Tuscany 2013 - 4: Without Electric Traction across the Apennines (50 p.)

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Proud Earthling

To the previous trip report:
Tuscany 2013 - 3: Electric Traction across the Apennines (50 p.)

Itinerary for this part:
Mon, April 15 2013

Signa dep 6:53  23376 PP

Firenze SMN arr 7:13
Firenze SMN dep 7:29  21457 -> Ravenna ALn 668

S. Cassiano arr 9:05

S. Cassiano dep 12:42 +7 min  6814 -> Firenze SMN ALn 501

Crespino del Lamone arr 13:08 +7 min

Crespino del Lamone dep 17:09  21480 ALn 501

Firenze SMN arr 18:11

Railway map of Tuscany:

April 15 2013

On Monday morning I could rise a little later shortly after 6 a.m., I had rested enough - so couchette-"jet"-lag posed no problem anymore - and reached the station at sunrise.

View from Signa towards Florence to the east, in the distance you can spot the viaduct of the new line near Lastra a Signa. R 11747 Firenze - Grosseto to my enjoyment was formed of two class ALn 668 DMUs, on this journey I still would often be positively surprised.

In the light of the first sunrays R 23376 from La Spezia Centrale picked me up together with plenty of morning commuters.

At Firenze S.M.N. I changed trains and was once more delighted to find R 21457 towards Ravenna as a double class ALn 668! Between Borgo San Lorenzo and Faenza otherwise only class ALn 501 "Minuetto" were operating. The train filled fast, primarily with school children, I still got a window seat. One row ahead of me tourists from Asia had taken place, yet they kept the curtains closed for the whole wonderful ride. At the first stop, Firenze Binario San Marco Vecchio, the train emptied again, obviously the school was in the vicinity. Afterwards an incident happened in my compartment, a gentleman suffered an epileptic fit. The conductors gathered and a companion of the man called the emergency services. Subsequently it was decided to continue to Borgo San Lorenzo and take him to hospital there.

The line was now about to negotiate the first summit before reaching Borgo San Lorenzo, it had to encircle Caldine valley in a long loop. At the next station Fiesole-Caldine we crossed R 6806 Faenza - Firenze S.M.N. consisting of a class ALn 501.

Departing Campomigliaio we already had left the summit at 300 metres altitude behind us.

Behind San Piero a Sieve we came across the new highspeed line Florence - Bologna, however, due to extensive noise barriers railway photography is hardly possible here.

Arrival at Borgo San Lorenzo, junction with another diesel line to Pontassieve. That way Florence can be reached via a detour without steep grades through River Sieve valley. R 21360 was approaching once more from direction Faenza.

The still very nice ensemble of Borgo San Lorenzo station featuring water towers and standpipes, as well as a class ALn668 + 501 parade. Behind the station the lines separate into two large viaducts, one leading uphill, the other down.

I was very lucky riding a DMU with windows to open, portions of the Faentina can hardly be accessed from the outside, so it was best to take pictures out of the train. The line was opened in its entirety in 1893 and poses a more southern Apennines-crossing than the main lines as direct connection to Ravenna. Despite the new highspeed line Ravenna still hardly can be reached faster from Florence via Bologna than on this relation. More about the railway can be learned here (in Italian): http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferrovia_Faentina , and a cabride video from 1994 can be watched here in four parts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnlYT_aC4pw , the same uploader is offering various other Italian cabrides as well.

Near Ronta the train winds its way uphill, allowing this lovely view into Sieve river valley at the southern slope of the Apennines.

The abandoned summit station Fornello at 537 m altitude is situated between the two longest tunnels of the line, Galleria Croce-Razzolo-Monzagnano (2336 m) and Galleria Appennino (3793 m).

Now we already find ourselves at the other side in the valley of Lamone river, flowing into the Adriatic at Ravenna. Behind Crespino del Lamone this great view is offered, I would return here on the "ground" in the afternoon.

Entering Biforco halt, one stop before arriving at Marradi-Palazzuolo sul Senio, we already had passed through several tunnels.

