• 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 David Benton
Hi Benny ,
Still keeping an eye on you , keep up the great posts. I think everybody is a bit distracted with election campaigns , wildfires etc. Posting is way down in all forums.
  by NorthWest

Yes; still alive, but lots going on.

That hasn't stopped me from enjoying the posts you've been putting together.

The ETR 401 (and 450) are very good looking railcars.
  by Benny
One of the most unknown and small groups of EMUs has been the so-called GAI train, that instead has been very important for the development of the modern light stock.
At mid 70s the transport policy was very much road-oriented and railways were seen as a time warp to bear until the last italian person bought a private car but in the same time there was urgent need to improve the commuting workers movement.
To reverse this strange situation and restart the languishing railway industry, the main italian builders united themselves in the Gruppo Aziende Italiane (GAI, Italian Firms Group), a temporary association that developed an innovative trainset incorporating many new technologies: the modular bodies were built in aluminium alloy; the secondary suspension was pneumatic, made by air cushion, to support the high loads of the commuters service; driving cabs were re-designed avoiding the problematic gangway between two trainsets (but obviously maintaining the passage between elements of the set) giving far more space and comfort to the drivers; rheostatic braking and, first time in an Italian EMU, electronic traction equipment controlled by choppers. To ease joining with another set, the front ends were equipped with Scharfenberg couplings.
Each was composed by two motors sandwiching two trailers and had a total hourly output of nearly 2000 kw that gave an excellent acceleration and a top speed of 140 km/h, more than enough for stopping services.
To try the new project, FS ordered three sets in which every element had two doors per side (ALe 804+Le 884+Le 884+ALe 804) and three sets whose elements had three doors per side (ALe 644+Le 724+Le 724+ALe 644).
Built at the end of the 70s, they were assigned to Milano Centrale depot
and intensely used on the lines diverging from the Lombardy capital. They demonstrated to be reliable (contrary to the contemporary "tigers", first electronic FS locomotives) and were beloved by the drivers for the good attitude to recuperate lateness.
A problem appeared during the duty was the big difference in seating between the two kinds of set; my good friend Alfredo Forti, main depot chief at Milano Centrale, brilliantly solved it simply swapping trailers between the two kinds.
Being a group of only six trains, moreover different between them and not compatible with other classes, they needed a separate turn difficult to manage in a big hub like Milan so, at the end of the decade they were transferred to Bologna Centrale depot and worked approximately ten years more mainly on the adriatic line changing in the meantime their livery from the original grey/orange to the xmpr scheme.
But the quick ageing of the first generation power electronics made that some elements were sidelined from the end of the century and the remaining ones displaced to Ancona where they had little use; the last set, composed only by three elements,
was retired in 2007.
No sets have been preserved as historic items.

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

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
Given the good results of the prototype GAI trains and with transport policy that became a little more favorable to the rails, at the beginning of the 80s FS ordered 60 trainsets for suburban and regional services.
Class ALe 724 were a more powerful version of the GAI (an hourly power of 1260 Kw against 990) with a different aesthetic. 30 sets were formed by two motors and two intermediate trailers (Le 884) to be used on suburban commuter services;
instead the other 30 had only one motor, two intermediate trailers and a driving one (Le 724) for a more "relaxed" use on regional trains.
On duty from 1983, the two-motors sets were mainly used on the Naples "metro" service and in Lombardy whereas the single-motor ones gone to Piedmont, Liguria and Tuscany. Note that Turin depot, at the time famous for the "easy" management of stock, modified some sets creating three or five elements units like this one.
Not bad units, the class made for more than thirty years an honest service surely not enlighted by the livery (the anonymous (beige with orange and violet stripes of commuters stock followed by the xmpr one),
the basic interiors (even the Naples units, because of the high level of vandalism of the area, were equipped with hard plastic seats) and the far-from-prestigious duties.

During the years their main problem became, as all first generation electronic stock, the fault of spare components that, joint with the coming of newer classes, made that these sets were sidelined from the second half of the 2010s. The last ones are in Naples but used only as reserve.

