• The FS light electric vehicles

  • Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.
Discussion about railroad topics everywhere outside of North America.

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!