Friday, September 28, 2018

Trains in Italy - Railfanning in Riomaggiore

This post is part of a series on trains I saw and/or rode while on vacation in Italy.

After we had settled down in our hotel apartment not sure what it was for the evening, I went back out to the train station in Riomaggiore, Italy to do a little late night railfanning.

The Riomaggiore Train Station

The train station is pretty small - one two-story brick building - with two platforms, one on each side of the two tracks through the town. Both ends of the platforms end in tunnels, as the rail line between La Spezia and Levanto runs along the coast and through numerous tunnels.

The station itself has a small ticket counter, a few vending machines and a rather small waiting room. I don't know what's on the second floor but it didn't appear to be open to the public. There's a building on the opposite side of the tracks, which is just a waiting room. The two sides are connected by an underground tunnel.

Have a look at the photo below, taken late in the day of May 31.
Train station in Riomaggiore, Italy
The station is the salmon-coloured two-story building partly hidden by the tree in the foreground. The train is stopped on the platform opposite the station. Note the tunnel at the north end of the platform.

This is another view of the station area, looking north. The station is on the right.
Riomaggiore station platform

Railfanning by Night

I arrived at the station area at 21:52 and took this (shaky) photo of the arrivals board.

There were five trains due: three southbounds to La Spezia, one northbound to Levanto and another northbound all the way to Genoa. My memory is a little fuzzy on how many I saw. I definitely photographed two passenger trains and recorded one on video... as well as a few freight trains.

Green signal!
I don't claim to know Italian signaling at all, but green seems a pretty universal "train is clear to continue" signal.

I had a quick look inside the north tunnel - from the platform, thank you. It's not long. You can see from the lines on the platform that passengers are not permitted to walk through the tunnel.

This is a view looking south, showing the train station to the left and the south tunnel in the distance. The walkway from this area to the rest of the town goes over top of the south tunnel, and you'll see later that I took some photos from up there.
Riomaggiore station platform at night
Note the speed limit sign by the station - 100 / 110 / 115 km/hr! I'm not sure what the different limits are for. In Canada we have two limits, one for freight and one for passenger trains.

The First Train

Freight train on the move
The first train I saw that night was a northbound freight train, towing tank cars. It did not stop.

There was an automatic announcement that was broadcast, perhaps 30 seconds before the train arrived. It warned of an express train passing platform 2 and told people to stand back.

A snake of tank cars
Even at a shutter speed of 1/4 second, the train is a continuous blur. It's a good thing I had my tripod!

Seven minutes later, the second train arrived, and this one stopped.

The Second Train

Passenger train at night in Riomaggiore
This was a locomotive-hauled passenger train. Note the "1" and "2" on the sides of the cars indicating first and second class seating.

Passenger train at night at Riomaggiore station
That was interesting to see.

After that train departed, I left the station and went "up above" on the path so I could take an overhead shot of the station and the next train.

The Third Train

Train in Riomaggiore
Here you can see the train stopped on platform 2 in Riomaggiore.

I also recorded a few freight trains on video. You'll see them at the end of the post.

Railfanning by Day

Train board for Riomaggiore
We had tickets for the 12:57 train to La Spezia, connecting with the 13:35 train to Florence (Firenze). We got to the station at 12:10, a little early, as you can see in the display above... which meant railfan time for me! At least it was a nice day to sit and wait for our train.

First up was this graffiti-covered train, heading south. It may have been the 12:03 train, running late.
I guess the word "graffiti" IS Italian, but I don't like it
Next was another southbound passenger train, led by one of the ubiquitous E.464 locomotives.
Yet another E.464
Here's a better look at the speed limit sign on platform 1.
Italian speed limits
The third passenger train was a northbound electric multiple unit (EMU) train. Not all of these passenger trains stopped in Riomaggiore.
Heading north
The next was the northbound 12:24 train from the schedule, stopping at platform 2.
Northbound train at Riomaggiore
Next, a southbound train stopped at our platform. It was a little maddening to have trains stop, going to where we wanted to go, yet our ticket was for the 12:57 so we had to wait. In the end, it didn't really matter whether we waited in Riomaggiore or in La Spezia - we would have had to wait somewhere for our connecting train to Florence.

Geez, guys, can't you see I'm railfanning here? ;)
Here's the 12:35 train arriving in Riomaggiore... pushed by another E.464 unit.
Right on time!
Next was the 12:38 train, seen here departing north from platform 2. Note the graffiti.
So many trains through Riomaggiore!
The next train I photographed was a southbound freight train on track 1, pulled by an E.652 unit and hauling a string of what looked like covered gondolas.
Locomotive E652 050 southbound through Riomaggiore
The tail end of the southbound freight train through Cinque Terre
Finally, our train showed up, right on time, ending a very fruitful Italian railfanning session.
The 12:57 - let's go!