To be noted that 18 similar motors were bought by granted FNM railroad and classified EB 750. They were treated in the FNM topic.

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

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
Because of the need to improve regional services on wired lines, in 1987 entered service class ALe 582, nicknamed by drivers "ALe 724 dressed for a party".
The new class indeed inherited the mechanical and electrical parts but the front end, due to a change in safety regulations and easier building, was substituted by a glued, flat polyester one. The interiors (partly first class) and livery came instead from the MDVE coaches and improved very much comfort and appearance.
90 motors were built and various kinds of trainsets were composed: a motor and a Le 562 driving trailer;
a motor, one or two Le 763 intermediate trailers and a driving one or the classic two motors sandwiching two trailers.
Given the good results, in 1991 came the 60 units of ALe 642 class.
These are visually identical to the previous ones but are second class only and have some differences in the power regulation electronics and in low tension circuits so their trailers too received a different numbering as Le 764 (intermediate ones) and Le 682 (driving ones, without luggage room).
The two classes were mainly assigned to Sicily (for the newly wired inner lines), Calabria, Lombardy, Tuscany and Emilia Romagna regional transport divisions where passed all the operating life between stopping and direct services with the sole emotion of the livery change (the horrible xmpr, as all FS stock) from the mid 90s.
With the birth of Trenord, the joint venture between FNM and the Lombardy regional division of FS, the sets assigned to this region entered in the common pool and were repainted into the corporate livery.
Good units, they started around 2005 to have some reliability problems due to rusting components and ageing electronics so, with the coming of new stock, ALe 582 were slowly retired and today remain only few sets in the hands of Trenord. ALe 642 are still on duty but the two classes will be sidelined on spring 2021 because of the implementation of new fire-fighting regulations.

Note that in 1993 FNM too received six type ALe 582 motors that were used with double deckers to form the last series of "camels", as wrote in the FNM topic.

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

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
In 1988, ten years after the first active tilting train (ETR 401)
began commercial service and with a different common feeling to rail high speed, came the ETR 450 class that helped very much the return of medium-high class to railroad.
Classified as "elettrotreno" (see the beginning of this topic), these 15 trainsets were really EMUs composed of various single vehicles, all motors apart a single central trailer, and were set up at the beginning in six first class coaches and later in eight and nine first/second bodies.
On the technical side ETR 450s had a similar appearance to the older "brother" but an electronic scheme instead of an analogic one and an hourly power of 5500 Kw.
The class was initially used on top services between Milan and Rome permitting for the first time the lowering of journey time under the 4 hours when the the high speed line was on use only between Florence and Rome. A little anecdote: the 3.58 h transit time was theoretical but nearly never was achieved. After an investigation, it was discovered that drivers retained the run because, if they were on time, they had to make the return journey; instead, arriving late, they had right to overpay for the return or a well-paid staying outside for the return next day. The solution was in the classic Italian style: stretching of the timetable and only one journey a day for drivers.
With the coming of other stock these sets were displaced to other lines, more sinuous and suitable for their features, from Rome to Bari, Reggio Calabria, Pescara, Ancona, Venice, Bozen and Turin.
Pendolinos really shortened journey times, so much that it needed creation of a new speed category called "rango P",
but were delicate and their spare parts were problematic.
In 2004, after British Aerospace terminated production of the gyroscopes needed to "feel" the curves, the tilting mechanism was deactivated and top speed, originally 250 km/h, limited to 200 km/h, so transforming ETR 450s in trains like many others but more uncomfortable because of the narrower tilting profile.
Between 2004 and 2007 some of the 15 sets, in a garish livery, were used for "TrenOK", one of the first experiments of low cost train connecting Rome with Milan and Bari,
but it finished in 2007 because "not in line with FS politics".
The class followed to be used on Intercity or extra services but reliability became a serious problem and little by little the sets were sidelined and scrapped. The last one, ETR 450.03, was retired in 2015 and preserved by FS historic foundation.

