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What the papers said
excerpts from the railway press from the 1840s to the 1990s
The purpose of this section of the IRS web site is to provide a glimpse of what the British railway press was saying about various issues in the past. Every month there will be a different selection of excerpts from the railway press from the 1990s to as far back as the 1840s, taken from the collections in the National Railway Museum Library here in York. Sometimes we will group the excerpts according to particular themes, but there will also be space for a more random selection of some interesting, entertaining, or just plain bizarre corners of the railway news of the past. We hope that you will find it interesting and illuminating. It's one way of finding out what has changed, and what has not, over the past century and a half of the railway press. Previous editions are available in an archive accessible from this page.
Next update: 1 April 2002.
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Railways and dictators: Germany and Italy between the wars
British railway press reporting on the railways of
under the regimes of Mussolini and Hitler reflects a considerable degree of
enthusiasm at what was seen as the reinvigoration of the national rail networks
of these countries. The acceleration of train services, the modernisation of
equipment and a commitment to punctuality were all held up as achievements of
the Fascist and Nazi regimes. Against this generally positive background, the
accounts of the absorption by Deutsche Reichsbahn of the former Austrian
railway system and the railways of the Sudetenland in 1938, and the almost
casual mention of the replacement of 'Slav' station names with their German
equivalents, strike a darker chord; while the presence of 'vigilant Fascist
militiamen' in the corridors of Italian trains may seem more disturbing to the
contemporary reader than it did to the Railway Magazine's writer of
1934, who was much struck with their 'smiling readiness to be of
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1934: 'The climax of the organisation was Reichs Party Day': the Railway Gazette on the special transport arrangements for the 1934 Nuremberg rally
1935: 'Delegates arrived in 465 special trains, of which 196 were described as "trainloads of political leaders"': some interesting statistics from the Railway Gazette about railway travel for the 1935 Nuremberg rally
1935: 'Then Herr Hitler advanced to the lectern, and there rang through the hall the voice that has transformed Germany': the Railway Magazine's account of the centenary celebrations of German railways
1938: 'The lines were formerly the property of the Austrian Republic': the Railway Gazette on the consequences for the railways of the German annexation of Austria
1938: '...to eliminate traces of the Slav style of spelling...': the Germanicization of station names in East Prussia, from the Railway Gazette
1938: 'The retiring Czech authorities had removed the furniture ... right down to the last electric light bulb': the Railway Gazette on the German takeover of the Sudeten railways
1923: 'A real sense of discipline is - and none too soon - being restored': the Railway Gazette with an account of Mussolini's impact on Italian railways
1924: 'Now trains run punctually to the scheduled time': a further account of the railways of Mussolini's Italy from the Railway Gazette
1924: 'The remarkable improvements that have resulted in all branches of the Italian Railway service are sufficient justification of Fascist activity': more from the Railway Gazette on the Fascist transformation of Italian railways
1930: 'Italy is no longer a land of the past': from an account of Italian railway electrification in the Railway Magazine
1931:'No railway traveller in Italy is permitted to overlook the all-important fact that Fascismo is in power': from the Railway Gazette
1934: '...the vigilant Fascist militiamen who parade the corridors...': impressions of Italian railways from the Railway Magazine
The German State Railway was set a formidable task in the transport of the 500,000 participants in the National Socialist Party Conference at Nuremberg from September 4 to 10. Some 524 special trains were provided to cope with this influx, which in a few days concentrated itself on one single city. The Stadium station at Nuremberg-Dutzendteich was rebuilt, at a cost of 2½ million marks, and at the Nuremberg Main and Rangier stations, and numerous other neighbouring stations, it was found necessary to make alterations in the railway track, to cope with so great an increase in traffic. Additional safety devices and increased railway telephone services were also installed.
Some 2,100 new timetables for the special trains had to be worked out in addition to 1,100 illustrated timetables. The 22 service arrangements alone took up 4,790 sheets, with an edition of nearly 1,000 copies. The climax of the organisation was Reichs Party Day, when, including the 524 specials and the ordinary trains, some 770,000 visitors were brought to Nuremberg on the one day. A succession of scheduled express trains ran in duplicate and altogether 600 locomotives were used. During the whole of the Reichs Party Day, Dr. Dorpmüller, General Manager of the German State Railway, and his deputy, Dr. Kleinmann, personally superintended the traffic in Nuremberg.