Here's the video I took at night and the next day.

On to Florence!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Trains in Italy - To Cinque Terre

This is part of a series documenting the trains I saw in Italy in late spring 2017.

We left Rome on May 31 and headed to Cinque Terre. This set of five fishing towns is becoming a popular tourist destination. To get there by train, one has to first go to La Spezia, then transfer to a local train that runs through all five towns.

Onboard the Train

Here's the interior of the train we took to La Spezia.

The train had a snack bar on board, but it was closed when I walked by.

Here's a view of a "2nd class" car.
2nd class car on Trenitalia
It was pretty comfortable, if basic.

The View

Some kind of concrete tie train at the Follonica station
I amused myself by taking lots of photos out the windows. Since the train wasn't crowded, both my wife and I had window seats. Of course, I was a lot more interested in photographing the trackside equipment and structures than she was!

I'm fascinated by European diesel locomotives. The "form factor" of these locomotives is so different than current North American locomotives. In many ways, they are more reminiscent of early North American diesels.

The diesel below is a centre cab - not done now but GE certainly had centre cabs in their early diesels.
A diesel switcher in Italy
The locomotive below (one of two on the concrete tie train seen above) vaguely reminds me of an early Fairbanks-Morse unit - squarish, with a small cab.
One of two paired diesel units at Follonica, Italy
A little research shows that it is an ex Czech diesel - I spotted one like it a few years ago.

I think the key difference is that European diesels are just small, because European trains are shorter and lighter than North American trains. Also, most European trains are pulled by electric locomotives, so the diesels are used more for branch lines and maintenance trains.

I don't know what this is, but man, it's a cute little locomotive!
I'm not sure what industry this was, but those are certainly cooling towers.
Cooling towers and containers
We had glimpses of a lot of Italian train stations. Some were pretty modern but some had some nice touches, like the Rosignano station below with the patterned arch above the doors.

Rosignano station
Some stations are little more than platforms - at least from the view I had. Presumably there is a nice station building... on the other side of the train.

S. Marinella train station
Naturally, wires are everywhere since most trains are electric.
Livorno Centrale
We had power at our seats, which was great for keeping cell phones charged. I had a very bulky international adapter plugged in, to adapt the standard North American plugs for Italian/European plugs. It doesn't convert voltage but most DC adapters can handle 120V through 240V. Read the label!
World's bulkiest power plug adapter
The train stopped at Pisa on the way. Before the trip, my wife and I had discussed whether we should go see the famed Leaning Tower, but we decided against it. We figured that it wouldn't be a good use of our limited time to go see the tower, take a photo, then leave. I did snap a photo from the train as we crossed a river in Pisa itself, hoping to catch the tower in the photo. I didn't get it in the photo below, but I think we did catch a glimpse of the tower as we left the town.
Crossing the Arno River in Pisa, Italy

La Spezia

La Spezia Centrale
We arrived at La Spezia, and left our train. Looking at the handy displays, we found the platform for the train to Riomaggiore (technically, you look for the train to Levanto) and went there to wait. Of course, I spent my time photographing trains while we waited.

Train at La Spezia - with a Bombardier E.464 class locomotive
Another train at La Spezia
I was pretty fascinated by this little diesel switcher in La Spezia. Clearly it has sat there for a while to get such a graffiti treatment.
Graffiti infested diesel locomotive

The Train to Cinque Terre

The train to Cinque Terre
Our train showed up, pretty much on time, and we boarded. The interior of the train was pretty spartan, but that's OK. It's a short haul train - it's only an hour run between La Spezia and Levanto. Since we were getting off at the first of the five towns - Riomaggiore - we would barely sit down before we arrived.
Basic coach
There's not much to share from a 7 minute ride. I remember that we went through a couple of short tunnels. The line through Cinque Terre hugs the coast and definitely goes through a lot of tunnels. The track in Riomaggiore is only exposed for a few hundred feet and goes into tunnels on both ends of the station.


Riomaggiore, Italy
Again, this isn't a travel blog, so I won't write much about the non-train stuff. The town of Riomaggiore is simply gorgeous and well worth a visit. It's small and quaint, but touristy.

We enjoyed a lovely sunset down by the water.
iPhone photo of the sunset at Riomaggiore
We woke up the next day - June 1 - and, after having breakfast, got on a train back to La Spezia to connect to Florence, our next destination.

More to come!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Trains in Italy - To Rome!

Back in late May 2017, my wife and I went to Italy for a lovely spring vacation. It was our first time in Italy and we enjoyed it immensely. We definitely want to go back. Since this is a train blog, I'm not going to talk about all of the vacation aspects, but instead cover the train-related parts of our trip... and there were a lot!