Images courtesy of:
Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
Fabio Tomaselli
Stefano Paolini
Franco Pepe

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
As the future high speed lines would have been built with far gentle curve radii and the tilting technology required various compromises, the new trains that would run on them were projected as classic, non tilting, sets.
The ETR 500 class was classified as "elettrotreno", so light self propelled stock, but sets were really rakes of dedicated coaches with a powerful single cab locomotive each end.
From 1988 began trials before with an half set (ETR 500 X) and then with two prototype ones (ETR 500 Y1 and Y2).
From 1992 the 30 series production sets, composed of two 4400 Kw E 404 locos (E 404 100-159) sandwiching four first class, a restaurant and six second class coaches, started entering service, mainly on the Milan-Rome-Naples route taking advantage of the sole (at the time) high speed line, the Direttissima Florence-Rome.
But the daily use showed a big problem: although ETR 500s were projected for 300 km/h, they couldn't be used at more than 250 because of the enormous absorption of DC was not supported by the supplying system; even, when the 200 km/h were passed, only one loco should be active.
With new High Speed Lines under building, FS had to quickly change idea and electrified them at 25000 V single phase.
But in this manner the ETR 500s would become useless so were ordered new bi-current locomotives to substitute the original ones and thirty new sets to increase the fleet.
The DC-only E 404.1 were transformed in E 414, limited to 200 km/h and used to top-and-tail rakes of classic Z and TEE refurbished coaches. Still used in "Freccia Bianca" and IC services on traditional lines, their main problem is the excess of power that tends to provoke wheel slippings with the consequent putting out of traction of the unit.

The new locomotives, classified as E 404.5 for the older sets and 404.6 for the newer ones (but later mixed as needed) have the same output but a better aesthetic; their top speed is 360 km/h (300 + 20%).
When the Turin-Milan HSL opened, in 2005, at the beginning were used 8 cars sets because of the short platforms at the Malpensa intercontinental airport station; in the first half of the 2000s some sets were modified to be used under 1500 V DC on international services to France but never received approval from the gaules;
From 2008 all sets were refurbished and the classic first/second accomodation were changed to four levels of service (executive, business, premium and standard) accompanied with a new red, white and black livery.

After some years of sidelining, the two prototype ETR 500 Y, changed their locos, were rebuilt as HSL diagnostic trains and now continuously run on the network to check all parameters.
The 59 sets (one was lost in an accident) are in daily use and are the sole, joint with the newer ETR 400s, able to run at more than 300 km/h. The class is holder of the italian speed record and world speed record in tunnel with 362 km/h.

Many thanks for the images to Stefano Paolini and his Photorail site, probably the best Italian one for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest
Thanks, Benny.

I've actually ridden one of those, and did hit 300km/hr!
  by Benny
Given the initial good results of ETR 450s, in 1993 born a new series of 10 tilting trains called ETR 460. Derived from the previous ones, the main differences are more modern but anonymous front ends, state of art (for the time) electronics, a different tilting actuation and 12 traction motors instead of 16 on the standard 9-car sets that give a total output of around 6000 Kw.
Projected for 3000 V DC, initially three sets were modified by the builder (Fiat Ferroviaria, now Alstom) to run under the French 1500 V DC on Milan-Turin-Lyon interoperability services but the poor performance on a mountaineous line at half voltage condemned them (there was no need of a genius) and were returned to internal services.
Used for fast services on traditional lines, nine sets are still in service but one was destroyed in a derailment occurred in Piacenza in 1997. This was a bad story, that left 6 victims and many injured people, because it happened due to the excessive speed on the curve entering station and officially, to save the name of FS and Fiat Ferroviaria, the two drivers were accused (being dead they can't talk) but, between railroad people, it was notorious that ETR 460 control electronics were falling and many times it was showed a speed data different from the real one. And, without fanfare, in the following months all remaining sets had their electronics upgraded.

