The story of the Italian class E626 Bo-Bo-Bo electric locomotives will be told elsewhere on this site in due course. However, the fate of 17 of the 448-strong class is worthy of a separate article.
Following Austria-Hungary’s defeat in the First World War, the Austrian Littoral – the corridor of land that gave Austria-Hungary access to the sea through its main port, Trieste – between Italy and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (the future Yugoslavia), with the vast majority passing to Italy. So it remained until Italy’s capitulation in the second war in 1943, when it was annexed by Germany. After the war, the majority of the Littoral – an area significantly populated by ethnic Slovenes and Croats – passed not back to Italy, but to Yugoslavia.
But, back to 1936. With this part of the world being “just another” region of Italy at that time, it was equally subject to Mussolini’s widespread policy of electrification, pursued in order to reduce Italy’s reliance on imported coal (primarily Welsh coal). This was, predictably and sensibly, done at the by-then standard Italian voltage of 3,000 V d.c. On 21st April 1936, the electrification of the lines in the Littoral between Trieste and Postumia (Postojna), and between San Pietro del Carso (Pivka) and Fiume (Rijeka, in modern-day Croatia), was commissioned.
Nine years later, this part of the world, these lines – and, indeed, 17 Italian class E626 electric locos to operate them – passed to Yugoslavia. Due entirely to the infrastructure and rolling stock that was already in situ, extension of the overhead wires within the Socialist Republic of Slovenia (one of the six that made up Yugoslavia) was done on the “Italian” system, whereas from 1962 JŽ elected to pursue 25 kV a.c. electrification elsewhere. This is not only the reason for the two different voltages used in Yugoslavia, but also for the left-hand running on most of Slovenia’s railways – as in Italy – when the other republics ran their trains on the right.
The JŽ E626s were re-christened as class E61 in 1957, and then class 361 in 1962 when JŽ wished to reflect its two separate electrification systems in its numbering convention (traction in the 3xx series being d.c. and that in the 4xx series being a.c.). The geographical limits of JŽ’s 3,000 V d.c. network – combined, of course, with the small size of the fleet – meant that the 361s only operated in the north of Yugoslavia. Indeed, their sphere of operation contracted in 1968 when the section of line between Dobova (where Slovenia met Croatia) and Zagreb was re-electrified at 25 kV a.c.
The 361s were numbered in two sub-classes – 361 001 to 361 010 being no-heat (although some were initially boilered, in one of their noses), and 361 101 to 361 107 being those which were able to electrically heat their trains. The arrival of more modern electric traction from the early 1960s meant that the 361s, and particularly the no-heat examples, were gradually ousted from passenger work. Two such machines – 361 009 and 361 010 – were regeared to make them more suitable for freight traffic, and were renumbered 361 201 and 361 202 respectively.
Withdrawal, Disposal and Preservation
The fleet were progressively withdrawn between 1976 and 1983; the arrival of the brand new, modern Alsthom class 363 “Brigitte” electrics making them redundant – plus, we cannot forget that they were 50 years old by this time!
Three 361s survive and all are on public display, or at least publicly visible – although it is highly doubtful that any of them will ever turn a wheel in anger again. 361 001 is plinthed outside Moste Works to the east of Ljubljana, 361 106 has been plinthed at Ilirska Bistrica station since 2012, and 361 201 is in the railway museum in Zagreb.
|JŽ Number||JŽ Number||FS Number||Location|
|361 001||E626-030||plinthed at Moste Works, Ljubljana (Google Maps)|
|361 009||361 201||E626-093||Hrvatski Željeznički Muzej, Zagreb|
|361 010||361 202||E626-098||scrapped|
|361 106||E626-077||plinthed at Ilirska Bistrica station (Google Maps)|