layout, new bogies and the return to hollow shaft transmission between traction motors and axles after the "baricentrlc" one that gave unsatisfactory results on the 840s.
Trailers Le 540.001-005 (54 first class seats and a small compartment for at-seat refection) and Le 760.001-010 (76 second class seats) were built at the same time.

Third series, from 1959 and composed of ALe 540.023-030, instead was immediately recognisable for the new semi-aerodynamic front ends that gave them a more modern appearance but put some difficulties to join/separate units because of the one-piece big front door to be manually displaced to give way to the bellows. The internal layout was the same of the second series.
Le 760.011-020 (76 second class seats) were built with the same ends.

All units, motors and trailers, had very comfortable and elegant seats and for all their career dressed the classic FS two-tones brown livery revived by a red stripe that made them unmistakables.
(it continues...)

Ciao :wink:
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