In the 90s was created a joint venture, called Cisalpino, between Italian and Swiss state operators to manage the long distance passenger services through the Gotthard and Simplon corridors.
After an initial use of bi-current locomotives loaned from the freight sector, were ordered nine 9-car sets derived from ETR 460 but with capability for 3000 V DC and 15000 V single phase and shorter gearing that gave them a top speed of 200 km/h instead of 250.
Built from 1993 and classified as ETR 470, they were long time tested and only in 1997 entered in revenue earning services.
But this class resulted very problematic and many times Pendolinos needed to be substituted by loco-hauled stock that couldn't mantain the timetable.
The different ideas about management of trains and train services between the two operators led in 2009 to the dissolution of the joint venture and ETR 470 gone four to SBB and five to FS following with the same services but the arrival, in the first half of 2010s, of fourth generation tilting trains for the Italy-Switzerland connections gave SBB the opportunity to write the word end to their sets that were considered as a shame.
FS instead put its sets on "Freccia Bianca" services but, after the acquisition of OSE, destined them to premium services on the hellenic lines and started transforming the DC electrical equipment to the 25000 V single phase on use there.
How can I tell? Only "sorry, Greece".

As Italy, due to its conformation, has many sinuous lines, in 1997 entered service the new ETR 480 class, 15 trainsets that were an updated version of ETR 460s.

Used mainly to fast connect Rome with medium-sized cities, the increase of the high speed lines web (wired at 25 KV single phase) suggested an upgrading to make them able to run under that kind of current so, from 2004, they were transformed and became ETR 485.
Still on duty, the class is used on high level services using partly HSLs.
To be noted that, from 2019, an ETR 485 runs between Athens and Thessaloniki pioneering the future use of the transformed ETR 470.

Delicate and expensive to maintain, all classes of Pendolinos have one of their Achille's heels in the doors: various times, during the run, a door "flied" away from the train, especially when crossing other stock.

And, to be complete, I've to remember that trains partly or completely derived from ETR 460/470/485 were delivered to other countries like Portugal, Finland, Spain, Germany and Great Britain.

Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his site Photorail.it, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
As yet treated on the FNM topic, to solve the increasing commuters traffic due to people transferring to the suburbs and rising private car's costs, in 1996 appeared TAF (Treno ad Alta Frequentazione or high patronage train), a four coaches double deck EMU composed of two driving motors (ALe 426 with disabled people space and ALe 506 without it) sandwiching two trailers (Le 736).
To be noted that, because of the abundant accomodation, classification reflects only half of the seats.
Each motor only has a 1820 Kw powered bogie and this fact led to some problems in case of slippery rails; more, the asynchronous three-phase traction chain has some unresolved problems that make "gallop" the train at speed giving a noisy sensation to passengers.
100 sets were built for FS and 27 for FNM but with the birth of the Trenord joint venture is now unclear who owns what. The class is on regular duties around the biggest cities (Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples)
especially on lines with good patronage but not very long station tracks.

Apart the italian ones, 24 sets with a different internal layout have been built for the Moroccan railways (ONCF) where are used for express services.
Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.
The Moroccan image has been taken from Internet and the author is unknown.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
To modernize regional traffic, in the first half of the 2000s Trenitalia, the operating arm of FS, bought many Alstom Coradia Meridian sets, in diesel and 3000 V DC versions. The thermic ones were illustrated on the italian DMUs topic; the 100 electric ones, commercially branded as "Minuetto Elettrico" (electric minuet), are composed of three bodies on four bogies but, although being really an elettrotreno, had every body classified as a separate unit {ALe 501/Le 220/ALe 502), another of the FS classification system stupidities. To simplify day-by-day work every set received also an unofficial set number (ME 01 etc.)
Only the extreme bogies are powered, with a total output of 1250 Kw, and top speed is 160 km/h; as all new regional stock, the class is equipped with Scharfenberg automatic coupler.
These units too had a troubled youth, with many problems, not entirely solved, to power electronics software that gave uncomfortable travel and excessive wheels wearing.
Born in the white/green/blue xmpr livery, they were later repainted in the new regional livery

