The history of the old train from San Marino

Discussion in 'Model History & Reference' started by Tonino, Oct 20, 2014.

  1. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    Dear friends,
    perhaps some of you noticed my previous thread about a prototype building of the AB03 cardmodel (a locomotive from the old San Marino Railway). I was glad you appreciated the model but, especially, I was happy to hear you liked the story that is behind that subject. For this reason I decided to put here a longer version of the story of this little and unfortunate train service.

    I would like to ask to the ones of you who will have the patience to read my text, a little help to fix it...
    This text, that I wrote in Italian, was realized to be to put in the box with the model as an explanatory text on the railway history. As I hope the model will travel around the world a translation of the booklet in English language was highly recommended from ATBA committee (ATBA - Associazione Treno Bianco Azzurro - is the association who take care of the conservation of structures and trains of the old San marino Railway, they commissioned the production of a cardmodel to raise funds...)

    I tried to translate the text in English by myself but my English is pretty poor (I learned it at school but never practiced it "on field"). So if someone of you can tell me where are the worst mistakes to help me fix them I would appreciate it very, very much.

    I'll post the story in 2 or 3 "blocks" as soon as I complete translation of new pieces of the the original text.
    I hope you'll enjoy the story of this little train that has a big place in our heart as well as it has in the history of my homeland. let's start with the first episode:

    The white and blue train
    an admirable work, a life too short


    Project origins
    San Marino isolation from surrounding populations, granted also by a peculiar geographic configuration, was, during his long history, a feature well known and appreciated by its citizens. Also thanks to this feature the old Republic was able to keep inviolate his castles during the centuries.

    During late ‘800 great industrial transformations, however, even the little Republic of San Marino started looking for new cultural – and physical – connections with neighboring territory, especially with the near city of Rimini, to intercept tourism flows increasingly visiting the adriatic coast that, due to very obsolete transports, could hardly reach the top of Titano Mount. In that time the only way to reach San Marino from Rimini was a coach service taking over three hours to complete the route, if the weather was good. A little improvement of the service was obtained, in 1913, with the use of motor-coaches but, in the golden age of trains, Sammarinese people wanted to link to one of the railways already skimming their territory.

    diligenza 001.jpg
    The old coach serving the San Marino-Rimini line in a postcard from early '900​

    The construction

    The great opportunity to accomplish the wish of the long awaited railway arrived on august 17, 1926 when Benito Mussolini, visiting San Marino, engaged himself with local government to build the railway covering all the expenses, in exchange for this asked, and obtained, the permission to build and manage a radio station in the territory of the Republic of San Marino. In March 26, 1927 was subscribed in Rome the document “Convenzione per la costruzione e l’esercizio di una ferrovia elettrica Rimini-San Marino e per l’impianto e l’esercizio di una stazione radiotelefonica nel territorio di San Marino” (Agreement for the realization and management of an electric railway between Rimini and San Marino and the installation and employment of a radio station in San Marino territory). The work was assigned to SVEFT “Società Veneto Emiliana di Ferrovie e Tranvie” (Veneto and Emilia Railway and Tramway Society) who won the contract. On December 3, 1928, with the foundation stone laying ceremony, the works started from San Marino station. The construction continued during next three and half years occupying up to 3000 workers employed for 8 hours a day, in three shifts, for a total amount, at the completion of the railway, of over 8 millions of working hours. The outstanding technical difficulties, partly due to geologic features of great part of the territory, highly unstable and subject to landslides, and partly due to the very steep climb of the latter part of the route, were overcome thanks to innovative construction techniques who earned the railway the appellative “realizzazione mirabile” (admirable work).

    prima pietra.jpg
    the foundation stone laying ceremony, december 3, 1928

    works in progress - the "Montale" gallery excavation

    works in progress - San Marino station (in front of Montale gallery) be continued...
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
  2. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    ...second episode:

    The rolling stock

    Since the inauguration day, on June 12, 1932, the railway could count on a fleet of 4 electric locomotives (each with first and third class compartments) and 6 passenger coaches. The rolling stock was builded by Italian company Carminati & Toselli with power installations realized by Tecnomasio Italiano Brown Boveri (TIBB). Passenger compartments was divided in first and third class, each provided with electric heating (except for the third class-only coaches) and internal lighting. Among other coaches was noticeable, for magnificence and class, the special “saloncino” coach, reserved to VIPs travelling to and from San Marino which had also, as well as all locomotives, a toilet compartment. 18 coaches of different kinds, realized by OMP (Officine Meccaniche Piacentine) were allocated to freight transport. The electric locomotives, really innovative for the time, was powered at 3000 Volts DC provided by Dogana power station (near San Marino boundaries) that, thanks to technological pioneering plants, worked automatically, with no need for personnel in place. A typical train made with one locomotive and one passenger coach could travel the entire route, with all the stops, in about 55 minutes at average speed of 36 Km/h.