Getting to Rome

We flew in three phases - Winnipeg to Toronto (YWG-YYZ), Toronto to Frankfurt (YYZ-FRA), and Frankfurt to Rome (FRA-FCO). It's always a little sobering to think that you are flying 10 km above the ocean, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from any land, at a large fraction of the speed of sound. I often take air travel for granted, but it's pretty amazing when you think of it.

In Frankfurt I saw these little automated airport trains zooming around.
Airport trams in Frankfurt
We arrived in Rome - but my wife's suitcase did not. We had to spend some time in the airport at the lost luggage counter, filling out forms and so forth to arrange to get her bag. It wasn't totally lost, just lagging a little behind us. It would end up being delivered to our hotel that evening.

To get from the airport (the Leonardo da Vinci!) to downtown Rome, we took the airport train, the Leonardo Express. The station is in the airport itself, which is common in Europe and very convenient.
Train station in Leonardo da Vinci airport
I really enjoyed some of the signs on the yellow posts.
Pericolo di Morte
"Non Touche - Pericolo di Morte" translates as "Do Not Touch - Danger of Death".

After a little wait in the airport, our train arrived.
Leonardo Express train
This is an ETR-25 "Jazz" electric multiple unit (EMU) train, built by Alstom. It is very comfortable and whisked us downtown. It's all coach seating, of course, with no service on board, but it doesn't take too long so there's no need for drinks or anything like that.
Inside the Leonardo Express
I managed to grab the window seat (sorry, honey) and took a lot of photos of the trackside structures, maintenance equipment, and whatever else I could see. It's always interesting to see the railways of other countries and see how they differ from North American railways.
Maintenance equipment at Ponte Galeria, Italy
One thing I noticed quickly is that there is a lot of graffiti on the maintenance equipment. Also, the graffiti increased as we approached Rome. As you may know, I hate graffiti and it saddened me to see it here. I shouldn't have been surprised, since the word derives from the Italian "graffiato", meaning "scratched".

We passed a few small diesel locomotives.
Diesel locomotive in Italy, with graffiti (sigh)
Like Belgium, Italian trains are mostly electric, but there are some lines that are not electrified, and of course if you are doing maintenance on the wires, you need another way to move your equipment.

There are several train stations on the line between the airport and Rome, including Roma Trastevere, seen below. We didn't stop at any of them.
Roma Trastevere station
After about 40 minutes, we arrived at the Roma Termini station, the main train station in Rome.

Trains at Roma Termini

My long suffering wife was OK with me spending a few minutes photographing the trains in the station before we set off to find our hotel.

(Above) Locomotive E464-226 is a Bombardier E.464 class, the most common locomotive in service in Italy. 728 were built. It's capable of 4700 horsepower and a maximum speed of 160 km/hr. On that train, it was coupled to a regional train of passenger coaches. I've tried to find some information on those coaches but I can't find anything. My Google-fu has failed. :(

(Below) This is a "Vivalto" train set, manufactured by Hitachi. This is a six car consist, with one motor car and five trailers, with a total of 725 seats and a total capacity of 1,300 people including standing passengers.
Trenitalia "Vivalto" trainset in Rome
 Check out that sweet streamlined train in the background below!
Trains in Roma Termini
We left the station, and after a bit of wandering around, found our hotel.

We stayed in Rome from the 28th to the 31st of May, hitting the highlights, like the Colosseum, the Forum, the Vatican, and so forth. Rome is a marvelous city. I remember that it was very hot and I was glad that Rome has many free water fountains scattered around the city that you can refill your water bottle from. We drank a lot of water!

I did take a few photos of the outside of Roma Termini, but to be honest, it's pretty boring, in my opinion. The station was built in the 1950s and definitely has a modern look to it.
Roma Termini - exterior
I took a photo of the arrivals and departures board in the station during our stay in Rome. There are quite a few trains through here!
Trenitalia arrivals/departures board
I'll have a separate post about the trams we saw in Rome.

I won't bore you with a bunch of vacation photos, but here are two that I like.
Panorama of the Colosseum (L) and Arch of Constantine (R)
How could you not like the Colosseum? I liked it so much that I went back at dawn the next day to photograph it again.

My wife and I in the Gallery of Maps in the Vatican
That Gallery of Maps was definitely our favourite part of the Vatican - even more than the Sistine Chapel. Oddly enough, when we were in the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel was closed for a few hours. It turns out that our prime minister, Justin Trudeau, was visiting the Vatican at the same time that we were, and they cleared the chapel out so he could be alone in there.

Let me tell you, it was pretty crowded when we went in! I have no photos, because photography is not allowed in the chapel, even though a lot of people were sneaking photos. sigh

Coming Up

After Rome, we boarded a train to take us to the Cinque Terre area of Italy, which is a set of five ("cinque") small fishing towns. This is a beautiful area of Italy, and although we only spent one night there, we fell in love with it. It was also a great place to do some railfanning!


See Also