and are being used mainly on low patronage local and direct services.
Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
Not really satisfied with TAF EMUs, Lombardy regional transport authority entrusted its operating arm FNM, at the time not yet merged into Trenord, to improve the idea of double deck EMUs so, at mid-2000s, born Treno per Servizi Regionali (regional duties train, TSR), similar to TAF in appearance but conceptually completely different.
In first there are no more fixed formation sets but two to seven vehicles compositions (and two sets can be joined in multiple operation), in second there aren't trailers but only two kinds of motors, with or without cab and pantograph. Each unit has a powered bogie so performances are always the same and adhesion and acceleration improved greatly.
Control electronics and connection between body and trucks were changed eliminating the very noisy "shaking" of TAFs and the problematic spiral staircases to the upper level were changed to straight ones.
In total 104 sets were built, all of them property of Lombardy region, and, although not FS stock, they are presented in this topic because, until the Trenord joint venture creation, FNM leased to Trenitalia, the operating branch of FS, many sets in the national operator livery to operate in the region.
Classified as EB/ALe 710 and 711, the entire class is now part of the Trenord joint venture stock and, logically, operates only on the Lombardy tracks.
Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
Still with the idea of improve connections between the capital and other Italian cities along sinuous lines, Trenitalia put an order for 28 7-cars sets of the last generation of pendolinos (ETR 600). Born in 2007, these ones have a completely different aesthetic and are formed by four motors and three trailers for a total power of 5500 Kw with capability for 3000 V DC and 25000 single phase and a top speed of 250 km/h.
At the same time, Cisalpino too ordered 14 three-current sets (+ 15000 v 16 2/3 hz), named ETR 610/RABe 503, to improve their international services heavily affected by the previous ETR 470.
ETR 600/610 had many teething problems and entered in revenue earning services only with the timetable change in December 2008 (half 2009 for the Cisalpino sets)
With the dissolution of the Swiss-Italian joint venture (end of 2009), ETR 610s were divided between the two operators but are still used on the same services; instead ETR 600s are mainly used on "Frecciargento" (silver arrow) services that run only partly on HSLs like Rome-Bari or Rome-Venice.
Undoubtably more reliable of the previous pendolinos (also because maintenance is made by the builder Alstom), they however demonstrated that tilting technology is expensive and delicate. Probably this is the main reason for its abandonment.
To be noted that Alstom sold non-tilting versions to Spain, Poland and China.

Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
Because of the quick ageing of the first generation electronics (and the general shorter duration of modern stock) joint with the request of better comfort levels, from 2014 came on the italian tracks a new wave of Alstom Coradia "elettrotreni", this time commercially branded as "Jazz".
There are various kinds of set, with 4 (ETR 324), 5 (ETR 425) or 6 (ETR 526) bodies on Jacobs bogies and standard, airport or metropolitan interiors. More, there is a 6-bodies version that can transport also 20 bicycles and was specifically requested by the Autonomous Province of Trento.
In all cases, only the extreme bogies are powered giving an hourly power of more than 2000 Kw and a top speed of 160 km/h.
In total 136 sets have been built, partly for Trenord too,
and are in daily use all over from North to South generally used in regional outer services like Milan-Tirano or airport links as Rome-Fiumicino.

Images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
With the building or project of high speed network's extensions, at the end of the 2000s Trenitalia was in need of new trains so Bombardier and AnsaldoBreda (that later became Hitachi Rail) joined efforts and presented an 8-cars high speed EMU that gained the operator's tender (probably to give work to the Vado Ligure and Pistoia builders plants).
The 50 sets, classified as ETR 400 although being EMUs, entered service between 2014 and 2017, are composed of four motors and four trailers and have a total power of 9800 Kw. Designed by Pininfarina, they have a top speed of 360 km/h (but arrived to more than 400) and can be feeded by the four kinds of current on use in Europe (but 15000 AC and 1500 DC are not actually activated) .
Used mainly on the Turin-Milan-Rome-Naples corridor, ETR 400 demonstrated to be good and reliable horses and are, together with ETR 600s, the sole Trenitalia high speed trains in the modern sense of the term.
To be noted that ILSA, the Trenitalia subsidiary that will operate on the Spanish HSLs, has ordered 23 sets to the Bombardier-Hitachi joint venture.

As usual, images courtesy of Stefano Paolini and his Photorail.it site, probably the best Italian site for railroad photography.

Ciao :wink:
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