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The German State Railway has had to perform some intensive haulage in connection with the National Socialist Party Congress in Nuremberg, which was held last month. Delegates arrived in 465 special trains, of which 196 were described as 'trainloads of political leaders.' We are told elsewhere that each train carried about 1,200 passengers, from which we calculate the number of such functionaries in Nuremberg to have been 235,200, in whose 470,400 hands the future of the Third Reich would seem to be adequately assured. On this basis we notice that political leaders now exceed in quantity the number of bars of chocolate conveyed by the Reichsbahn to Nuremberg for the refreshment of last year's congress as a whole. These totalled 220,000, at which rate each leader would now have to content himself with 0.94 of a bar, leaving nothing for those in the earlier stages of political evolution. No doubt some equitable adjustment was made this year, and extended to augment last year's supply of 110,000 pieces of cheese, with precisely 110,000 portions of biscuit for their accommodation and digestion. Possibly we have been guilty of an over-estimate, but we have it on the Reichsbahn's own authority that the trainloads of political leaders exceed those of the next most numerous class of delegate by 91.
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A hundred years ago there was inaugurated the first railway in Germany, five miles long. On December 8, 1935, the thirty-three-thousand mile German railway system celebrated that centenary. Under a blue sky, the air alpinely crystal, the streets of Nuremberg were bright with swastika flags, and everywhere were men in uniforms, black, khaki or blue.
Homage was paid to Germany's fallen railwaymen, and massed banners, statuesque warriors, and solemn dirge added to the impressiveness of the ceremonial laying of wreaths by Dr Dorpmüller, Director-General of the Reichsbahn, and by Sir Josiah Stamp, Chairman of the L.M.S.R.
Next, in the thronged hall of the Industrial Museum, on the stroke of the appointed hour, the rumour spread that the Führer, hitherto unannounced, was coming. The whole audience rose, and amid a tense and impressive silence - every man's hand raised in the national salute - there strode briskly through the crowd the alert, khaki-clad figure of him who yesterday was a corporal in charge of a handful of men, and to-day is the acknowledged chief of sixty-five million people. Speeches followed, and also the way-builder's 'litany,' rendered in recitative solos and anthem-like chorus by a hundred and more black-uniformed men bearing spades.
Then Herr Hitler advanced to the lectern, and there rang through the hall the voice that has transformed Germany. Beginning in restrained tones, the speaker's fervour increased as he proceeded. Now and again for a fraction of a second he paused, as if seeking for the meticulously exact word, and, finding it, hammered it in with heightened emphasis. The voice of one sank into silence, and the voices of hundreds broke into wild enthusiasm.
In the afternoon a capacious train conveyed guests to a vast and thronged grand-stand beside the railway tracks at the Rangier-bahnhof, and, after the arrival of the Führer and his entourage, the spectacle of German railway progress was unfolded. Beginning with a reproduction of the 1835 train, with staff and passengers in costume, it was followed by an 1850 engine drawing Bismarck's coach; the latest specimens of express, diesel, electric, streamlined trains and railcars, express road motorcars and divers road tractors, one drawing a steel lattice bridge girder 34 metres long. Most impressive of all were ten mammoth locomotives, linked together and running light, a striking spectacle of immense reserve tractive power.
[p.154>] Considerations of space forbid description of the picturesque carol ceremony in the Christmas Market; of the palatable feast of piping-hot Nuremberg sausages and cool Nuremberg beer in the fifteenth-century town hall; or the performance of Die Meistersinger in the Opera House that night; or of Dr Dorpmüller's reception of foreign guests next day in Berlin.
Between Nuremberg and Berlin the guests of the Reichsbahn travelled in two special trains (leaving at 12.40 midnight and 1 a.m.), each of eight burnished Mitropa de luxe sleeping cars. Leaving these in the morning at Heidelberg, we covered the sixty-odd miles to Frankfort-on-Main on the new Reichsautobahn, a veritably rail-less railway, on which the State Railway Direction runs express motor coaches. With up and down double width tracks, divided by a grass plot, these motor roads traverse the country free from level crossings of any kind, for even the connections to adjacent towns are effected by flying junctions.
From Frankfort station our two trains, each enlarged by the seasonable addition of two long dining cars, landed us punctually in Berlin for the closing festivities. Throughout, in nothing that careful preparation and complete performance could achieve for the entertainment and comfort of its guests, was the Direction of the Reichsbahn found wanting.