    A photo from Carminati & Toselli catalogue depicting one of the passenger coaches and two plates found on the trains.

    Third class compartment

    the luxurious "saloncino" coach

    The line

    The railway was inaugurated on June 12, 1932, with solemn ceremony, at the presence of Italian Communication Minister, count Costanzo Ciano, and San Marino Captain Regents, Giuliano Gozi and Pompeo Righi. The route had a total length of 32,040 Km. Starting from Rimini FS Station the new railway reached first the Rimini Marina stop (where were also located the repair workshop and the carriage shed). From there, crossing Flaminia road, it ran for over 7 Km in a almost straightforward way toward San Marino border. After having passed the Coriano-Cerasolo stop the train arrived in Dogana station, just across San Marino border. From this point the train started the hard climb made of bridges, cuttings, overhanging passages, turns and galleries. This was the most appealing part of the route which crossed first Serravalle Station and then, after Domagnano-Montelupo and Valdragone stops, arrived at Borgo Maggiore station, at the bottom of Titano mount. From here, after a very steep and winding climb through many galleries, all dug in the rock of the mountain, the train came out from the last one, Montale gallery, just in front of San Marino station at a height of 643 meters.

    Exiting a gallery toward mount Titano

    via bonaparte.jpg
    Arriving to the city of San Marino

    Climbing mount Titano

    Uscita Montale.jpg
    Out of Montale gallery...

    in stazione.jpg
    ...and right into San Marino station.

    Railway life

    From the first day of service the white and blue train experienced huge success. The chance to easily reach the top of mount Titano gave a great boost to tourism flows coming from Adriatic coast. To the ordinary railway traffic, granted by five couples of daily trains, were soon added many “popular trains”, with reduced fare, to accomplish the ever increasing demand. Aside the charm of the “foreign journey” to visit the ancient San Marino castles, the great beauty of the route with its incredible landscapes, always changing any time the train come out from one of the many galleries drilled through the mountain, was itself a valid reason to begin the travel on the white and blue train. The visitors number grew beyond any expectation confirming the great tourist value of the little country and positively affecting its economy. Soon the trains proved to be insufficient to satisfy the great demand and, in 1938, the mixed coaches (made up of a passenger compartment and a cargo hold) were modified transforming the cargo space in third class compartment to enhance passenger capacity. The train became soon part of the landscape and an habit for the local people, assuring a constant and punctual service even during the big winter snowstorms, when one of the locomotives, fitted with snow plow, kept the line clean travelling, if necessary, all the night.

    in posa.jpg
    Posing in front of the train

    Ultimi treni arrivati a San Marino.jpg
    One of the last "popular trains" coming to San Marino before WWII starting

    Next episode: the war.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
    ASC Mclaren likes this.
  3. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    ...third episode.
    The war

    Eight year after the inaugural run, on June 10, 1940, Italy entered WWII. This modified greatly – which was to be expected – the way the train was used from local people and, especially, from “foreigners”. Touristic journeys stopped completely and sammarinese people’s travels toward the coast was limited to the strict minimum. Railway, despite the battle raging all around, was keeping regularly its activities even in awareness that all travels outside the neutral territory of San Marino could be very risky as transportation lines was certainly one of the main objectives for allied bombers. As it turned out, bombing runs on November 26 and 27 1943, interrupted line near Rimini station and the end of line was shifted back to Colonnella railroad crossing. Anyway it wasn’t possible to stop train service because the usual sammarinese people traffic was gradually being replaced by Italian refugees going to San Marino searching for a shelter in a land supposed to be safe as it was a neutral country. Unfortunately this illusion was brutally broken on June 26, 1944 when the deprecated San Marino bombing, performed by British airplanes, destroyed completely the railway between Valdragone and Domagnano cutting away the upper part of the line. When the service was finally stopped, on July 4, 1944, after only 12 years of activity, San Marino territory had become an huge refugee camp and the 17 galleries of the white and blue train had been converted to temporary houses and bomb shelter both for the local people and for the refugees from Rimini and its surroundings. It’s estimated that in summer of 1944 about 100.000 Italian citizens were hosted in the little neutral republic, most of them in the galleries. Considering that San Marino inhabitants were, at that time, around 15.000 and that the little food supplies available in the territory were equally shared between all the people – a population increased more than ten times – we understand the great value of the deed a little nation was able to make in favor of neighboring people in an extremely difficult situation. The train had concluded its duty as a transport but wrote, in those days, the most glorious page of all its history. In Montale gallery was even installed a field hospital, using one of the coaches of the forcibly stopped train.

    Montale gallery transformed in shelter only few days after the bombardment of June 26, 1944.
    This one and the next 3 photos were taken by my father who was 26 years old at that time and servicing in San Marino Army as lieutenant.

