Italian main line diesel haulage

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D445-1076 arrives at Chivasso on an Aosta to Torino service, 02/08/06.  This part of Italy no longer sees diesel loco haulage on passenger trains, and indeed the loco has since been shipped over to Sardegna. (JW)

One European country that does not get much press in terms of the passenger diesel haulage that it has to offer is Italy.  Perhaps this is with good reason, as the sole remaining mainline diesel class with passenger diagrams – the Fiat class D445 – is, if we’re honest, not the most exciting.  Nevertheless, sitting in “proper” coaching stock behind a diesel loco is still a wholly sociable way to see this most scenic of countries.

150 of these little 2,090hp four-axle diesel-electrics were built between 1974 and 1988 in three batches; D445-1001 to D445-1035 by Savigliano in 1974-75, D445-1036 to D445-1055 by Reggiane in 1981-83, and D445-1056 to D445-1150 by O.ME.CA between 1985 and 1988.  All are fitted with 12-cylinder Fiat power units (the first 35 have a slightly different variant to the latter 115).

Not all 150 remain in passenger use.  D445-1008 was the first withdrawal through accident damage sustained after the tragic, fatal head-on collision with a DMU near Crotone on 16th November 1989, followed by D445-1146 which derailed after hitting a car at Brancaleone on 22nd September 1997 (the car itself had been involved in an RTA on the adjacent road and had ended up on the permanent way).    Others have fallen by the wayside since – two in particular have succumbed to severe fire damage; D445-1072 in Firenze in 2005 and D445-1097 just recently at Asti on 13th October 2017.

As of 2017, 19 have passed to the freight sector with Mercitalia Rail (formerly Trenitalia Cargo) and work predominantly over unelectrified lines in the north of the country.  Their sphere of passenger work is certainly contracting.

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user 251Aloha showing D445-1075 departing Mede in fairly typical D445 style…

The main aim of this article is to give a little overview of where D445 haulage can still be enjoyed, so I will deal with each relevant area of Italy in turn.

Toscana (Tuscany)

The area of Italy with the most D445 passenger activity is coincidentally also the one most visited by tourists – Toscana – which means that combining a “normal” family holiday with some diesel haulage would not be that difficult.  They work on two routes, both radiating from Firenze (Florence) – that to Siena via Empoli, and that to Borgo San Lorenzo via Pontassieve.

According to the excellent E656.net website, D445-hauled trains to/from Firenze booked to be are as follows:-

Firenze SMN – Borgo San Lorenzo: 06:32 / 10:52 / 11:55 / 12:55 / 14:19 / 14:55 / 15:55 / 16:55 / 17:55 / 18:55 / 19:55

Borgo San Lorenzo – Firenze SMN: 06:08 / 06:32 / 07:24 / 07:52 / 08:43 / 12:47 / 13:47 / 14:43 / 16:47 / 17:47 / 19:47

Firenze SMN – Siena: 06:20 / 08:10 / 09:10 / 10:10 / 11:10 / 12:10 / 13:10 / 14:10 / 15:10 / 16:10 / 17:10 / 18:10 / 19:10 / 21:16 (to Empoli only)

Siena – Firenze SMN: 05:43 / 06:13 / 06:36 / 07:02 / 07:15 / 08:18 / 11:18 / 12:18 / 13:18 / 14:18 / 15:18 / 16:18 / 17:19 / 18:18 / 19:18

Firenze, the capital of Toscana, hosts approximately 16 million tourists each year, so it must be worth a visit!  Equally, Siena, as a medieval city (and, to a lesser extent, Empoli en route there), is on the tourist trail and so if you are staying in Firenze on a family holiday, this may be somewhere to recommend for a day trip in order to get your diesel haulage fix “by stealth”!

The above is a link to a YouTube video uploaded by user Luca Eseicinquantasei showing D445-1089 departing from Firenze Santa Maria Novella.

Veneto

Further north is the region of Veneto which sees more D445 action centred on the city of Padova – a tourist destination in itself, but less than half an hour by train from Venezia (Venice).  As an aside, one of my travel tips to those visiting Venezia on a “normal” holiday would be to do as my fiancee and I did recently, and stay on the “mainland” – even taking into account the train travel across the causeway to the famous city of islands and canals, this is far cheaper than trying to book a hotel in Venezia itself.  We stayed in Mestre, but Padova would be equally suitable (and would put you in position for some diesels, should you wish!).

