The ALn 772 project was drawn before WW2 and, after the recovery time, FS needed a new good-for-all railcar, also because ALn 880 and 990 were mainly oriented to express services.
The new cars had to partly replace the first generation "littorinas" but also to start dieselize the myriad of steam hauled trains made with three or four coaches that still populated the secondary lines, so it was needed the presence of trailers because the unions permitted only two railcars in multiple working.
With these preconditions in mind, OM drawn a motor in which the aerodynamic attempts were lost in favour of simple curvy joints between the surfaces to help the gangway between units. The result was aestethically not so bad but worsened in the front ends because of too much uprights and small windows.
The new railcars were classified as ALn 773.3501-3570 and had two rotating doors per side, near the extremities, and a luggage/parcels room accessible through a shutter at the back of one of the cabs.
The passenger accommodation was composed of two different halls: a bigger one with 55 second class seats disposed on a 2+2 line and a smaller first class room with 18 very comfortable seats disposed 2+1. To be noted that, in the previous railcars, the difference between first and secondclass, being the same seats, was generally marked only by the presence of white covers on the headrests of the first class ones.
A big defect of the project was the accessibility by passengers: the entrance doors and steps were badly positioned so users had to climb very steeply; the last units were slightly improved but for all their operating life our railcars remained problematic for people with low agility.
On the mechanical side, ALn 773s marked the abandonment of the single big engine and the return to two smaller underfloor ones that powered one axle each bogie (wheel arrangement 1A-A1) through hydraulic gearboxes.
Because of the trailers, it was needed a bigger power so OM, being licencee for the Swiss Saurer engines, selected the BXD-UL model, a supercharged version of the ALn 772 engine with six horizontal cylinders that was calibrated at 155 kW giving a total output of 310 kW each railcar.
At the time, turbochargers were not very proven (the only other use in FS was on ALn 880s, still too much young to give a valid response) and ALn 773s had, for all their operating life, problems of lubrication and sealing retention on these delicate equipments, besides of deformation of the engine heads due to overheating.
ALn 773.3502 and its trailer are waiting for the next service under the canopy of the warehouse at Chioggia Station in 1991. Note the vertical handrails symbol of the difficult access.ALn 773.3502 and its trailer are waiting for the next service under the canopy of the warehouse at Chioggia Station in 1991. Note the vertical handrails symbol of the difficult access.
Driving trailers of the previous classes had the same body of the motors but this time OM, with the idea of making something cheap to build and light enough to avoid stressing too much the motor, drawn one of the ugliest vehicles of the italian railroads. It was a short box with rounded edges suspended over two bogies; the gangway bellows seemed to be glued on the front ends and the off-center vestibule made the side very ungraceful.
Classified as Ln 664.3501-3549, they had only second class accommodation and half of a front end was occupied by a strange driving cab in which the assistant driver (until recently FS trains had two drivers) had theoretically to stay on a folding seat at the back of the first man. As you can imagine, the folding seat was never used and the second agent was standing up watching through the gangway window.
Note that these "splendid" trailers have been replied for the first ALn 668s (Ln 664.1400) and there have been also versions for electric railcars (Le 640 and 680, the last ones without cab).
Achieved the turn, in 1992 Ln 664.3510 and ALn 773.3579 are manoeuvring in Mantua station to shelter themselves into the depot. It's easy to see the difference between the railcar and its trailer.
At first allocated to Turin, Verona, Reggio Calabria and Cagliari depots, ALn 773s were initially used not only for local services but also for some express connections as Bari-Reggio Calabria (before the ex-TEE units), Turin-Rimini, Sassari-Cagliari and the international Venice-Munchen.
Another express train born with this class was the "Versilia arrow" with two sections from Brescia and Verona to the Tuscan beaches of Viareggio, but they were displaced because of problems of engine overheating due to the mountaneous stretch crossing the Appennino.
For the same reason they disappeared from Sardinia and the southern depots and passed all their career on the plain lines of northern Italy assigned to Verona, Mantua, Treviso, Turin and Pavia, from where they covered nearly all the non wired lines of the Po plain.
The Brescia-Piadena-Parma line always has been well patronized. In this shot, taken in 1994, ALn 773.3510 and 3569 sandwiching a trailer are marking the stop at Casalmaggiore.
But, during the years, engine and turbocharger problems gone worsening and ALn 773s became an headache for drivers and works so, from the end of the 80s, began the sidelinings; the las t FS unit was retired in 1993 but someone was sold to Ferrovía Alifana, that managed the line between Santa Maria Capua Vetere and Piedimonte Matese (Neaples) and survived some years more. This granted railroad yet bought, in the 60s, five motors and some trailers new from OM.
Also Ferrovie Padane (line Ferrara-Codigoro, now part of FER) bought from OM three motors and trailers, the latters with the same body of the motors. Today no one of these vehicles is operated.
Two words about liveries. ALn 773s were the first class to abandon the depriment brown painting and born with a white and brick red scheme; in 1961 it was changed to white, green and signal red and from 1965 it was adopted the definitive livery of blueish grey, parchment beige and signal red (official names of the tones).
After their retirement, five motors and a trailer were preserved and repainted in the first liveries but now, after years of use for tourist services, three railcars are waiting money for repair and overhaul and the rest has been severely damaged and is waiting for scrap.
The three images by S. Paolini courtesy of Photorail
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