Interviews

Discovering the historical heritage of public transport


The Italian industry is still a point of reference for the quality of projects and products in the railway, tramway and subway fields, it is therefore a priority to keep the memory and testimony of the path taken so far to know how to learn and therefore to progress. ". To support it is Riccardo Genova, of the CIRT Institute of the University of Genoa, dean of the Italian Railway Engineers College, one of the organizers of MobilityTech that traces a panorama of the Italian historical heritage in terms of public transport, a wealth and pride of which citizens are perhaps still little aware.

1) What are the most precious historical heritages on public transport in Italy?

The Italian State Railways they hold the greatest and most valuable assets of all: projects and documents on the technical evolution of the sector and also a collection of rolling stock, many of which are suitable for running trains as they are fully functional. There are steam engines (including two majestic units of the 685 Group recently used in double traction on the Pistoia Florence section), diesel locomotives, rail cars, electromotors and direct current electric locomotives. A second example of historical heritage is the tram line number 7, fully operated with historic trams not only from Turin, but from other Italian cities (Trieste, Bologna, Rome and Naples) inaugurated in 2011 for the celebrations of the Unification of Italy.

The Railway-Museum of the Colonna Station, on the other hand, represents excellence in the field of preserving the historical and cultural memory of all those territories that have always been linked to "their railway". The widespread diffusion of "secondary railways" is in fact rooted in Italian culture: in Colonna, near Rome, it is possible to visit the museum where numerous rolling stock from the Lazio railways are exhibited.

2) What importance is given to this typology, in the general panorama of conservation and enhancement of the national historical heritage?

A good space, but more should be done. The Italian industry is still a point of reference for the quality of projects and products in the railway, tramway and subway fields, it is therefore a priority to keep the memory and testimony of the path taken so far to know how to learn and therefore to progress. . Today in this field there are many transport companies that have particular regard for their historical heritage and their role: the Italian State Railways, the Ferrovie Nord Milano Group (with, among others, the wonderful steam engine 200- 05 dated 1883 fully functional), local public transport companies such as GTT Torino, ATAC Roma, ATC-TPER Bologna and ANM Napoli which recently restored the historic tram "Peter Witt" 1029 from 1935. There are also associations, the Graf of Rome, the Clamfer in Naples, MetroGenova in Genoa, ACT in Milan, just to name a few, which carry out a commendable activity of collecting documents, preserving rolling stock and raising awareness of both institutions and public opinion.

3) What conscience do citizens have? What is the purpose of making them aware of this?

The public transport it refers to a multiplicity of plants and vehicles including land transport in all its forms but also to maritime and aeronautical transport.

The first of these sectors involves more closely the history, culture and the way of life of all: it, in fact, is the one present widely in our cities and has accompanied us, systematically, from our childhood to our days, marking the time of our study, business and leisure trips. Knowing how to observe and know how to know is the basis of everyone's ability to contribute to an improvement in living conditions: this also applies to the means and systems of transport that we use day by day. Together with Marco Bersa, transport historian, we have highlighted a gap every time the subject is addressed: not only do you forget the past but also the present, and this does not help improve the conscience of citizens.

4) The prodigious rebirth of the San Marino "train": what does it consist of? Is it an experience that can be replicated in other places?

The Rimini - San Marino railway was opened for operation, immediately with electric traction, in 1932. Due to the war events, in 1944, it was suspended, suffering, among other things, damage as a result of bombing. Some rolling stock were hospitalized as early as 1944 inside a tunnel and the AB03 was recovered, restored to its original conditions both for the exterior appearance and for the interior furnishings and made fully functional. For the occasion, 800 meters of line were restored, within the territory of the Republic of San Marino for tourist services.

This experience can be replicated both to maintain the touristic and cultural role of railways in operation or to rethink routes now disused such as the Calalzo - Cortina - Dobbiaco (the "Railway of the Dolomites").

5) There is a State Railways Historical Park: what is it about? How many know him? How to promote it more?

The State Railways have an important historical park and several carriages are also preserved, from the "terrazzini" to the "centoporte" (in the green liveries of the 1920s wagon, chestnut - isabella until the early 1960s, brown and then slate gray from the '60 and '70), the "Corbellini", the "type 1959" (some in blue train livery), up to the more recent "UICX". In the Pietrarsa museum, for example, unique vehicles are preserved such as, among others, the Bayard steam locomotive, a 1939 reproduction of the one that was destined for the inaugural train of the Naples-Portici Railway and some three-phase electric machines. These rolling stock are partly suitable for service and are used on various occasions (initiatives such as the "nature train" in Siena or the "Blue Train" in the lower Sebino) or kept in museum sites.

Other rolling stock are "set aside" pending functional or static restoration. Greater promotion would allow for a wider dissemination and consequent participation by citizens.

6) In addition to trains, trams are also historical means: some examples of recovery and enhancement?

Turin, already described as an exemplary case of historical heritage conservation in Italy, represents excellence in the sector. It should be noted the absolute value of the initiative which has allowed and will allow the functional recovery of numerous rolling stock: among these the articulated tram 401 of 1939 coming from Rome, the first model equipped with the "Urbinati carousel", a joint system of the cash desks ( point by Engineer Urbinati for STEFER of Rome) and which allowed the construction of thousands of articulated trams in Europe and in the world.

Even Naples and Rome have preserved trams that have made the history of city public transport: in Trieste the Opicina plant is in service with cars dating back to 1935. The peculiarity of the plant, with the cable section along which the famous “Pushers (just renovated) makes it a unique case that deserves a visit, also for the beauty of the places. The Principe Granarolo rack railway (in Genoa) is practically operated with tram cars dating back to 1929 built by Piaggio and aesthetically similar to the famous Genoese trams designed by Remigio Castegini.

7) Isn't the recovery of historical means in contradiction with the introduction of technological and sustainable means?

No: the maintenance of a historical and electrically powered plant has often prevented the conversion of the service into automotive lines, sometimes cheaper for those who manage them, but certainly not more efficient from an environmental point of view. If, on the other hand, we refer to special trips, it must be considered that these are few units dedicated to circulating on particular occasions: once again, however, it is easy to think that travelers are removed from car modes with positive effects compared to a reduction in pollution and congestion. But everything is at the basis of forming the culture of public transport in citizens, starting with the youngest, who will make the choices "of tomorrow".

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