Tuck's Railway Shareholders' Manual of 1845 said of Germany's first five-mile railway: 'Best line in the world, yielding an annual dividend varying between 16 and 19 per cent.' Though this railway has ceased to operate, Dr. Dorpmüller assured me that it still lives up to this tribute by paying 20 per cent. per annum from its lands and investments. 'An ideal railway,' enviously sighed the Director-General of the Reichsbahn.
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The union of Austria and Germany dates from March 13, and the incorporation in the Reichsbahn of the Austrian Federal Railways (Oesterreichische Bundesbahnen) from March 18. They comprised some 5,930 km. (3,685 miles) of route, of which 490km. (305 miles) were narrow gauge and 870 km. (541 miles) electrically operated. The staff totalled 57,008, and in 1936 52½ million passengers were carried. About 2,580 km. (1,603 miles) of motor services were operated by a subsidiary concern.
The lines were formerly the property of the Austrian Republic and worked on its behalf [by] a separate administration, now dissolved. The property has been transferred to the German Reich, and all managerial and other functions have been taken over by the Reichsbahn administration, itself a part of the Ministry of Transport. The Minister, Dr. J. Dorpmüller, who is General Manager of the Reichsbahn, is thus now responsible for the united railway system and has issued a special address to the members of the former Austrian Federal Railways staff, welcoming them to the Reichsbahn ranks and inviting them to co-operate 'for Leader, people, and homeland.' A further address has been published by Herr Klienmann, his chief assistant, who was responsible for the transfer arrangements. The local government of the new German province of Austria has passed the necessary decrees rendering the change effective.
The former General Management at Vienna continues in existence as a special Austrian Sectional Management and - under Dr. Dorpmüller - is for the time being to possess the same competence and carry out the same functions as before, Herr Röbe, formerly a Divisional Manager of the Reichsbahn, acting as Special Commissioner. The old Divisional Managements at Vienna, Linz, Innsbruck and Villach are now known as Reichsbahndirektionen. The offices of the Austrian Ministers for Commerce, Transport, and Finance are being continued temporarily on technical grounds, and have certain functions allotted to them in the transitional arrangements, especially in connection with the private railways in Austria, over which they continue to exercise supervision, pending a complete investigation of all the legal matters involved.
Improved services between Berlin and Vienna via Passau have been announced already, leaving Berlin at 7.30 p.m. and reaching Vienna at 9.10 a.m., and with reverse times at 7.22 p.m. and 9.15 a.m., with restaurant cars between Berlin and Leipzig, Vienna and Linz. There will also be a new day service leaving Berlin and Vienna at 8.0 a.m. and reaching the opposite terminals at 8.5 p.m. and 8.44 p.m. respectively, also with restaurant service. One service now running between Essen and Nuremberg is being continued to Linz and a connection to and from Vienna is being made with one of the Berlin-Munich services, forming a new Berlin-Vienna day connection via Regensburg. Other improvements in the services to and from Austria are stated to be in preparation.
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On August 15 the German State Railway altered the names of no fewer than 123 station names in the Königsberg Division of East Prussia, chiefly, it would appear, to eliminate traces of the Slav style of spelling, which has persisted with large numbers of place names in this part of the country. In some cases the change is merely the substitution of German for the older spelling, as with Tollmingkehmen, which becomes Tollmingen, or Schelecken, which becomes Schlicken, but in others the name has been entirely altered. Thus Pillkallen becomes Schlossberg and Bialken becomes Weissenbruch.
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The official journal Die Reichsbahn publishes some particulars of the work involved in taking over the railways in the ceded Sudeten territory, particularly in those portions which passed under German control between October 10 and 15. It was decided to send a film party in advance of the new railway staff in order to make a record of the condition of affairs and enable some indication of the requirements to be sent to the Ministry of Transport as rapidly as possible, thus lessening the work of the staff in making written reports. The complete film, covering a tour of the Sudeten-land, was ready to exhibit to the authorities in Berlin on October 20.
As a matter of fact, these reports by the staff could not have been drawn up without much difficulty, as the retiring Czech authorities had removed the furniture, writing material and other equipment in the station buildings and offices, right down to the last electric light bulb in some cases. Almost every item of rolling stock had been taken away on some sections, while considerable damage had been done in places, railway and road bridges being destroyed and the permanent way seriously interfered with. In one place a specially made track-destroying machine was found abandoned.
A number of German locomotives were sent to the area, with other rolling stock, to enable traffic to be resumed as early as possible. The Sudeten-German staff remaining at the stations were all of the lowest ranks.