Shortly behind Biforco the valley is being crossed by a large viaduct, this was a possible spot for the afternoon, but I decided differently.

I missed Marradi inside the classic toilet of the Fiat-DMU. Maybe this was no bad thing as perhaps some doubts would have cropped up if I would have seen what was standing there. More about it later...

At the moment everything was wonderful! San Martino in Gattara offers another nice motif, but I am not sure if it can be done the same way from the outside.

I lastly got out at the next stop, San Cassiano, and quickly crossed the rails. This would not have been necessary as the unit displayed a slight problem when shifting up and a second attempt to accelerate was required.

I stayed at the nice old station. A bridge could be found on the other side of the hill, but since I already had an image with viaduct in mind for the afternoon I wanted to capture the following train once more with the pretty building and tunnel portal towards Faenza. We have left Tuscany again for a short while, by the way.

Now it was time to relax and bronze a little in the sun ever growing hotter even in this mountain setting as the next scheduled trains were not due for another two hours (to Faenza) and 3 3/4 hours (towards Borgo).
No even remotely respectable rural Italian station can exist without a goldfish pond!


Animals of the warm season were already about in abundance.

Shortly before 11 a.m. I walked to the other platform (of course through the very necessary subway). R 21463 Firenze - Faenza was supposed to arrive at 11:05. Around 10:55 there was motion coming from the other direction and ...

... more than a century old steamer 640 148 (Breda #1272 / built 1911) emerged from the tunnel!

It was a special chartered by British Railway Touring Company ( http://www.railwaytouring.net/eutours ), however, one thing was not exactly as it should have been: actually the train was supposed to be hauled by Franco-Crosti-engine 741 120. I was about to learn its fate later on.

So, on the downside I had wished to watch a Franco-Crosti-loco in action, on the upside - as a friend put it very fittingly - at least a nice looking engine was in front of the train. I think the latter sentiment definitely dominated, as you can see on the following pictures! It was the first time I experienced an Italian steamer in operation anyway, so everything was new for me.

The special arrived perfectly, 10 minutes before crossing the regular service, I had speculated on that. That way arrival, station picture, departure and some creative variations were possible.

As always with British passengers, you hardly have to erase them from nostalgic photos... ;-)

The rather geriatric occupants of the special, probably mostly in it for the nice rail cruise through Tuscany, were in no hurry to get out for the photo stop. Only after I had taken my shots the first passengers emerged from the train. To the right a former railway car transformed into shed can be noticed.

There was enough time to reach an open meadow behind the station. In the distance the local to Faenza, a double Minuetto, announced itself by sounding the horn. Exactly as it was approaching another photographer from Italy had to walk along the line and jumped off the embankment in the last second. These tele shots were taken after the regional train had already left.


Soon afterwards the steam train set off sounding nicely, a steep grade had to be overcome after all. I put my iPhone on the camera bag to capture video, sadly my proper filming equipment currently is damaged. However, it is also convenient once in a while to just take pictures without having to think of the video at the same time.


Next I had more than enough time again until my Minuetto appeared on the grade behind the tunnel.

R 6814 arrived with some delay and took me back into Tuscany.

At Marradi we soon crossed R 21465, the steam train was also standing there, still surrounded by several photographers. For the tour group lunch at a typical Tuscan restaurant was scheduled, let's see how long it was about to take. During departure I spotted 741 120 stabled fully loaded with coal and chimney first towards Faenza, sadly just through the windows of the DMU. A defect had put it out of service, luckily a replacement steamer had been found in time.

I got off at Crespino del Lamone.

