• The Italian way of railcars

  • 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
This is a good question and the answer is not simple.

You have to know that Italian industries were not so developed as the USA ones and, more important, in the supplying to state controlled entities as railroads, many decisions were (better, are) taken not because of the best quality/price comparison but because of lobbying, private interest or simply to give work to industries that otherwise will dismiss workers.
On the other hand, no firm projected the perfect railcar: in general Fiat ones were more reliable but Breda vehicles were more robust and comfortable; OM made good products but was "eaten" by Fiat and Ansaldo, too much dependent of foreign patents, was boycotted and left the railcars field.

Ciao :wink:
  by NorthWest
Thanks. That makes sense. The same reasons explain a lot of British Rail's spectacularly disastrous early diesel multiple unit and locomotive purchases as well.

Hope things are going well for you and yours.
  by David Benton
The Italian motors fitted to the new Zealand railcars had a reputation for been unreliable. But this could have been the underfloor mounting, which was new to nz.my memories of them were good. They became the mainstay of branch line service, and I would say most of the services would not have survived without them. The
  by Benny
In 1970 came ALn 668.1601-1633, identical to the 1500s but with the classic five speed mechanical gearbox that will be used on all the new series. Starting from this series no more trailers were built because they penalized too much the railcars.
Again for political reasons, Fiat subcontracted Breda for the building of 14 units.
After few years in Bologna and Sulmona the entire series was concentrated in Sicily (Syracuse, Caltanissetta, Palermo and Catania depots) where they remained until the retirement in the 2000s.

A couple of 1600s in the new (horrible) livery has been shooted in 2004 on the slope that runs round the sicilian city of Ragusa, on the line from Syracuse to Agrigento. Photo by S. Paolini.
66816xxe16xx-040504coragusa copia.jpg
Today ALn 668.1615 and 1616 are preserved as operating historical units at Palermo depot and just few days ago they made a photographic run for a group of railfans.

In 1971 FS started to receive the small series ALn 668.1701-1720, again built by Breda on behalf of Fiat. Using the same body of the previous ones, this series is important because introduced the 8217.12 engine (still 115 kW) that, joint with the turbocharged version, will become the standard for the new constructions.
Initially assigned to Lecco and Mantua depots, from 1976 the 1700s were displaced to Bolzano and Fortezza depots where they were used on the lines to Malles and San Candido. In the 90s the series was reassigned at Verona, Novara and Reggio Calabria where lasted until 2010, when the last units were retired.
No units were preserved.

From the deep south to the northern border. In 1986 my friend G. Demuru caught ALn 668.1715 and a sister leaving Vandoies station on the Pusteria valley line that connects Fortezza, on the Brenner line, with San Candido and the austrian city of Lienz. Today the line is wired and sees through trains.
The two images courtesy of Photorail.

Ciao :wink:
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  by Benny
The 1700 series had only 20 units because came another big innovation: a new bogie. Until that time ALn 668s had traditional bogies that offered not so good riding quality but the Fiat projecting office studied a far better one with the primary suspension made by articulated arms and the secondary one made by springs mounted over the bogie chassis, that has the so-called "double swan neck" shape. This bogie eliminates many parts subject to wearing and offers an excellent comfort level also on bad condition tracks, as was the case in many branch lines. Results after the first tests were so good that the new bogie became the standard and was installed in all new series and in the ALn 663s. A further evolution eliminated also the supporting traverse and generated the D 345 and E 633 bogies, but this is another story.
From 1972 FS received 85 railcars with the same body and engines of the previous series but with the new bogies; many of these units were also equipped with sintered brake pads operated by single small cylinders (bloch frein) but reverted quickly to normal braking because resulted slow in applying and don't disposed of the heat generated during braking.

The ALn 668.1801-1885 passed nearly all their operating life in southern Italy. Initially distributed between Foggia, Bari, Catanzaro and Sulmona, they were then concentrated at Benevento and Salerno depots serving the secondary lines of Campania, Molise, Basilicata, Puglia and Calabria regions; their most important service was probably the Naples-Isernia-Sulmona-Pescara pair of daily expresses.
With the progress of wiring, at the end of the 90s 21 units were displaced to the north and assigned to Cremona depot for services in the Lombardy region.
From 2010 began dumpings and in 2017 the last railcar achieved its duties. Benevento depot retains ALn 668.1870 and 1882 as historical items.

In 1994 ALn 668.1863 is waiting departure time at Campobasso station. Some secondary lines are not well patronized, mainly because of bad timetables and distance between stations and villages.
In the last years some 1800s migrated to the north. A couple of them was caught in 2009 running through frosty rice cultivations on the Pavia-Vercelli line.
66818xxe18xx-250109covercelli copia.jpg
The two images by S. Paolini courtesy of Photorail.