Advance inspection trains, propelling safety goods wagons in front, were sent out from the principal centres, such as Reichenberg, in order to test the condition of the track, bridges, &c., and set down the temporary staff where needed.
As far as possible, the essential shunting movements required to assist the local industries were effected as soon as the engines could be provided. Now and then an engine left behind could be used. Much dislocation of business had, of course, taken place during the crisis, with the suspension of railway facilities. The Reichsbahn authorities set up motor bus services to provide temporary facilities, but some difficulty was experienced at first as all petrol supplies had been taken out of the country.
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The extremely interesting and weighty speech of Mr. Beaumont Pease - Chairman of Lloyd's Bank - to shareholders of the British Italian Corporation, gave a clear indication as to the real position of the Italian State Railways. After paying a striking tribute to the new order of things brought about by Signor Mussolini in Italy's affairs generally, Mr. Pease referred to the great efforts being made to bring about a more efficient position on the railways. The personnel, which had grown unreasonably, is being reduced by no less than 60,000, while a sensible interpretation of the eight-hour day is taking the place of the sometimes absurd applications of it which were in force. A real sense of discipline is - and none too soon - being restored; punctuality is being enforced, with greater civility to the public and a stricter adherence to rules and by-laws. As regards the possibility of handing over the railways again to private enterprise - which the Government would for many reasons favour - the difficulties are considerable. Quite apart from eradicating the effect of 15 years State management in the personnel, there is the difficulty of raising fresh capital, especially for rolling-stock and also for electrification. Mr. Pease doubts the possibility of this capital being easily obtainable in Italy or abroad - although the Government is willing to remit income tax thereon. The foreign investor cannot all at once forget what he has suffered from sudden changes in Italian legislation in the past; but in our opinion it might be possible to sell or lease certain sections of railway, even if the whole system were too large a proposition.
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The interview with Sir Eric Hambro, a director of the old London & North Eastern Railway, which appeared in the Financial Times on Monday last, gives one 'furiously to think.' The interviewer has only lately returned from Italy, and the story he told of the transformation which has taken place in that country is nothing short of marvellous. Relieved of all oppressive taxation - even the Death Duties have vanished, it appears - industry in Italy has entered upon a period of activity and prosperity. With wasteful national expenditure checked, a state of financial stability prevails, we are told, where not long since the general policy was one of drift. 'In the whole of Italy, with its population of nearly 30,000,000, there are to-day no more than 170,000 unemployed - the irreducible minimum.' That is a very significant statement and one, it is to be hoped, that will be read and inwardly digested by thousands of Sir Eric Hambro's overtaxed compatriots. As to Mussolini's method of doing things, the interviewer quoted the case of the Italian railways. 'They used,' he said, to come upon the Budget for anything up to 400,000,000 lire a year, and when you boarded a train in Italy it might, or might not, arrive two hours, four hours, late; the same afternoon or not. Now trains run punctually to the scheduled time, though Mussolini "sacked" many railway employees, giving them allotments and turning them from parasites into producers. The railways are to be handed over to joint-stock management. The terms have not yet been decided, but the transfer has.'
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If the Fascist movement had done nothing else, the remarkable improvements that have resulted in all branches of the Italian Railway service are sufficient justification of Fascist activity. The Special Commissioner appointed has already introduced extensive reforms in the Italian State Railways, which have proved successful. Between November, 1922, and the end of 1923 the staff had been reduced from 226,532 to 180,000, by the proper application of the 8-hour day, resulting in a saving of about £4,800,000. Under the old plan the locomotive and trainmen rarely worked more than four or five useful hours a day. A proper enforcement of the rules has resulted in a 50 per cent. reduction in the number of men absent from duty on sick pay; whilst the re-introduction of the bonus for economy in locomotive fuel and lubricants is stated to have resulted in the saving in six months of 280,000 tons of coal, and a saving of lubricants on a commensurate scale. Under the previous Socialist Government the railwaymen's trade union has insisted on the fuel and oil bonuses being incorporated in the regular wages.
The Report for 1923, issued by the Department of Overseas Trade, on the commercial, &c., situation in Italy states that the Italian Government has approved in principle of the conversion of the State Railways into private undertakings, and steps are being taken to improve the railways by re-organisation, &c., so that when financial conditions are more favourable the State will be able to obtain better terms upon the transfer of the railways to company management.
The deficit in working of the State Railways under the Socialist regime for the year 1921-2 was £12,570,000. For the following year (although four months of it were under old conditions) the deficit was reduced by £3,506,000, whilst during the current year the Special Railway Commissioner undertakes to reduce expenses by £1,800,000 and increase receipts by £1,000,000. During 1924-5 the deficit it is hoped will not exceed £700,000.