Here the railway entered a short tunnel behind the station seeing the light of day again in the village where Lamone river was crossed. I walked quickly along the road surrounding the mountain as I did not know when the special would arrive. Theoretically lunch break could have been over in the meantime. I had found a view from a hill slope in the internet, but you could not climb up from the village, a rock face was in the way... so I followed the road further until I came across a cartway up the back of the hill. I climbed it quickly, the last metres on a footpath, and had once more reached an Apennines summit, this time even featuring a cross!
I calculated with a departure of the special the latest at 2 p.m. as regular traffic would become quite dense afterwards and no possibilities for crossing would arise - two locals were about to follow each other even within 25 minutes towards Borgo, there simply would be no space for the steam train. An Italian colleague joined me, we chatted a little, but due to language barriers no profound conversation could take place. It was sufficient to learn that the Franco-Crosti-engine had suffered a mechanical defect.
The situation of the class 640 also became more and more doubtful, as it was not approaching and finally the scheduled trains arrived. My friend was in despair and suspected something might have happened to the 640 148 as well... He asked: "How could anyone eat lunch for soooo long?" ;-)

At 14:44 R 21469 to Faenza started the parade of regular services, crossed by R 6816 to Borgo San Lorenzo. Shortly after 3 p.m. followed R 23570 towards Florence.
This inscription could be found at the foot of the cross.

Before 4 o'clock finally a few more photographers showed up, a group drove their vehicle almost entirely up the hill, later an elderly gentlemen came by with his grandkids. Soon you could smell the smoke of the steam train having stopped at the station. R 6811 to Faenza briefly came to a halt in front of the home signal, a procedure I would observe more often during crossings on single track branch lines. This scene was followed by young and old.

Finally, at 4 p.m. - shortly before tea time - , 640 148 emerged from the tunnel above the beautiful mountain village. Lunch break must have taken about four hours, partially due to operational reasons!

However, we were more than compensated for the long wait, afternoon light was even better.

View from the cliffs towards Crespino at the river Lamone.

Of course I had had enough time to capture panoramic images.

Alongside the river the engine had to struggle with the grade - overall you could never complain about lack of smoke in Italy!

Although the train is hardly visible this is one of my favourite photos of the series - the smoke simply painted a picture into the lovely mountain spring landscape!
You can spot the close cloud shadow the train narrowly escaped, in the afternoon cumulus clouds formed over the mountain range. Until now it had been sunny throughout.

Shortly before reaching the next tunnel the train appeared a final time.

I walked back into the village, one train towards Faenza still was scheduled until my ride home. The region praised itself about its good water, in front of the station you could find a public spring.

Between the houses of the picturesque place of course I continued my balcony photography.

Life next to the railway bridge, what events this pair - the husband sat around the corner - might have experienced here during their lifetime?


I ran past the station and soon reached the spot I had seen from the train in the morning.

Another (former?) village, the house still was lived in, two ladies stood out front and chatted with about every motorist coming by.

The view into the valley could only be achieved by climbing the rocks to the right, a gorge inbetween. But this spot also proved to be nice, the chicken coop of the hamlet to the left. At the mountainslope in the background a digger and a tractor were performing forestry works, I could not believe about the steepness they still could operate on. R 21473 Firenze - Faenza crossed the in this section newly built viaduct, below it you can spot one of the still in rural Italy common tricycles on the road. A public bus of older construction also passed earlier.

Now I moved back to the station, a couple at the neighbouring house worked inside an open garage, their off-leash dogs barking at me. They loudly played some records featuring classic rock hits.

The pretty station building, it was the only one I came across without a ticket validator.

Finally R 21480 to Florence picked me up in probably last light of the day.

Ticket validation posed no problem, immediately after boarding I presented my tickets to the conductress, and she wrote the date on it by pen. This Minuetto was strangely divided into two climate zones, cool in one part, while AC had failed in the other. I chose the warm section as I had suffered from the cold wind arising on the mountain top, although the sunlight was warming.

At Florence there was wonderful evening light for taking pictures, but I was a little too lazy to walk further - the decision was taken off my shoulders as my DMU stopped exactly at the photo spot, right next to a beautiful class ALn 668! This led to a dream constellation of various DMU and EMU classes: a class ETR 500 was just departing, the class ALn 668 shunted away at the same moment, inbetween my Minuetto and in the background an Italo.

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