Ciao :wink:
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  by NorthWest
Thanks, Benny. I seem to recall seeing members of this class on a 2010 trip to Italy, but my memory is foggy enough that I might be mistaken.
  by Benny
It was quite possible, at the time they were still on duty. And more modern subseries are in daily service yet now.

Ciao :wink:
  by Benny
But.... Is your memory foggy because of the italian wine? :-D :-D :-D

Ciao :wink:
  by David Benton
Or perhaps, the Italian car drivers??? :wink:
I'm pretty sure a hitchhiking experience on the Italian coast took 10 years off my life expectancy, not to mention the wine required afterwards.
  by Benny
:-D :-D :-D :-D :-D
  by NorthWest
Probably the atmosphere in some of the trains... FS doesn't seem to bother cleaning them or taking off graffiti, and one that I rode had several seats burnt out.
  by Benny
NorthWest wrote:Probably the atmosphere in some of the trains... FS doesn't seem to bother cleaning them or taking off graffiti, and one that I rode had several seats burnt out.
Welcome in Italy!!!

ciao :wink:
  by Benny
Engines and bogies were renovated but the body, ugly and modest when the project born, in the 70s was absolutely outdated and Fiat prepared a good lifting.
New front ends, more squared, and a new layout with two vestibules were designed, the interiors were slightly improved and a supercharged version of the 8217 engine, the 8217.32.032 developing 147 kW was fitted. So the new railcars had more than 290 kW available, 80 more than the 1400s, and can run at 130 km/h on the main lines; and in the 80s, after testing, these engines will be calibrated at 170 kW each one!
In 1975 were built the ALn 668.1901-1942 and in 1976 the ALn 668.1001-1120; the two series are almost identical, the only differences being the presence of the post shelving in the 1900s and two diverse brake taps.
From the beginning these two series became nearly ubiquitous, being assigned to Cuneo, Lecco, Cremona, Rimini, Foggia, Taranto, Catanzaro, Reggio Calabria and Palermo depots, and make still today every kind of service, from the stopping Como-Lecco to the InterCity Taranto-Reggio Calabria (and this line is now so neglected that a single railcar is enough... :( )
From the 80s some Ln 664s were modified to be used with these units: in Romagna in driving mode and on the Monza-Molteno-Lecco line sandwiched between two motors. On this line, that saw a good increase of passengers in the last 20 years, until few times ago some peak time trains were made by complexes M+T+M+M+T+M conducted by two drivers.
In mountaneous regions small snowploughs were installed on the front ends. Instead, in Tuscany, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia, railcars were equipped with cow-catchers to avoid damage in case of accidents with livestock.
Another singularity were six 1000s of Cuneo depot that in 1980 were equipped with the French safety devices for the service on the Cuneo-Nice international line. After some years these equipments have been displaced to newer 668s.
Also the ALn 668s were modified i in the front ends to allow use of plain glasses.

The two classes are still in daily use but the reduction of local services (and the closure of many lines) joint with the new regulations about disabled people access condemned them: no more overhauls and when the mileage is achieved the railcars are dumped.

Three units entered in the FS historic stock and were repainted in the original livery

ALn 668.1029 and 1079 were caught at the beginning of 1997 leaving Sesto San Giovanni with a Lecco-Milan via Molteno service. The railcars still have the curvy and nice windscreens.
6681029e1079-010197sestosgiovanni copia.jpg
On the Taranto-Sibari line that was being wired, ALn 668.1971 in the original livery and a sister in the new one run along the Ionio sea on the side of an old defense tower.
Altough I don`t like the ALn 668s, in my personal opinion the 1900/1000 are the nicest series.
the two images by S. Paolini courtesy of Photorail

Ciao :wink:
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  by johnthefireman
I love that last photo. Ocean, castle and train. Beautiful.
  by Benny
In 1979 FS received the last aspired railcars, the ALn 668.1201-1260, that were equipped with the same 8217.12.031 engines of the 1800s (calibrated for 120 kW because of the increased weight) but had the new front ends and interiors. The layout instead saw the return of a central vestibule, easier to build.
As a test, ALn 668.1207 was built with stainless steel sides.

Frankly I never understood why they were built, given the low price difference against the supercharged ones. It could be quite possible that Iveco (the industrial vehicles branch of Fiat that supplied the engines) had a surplus of that model.

After an initial assignment to Sulmona, whose steeply lines resulted inappropriate, the entire series was allocated to Treviso depot were they passed the entire career.
The series is nearly extinct, with no overhauls and the last railcars running until the limit of mileage.

In 1986 Aln 668.1227 and 1207 (with stainless steel sides) crosses in Pinzano station, on the Sacile-Gemona "pedemontana" line.
At Montebelluna station in 1992 ALn 668.1231 and a sister are marking the stop and wait for a crossing train.
6681231e12xx-260492montebelluna copia.jpg
The two images by S. Paolini courtesy of Photorail.

Ciao :wink:
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