A return on June 30, 1923, shows a considerable reduction in rolling-stock, resulting from the scrapping of worn-out vehicles, which the previous Socialist administration continued to repair at heavy cost. The return gives the following totals:- Steam and electric locomotives and motors 6,317 (reduction 344), passenger coaches 10,139 (reduction 1,086), luggage vans 441 (reduction 363) and goods trucks 138,766 (reduction 11,199). The route length of Italian Railways at June 30, 1923, was 10,219 miles, an increase of 92 miles during the year. Of the above, 9,768 were standard gauge and 451 narrow gauge. The second track on the important Chiavari-Santa Margherita line was opened for traffic on December 18. The work of doubling the lines between Genoa and Spezia, which has been in hand since 1908, continues, but under difficulties caused by the necessity to keep the line open for traffic. On one length of 22 miles, 32 new tunnels, aggregating 10½ miles in length, 265 new bridges and embankments and 105 other buildings are necessary. 436 miles of the Italian railways are worked by electricity. It is stated that, including capital charges in both cases, electric traction expenses per ton-mile were 28 per cent. less last year than steam traction.
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The Italians were the first people to handle heavy passenger and goods traffic over congested steep grade main line sections by means of electric traction; they have been pioneers, and as such have had to buy a good deal of their experience; many technical improvements have been made in their apparatus and methods, and much of their electrical, mechanical and civil engineering is very fine as befitting the nation that gave Leonardo da Vinci and Volta to the world. One of the most beautiful districts now served by electrified lines is that between Genoa and Sestri-Levanti, on the Eastern Italian Riviera. There is a succession of garden towns, such as Rapallo and Santa Margerita, in gaps in the mountains, looking seaward, with sub-tropical vegetations and many social amenities; this district is getting into favour as a winter resort. At one time, not so long ago, travelling in Italy was a byeword for unpunctuality, packed trains, general untidiness, and for dangers to luggage; the streets of the cities visited were unkempt and swarming with beggars. Although a great deal of progress in electric traction dates from before the war, yet, thanks to the precepts of Signor Mussolini and his followers, whose methods are so often abused by those who have never seen the results, the improvements in Italian travel and in general civic life have been extraordinary; Italy is no longer a land of the past; it has leaped into prominence; at the present it shows great energy and gives great promises for the future. British people need no longer hesitate about going to Italy as tourists; they will find nowadays comfortable, punctual trains and courteous railway servants, and, with the memory of the comradeship of nations during the Great War, they will be well received wherever they go.
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No railway traveller in Italy is permitted to overlook the all-important fact that Fascismo is in power. If the passenger had any acquaintance with the conditions of Italian railway travel prior to the inauguration of the Fascist regime, the remarkable transition from inefficient to efficient railway operation which has resulted from the political change is in itself sufficient reminder of what has taken place. But there are visual aids to these mental comparisons. Every Italian locomotive now carries, prominently displayed on the upper part of the smokebox door, the Fascist emblem of the bundle of lictor's rods with the protruding axe-head, neatly executed in steel and burnished brass. A larger variety of the same emblem may be seen in a [p.663>] lofty position on every station building. The forthcoming acceleration on the Milan-Venice route, referred to in our issue of March 13, is another evidence of the renascence of Italy. Hitherto, with the exception of such runs as a couple over the 134 miles from Milan to Bologna, which have just attained the maximum speed of 50 m.p.h. long-distance bookings at much over 40 m.p.h. have been rare in Italy. Thus the introduction of a schedule at 58.8 m.p.h., with an accompanying acceleration of 1 hour 21 minutes over the best existing time, is a railway event of no small importance.
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The Italian railways, with the exception of certain private local lines, are State-owned and operated. The conditions of the country, both geographic and economic, make such an arrangement inevitable. Ten years ago it was usual to point to the Italian State Railways as an example of the failure of nationalisation. To-day, Italy can be used as a model to illustrate the success of public ownership of railways, which seems to suggest that it is internal organisation rather than form of ownership on which ultimately depends operating efficiency. Ten years ago the Italian railways were more highly centralised than they are to-day. Now they are divided into thirteen divisions - and one delegation in charge of the Sardinian lines - each under a divisional chief, to whom, for all local matters, the divisional heads of each department refer for decisions. One of the first acts of the Fascist régime was to tackle the railway problem, and to anyone acquainted with conditions before the march on Rome in 1922, the success of that effort is apparent. Self-respect and efficiency may now be observed in every phase of railway working. The Italians are a kindly, cheerful people. They are always eager to help, and the sun that shines so abundantly on their land is reflected in the smiles with which they carry out their duties.