The routes from Padova to Treviso Centrale, to Bassano del Grappa, and to Montebelluna all see D445 power.  In basic terms, they operate early in the morning and then through the afternoon and evening.  Booked trains according to E656.net are as follows:-

Padova to Bassano del Grappa: 06:12 / 14:16 / 17:16 / 18:16 / 19:16

Bassano del Grappa to Padova: 06:36 / 07:36 / 08:40 / 15:40 / 18:40 / 19:40

Padova to Montebelluna: 06:07 / 07:07 / 08:07 / 14:07 / 15:07 / 17:07 / 18:07

Montebelluna to Padova: 07:07 / 07:07 / 09:07 / 15:07 / 16:07 / 18:07 / 19:07

Padova to Treviso Centrale: 07:46 / 19:46

Treviso Centrale to Padova: 07:08 / 17:08

Bassano del Grappa is home to the Ponte Vecchio, a famous covered wooden bridge, which is only about a 10-minute walk from the station.  It is increasingly getting a reputation as a “hidden gem” of a tourist destination, which usually means that it won’t remain “hidden” for long.  Either way, the fact that diesels work trains there might hopefully mean that they are easier to weave into a family holiday – even if the timings are not exactly helpful…

There is also a diagram on the Treviso to Belluno route (which passes through Montebelluna along the way) – 07:34 from Belluno and 18:35 return from Treviso.  Both of these trains connect in and out of D445-powered trains to and from Padova at Montebelluna.

The above is a link to one of garedeshimbashi‘s YouTube videos of D445-1142 departing from Padova in 2010.

Calabria

Right at the other end of Italy, two long-distance trains in Calabria retain D445 haulage for the time being.

IC558 08:13 Taranto to Reggio di Calabria Centrale, and the balancing working IC562 11:55 Reggio di Calabria Centrale to Taranto, each take approximately 6.5 hours and hug the coast for the entire way, around the Gulf of Taranto.  However, it has been known for one or other of these trains to be substituted by a DMU, so beware!

Puglia (Apulia)

The branch shuttle from Foggia to the coastal town of Manfredonia, on the east coast at the top of Italy’s “heel”, is reported (again on E656.net) as still booked to feature D445 traction on summer Saturdays, the rest of the time being DMU-worked or even bustituted.  The most recent confirmed report of a D445 working on the branch that I am aware of (thanks to Ed Beale) was of D445-1060 performing on 26th August 2016.

For the record, the services shown as D445-powered are those departing from Foggia at 07:05 / 09:05 / 11:05 / 13:05 / 16:05 / 18:05 and returning from Manfredonia 40 minutes later.  If you do happen to see these trains on your travels, I would be very interested in learning what was working them (as I’m sure the relevant gen groups would be, too!).

Sardegna (Sardinia)

The last area in this list is arguably the most interesting.  A small fleet (believed to now consist of six operational machines – D445-1038/1053/1055/1076/1119/1129) of D445s works on Sardegna, the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.

Their use is exclusively at the southern end of the island, centred on its capital, Cagliari.  The bulk of their work is between Cagliari and San Gavino, but also on the branches to Carbonia and Iglesias, along with one (peak hour) diagram to Oristano, further up the main line that connects the north of the island with the capital.

Once again, E656.net lists the booked workings to/from Cagliari as follows – mainly in the morning peak, in the middle of the day, and again in the evening peak:-

Cagliari – Carbonia: 13:44

Carbonia – Cagliari: 16:18

Cagliari – Iglesias: 14:18 / 16:44 / 18:44

Iglesias – Cagliari: 06:53 / 15:52

Cagliari – Oristano: 17:20

Oristano – Cagliari: 06:30

Cagliari – San Gavino: 05:35 / 06:35 / 14:05 / 14:53 / 18:05

San Gavino – Cagliari: 06:40 / 07:10 / 15:22 / 16:10 / 19:20

To finish, a link to a YouTube video from tergv200 showing D445-1119 with an excursion at Golfo Aranci – part of the Sardinian rail network that no longer sees loco haulage under normal circumstances.

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