For the casual traveller the way is thus smoothed. Besides the help which springs from willing service, the efficiency of the railways aids him. Does he want to find a convenient train? At every station complete and unambiguous time-tables are available, with a map of the lines against each of which is a number corresponding to the number of the table of trains serving it. On arrival at the station he proceeds by a simple and standard routine to the platform, where almost always his train will arrive and depart punctually. Between the ticket barrier and the platform at all principal stations there are separate waiting rooms for the three classes of passengers. Should early arrival tempt the traveller to rest in the congenial surroundings of these handsome [p.112>] apartments, he need have no fear of missing his train, for its coming will be duly announced there. If by chance some untoward circumstance should delay the train, in most cases it will recover the time lost, and will do so safely, for every engine is fitted with a speed indicator, as well as a recorder which would reveal to the authorities any excessive speed or disregard of restriction. Once in the train the traveller will find it clean and comfortable. Its cleanliness is due to several causes: the great extent of electric operation, the efficiency of the steam engines which consume most of their coal and have, therefore, but little smoke to spare, the rigid enforcement of the by-laws about feet on cushions, and unpleasant habits. A prominent notice in every carriage warns the prospective offender that it may cost him anything up to 100 lire to infringe upon the rules of mutual consideration, and that the fine will be collected by the vigilant Fascist militiamen who promenade the corridors. That these men are not in the trains and on the stations solely in the interests of good order and discipline is soon apparent from their smiling readiness to be of assistance at the slightest sign of difficulty. The rarity of any exceptions proves this rule.
An Italian railway journey reveals much of the advances made in the last 12 years. Apart from what has been said above, there is a noticeable improvement in the permanent way and in the condition in which, generally, plant and equipment are maintained. Wherever there is a spare piece of ground it has been transformed into a well-kept garden. The lines are fenced, and although many of the numerous level crossings are unprotected by gates or barriers, arresting notices are conspicuously displayed, with the ominous sign of the skull and cross-bones, past which only the most rash of adventurers would career without caution. The standardisation of locomotives and rolling-stock has been carried to a high pitch. At the locomotive sheds in Rome, for example, where there are stabled some 180 engines, there are but seven different types. Except for specially difficult conditions of operation, the 2-6-2 4-cylinder compound express engine is ubiquitous for passenger trains, and for goods working the 2-8-0 type, modified here and there to conform to special conditions, is universal all over the country. More than 300 locomotives are fitted with Caprotti valves, which are greatly liked by the staff. Shunting is mostly carried out by standard [p.113>] 0-6-0 tank engines. There are smaller numbers of larger express engines of the 2-8-2 and 4-6-2 types for specially heavy duties, and for the less important passenger services 2-6-0 engines are largely used. For the so far unelectrified mountain railways 10-coupled tank engines are employed. The policy of the State Railways Administration, however, has been progressively to electrify all lines carrying heavy traffic in mountainous districts, and this policy has [p.114>] been amply justified both in increasing the capacity of the lines and the speed of the traffic, and in a much greater cleanliness, particularly in the numerous long tunnels, appreciated not only by travellers, but by those who have to maintain the railway structures. The system of electrification introduced some 30 years ago into Italy by that eminent engineer and pioneer of main-line electrification, Dr. Ing. Lello Pontecorvo, has proved to be particularly suitable for the special conditions of the steeply graded railways which have so far been electrified. The 3-phase (16 2/3 cycles) system, with the comparatively low voltage of 3,700 at the contact wires, has proved economical in upkeep and operation, and owing to the facility with which locomotives descending grades can regenerate current, not only is the consumption of power economised, but the wear and tear which otherwise would be very heavy on wheels, brakes, and rails is considerably reduced. The improvements effected during the last few years in direct current equipment have, however, decided the Italian railway authorities to standardise the 3,000 volts d.c. system for future main line electrification, except within the present 3-phase territory. Already the Naples-Foggia line and the Florence-Bologna direttissima are worked on this system, and the main Rome-Florence line is similarly in course of 3,000-volts d.c. electrification at the present time.
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Compiled by Dr Ralph Harrington, Institute of Railway Studies, York.
Updated 4 March 2002