    The group on the left is my dad's family. The first woman on the left is my grandmother. Every family had a little section of the gallery reserved.
    This was true only for the first weeks of gallery occupation. During following months the great number of people searching for repair reduced greatly the space available.

    Other families in their organized spaces.

    Out of the gallery a woman is preparing the "piadina" a typical kind of bread very popular in Romagna still now.

    The abandonment years

    At the end of the war, in Italy, rebuilding works were proceeding all around; many railways were restored, while our one, designated by Italian Ministry of Public Works as “third category line” was temporarily forgotten. As the line suspension was lasting for years, the personnel was gradually reduced and, in 1947, it counted only 10 persons with “keeper” duties. In the following years many restoring proposals and projects were submitted until, in 1957, SVEFT, after the 25 years concession was expired, quitted leaving to San Marino the part of the line comprised in its territory. Company goods were sold to a junk yard, the rolling stock still remaining on the San Marino station yard were pushed into the Montale gallery. The station itself was demolished ten years later to turn the place into a bus parking. In November 28, 1958, was signed an agreement between San Marino and Italy to realize a freeway, for the building of which many railway artifacts were dismantled and entire sections of the railroad removed.

    Inside Montale gallery the coaches being devoured by rust.

    San Marino station in early '50 just before being demolished.
    AB03 recovery

    The white and blue train was never forgotten, really. This is proved by the many and meritorious initiatives ever granted to the old railway. Thanks to the efforts expressed by volunteers and associations, to the extreme interest showed by people, to the dreams and hopes by fans and experts, all with the support of San Marino Government – who recognized the great value of the railway as an historical heritage to be protected and preserved – thanks to all these forces pushing together the Montale gallery was recently re-opened and the coaches recovered. One of the locomotives, the AB03, after 60 years of rust and loneliness in the dark of the gallery, was completely restored and brought back to full functionality. During an evocative ceremony, on June 12, 2012, the AB03 was running again on its original rails and came out from Montale gallery shining like brand new.

    San Marino, although for a short tract, has its railway again.

    June 8, 2011 - the AB03 see the light again after 60 years of darkness.

    All the coaches recovered from Montale waiting for their destiny in a State warehouse

    IMG_9793 b.JPG
    The AB03 under restoration

    June 12, 2012 - San Marino has its railway again! It's only a 800 metres railway but we love it!

    My story ends here. I hope you enjoyed it. Please feel free to give me your impressions, I'd appreciate it very much.

    Antonio Zani
    San Marino - October 25, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2014
    ASC Mclaren and Cybergrinder like this.
  4. Cybergrinder

    Cybergrinder Member Extraordinaire

    Wow, Tonino, that is a really moving story! (no pun intended ;))

    Being of British birth I do feel a sense of guilt that my countrymen of the day (I was born in '75 so way to young, but both Granddad's fought in WW2 (Royal Navy & Army)) wreaked such destruction on your beautiful country. my colleague next to me at work is Italian & constantly describes the beautiful scenery, I have not had the pleasure of visiting Italy.

    I have always had an interest in classic railways (mainly from the steam era though) and really enjoyed the history. It's seems a shame that the original line can't be restored, it would be a fantastic tourist attraction, the views from the galleries look stupendous!
  5. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    Thanks @Cybergrinder I'm very glad you liked this story. A lot of paper was written here trying to understand the reason for that bombardment but, simply, it's the war. Nothing we can say could change what's happened so...

    If you will be around here someday I'll take you for a tour of the old railway course, great part of it can be walked by foot and the view is still fantastic.

    We all are strongly fighting, here in San Marino, to have back our old little train but the moment is not good, government is trying to avoid unnecessary expenses and this one isn't considered an important one. But we will keep asking and, one day, we'll have the chance to go to Rimini by train... again!
  6. Cybergrinder

    Cybergrinder Member Extraordinaire

    Hi Tonino, thanks to grandparents mentioned, I've had in interest in WW2, (building lots of plastic model kits of WW2 planes as well) and when you read the "intelligence" that both sides had at the time it's quite scary!

    The battle of Monte Cassino in 1944 being a prime example, after the Allied bombings it was even better for the Germans to defend from....
  7. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    I'm afraid many war episode happened the same way. Montecassino is a major example but who knows how many times a weapon was used whitout strict necessity? I understand that San Marino bombing is a very little episode in the devastation of WWII but, as you can see in this document (taken from a book) the pilots themselves were not sure if their objective was right... but they dropped bombs anyway...

    bomb 001.jpg
  8. Bill Nelson

    Bill Nelson Well-Known Member

    Thank you for the effort involved in posting this interesting history. I'll have to go back and study it more carefully. thanks again

    Bill Nelson
  9. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    Thanks @Bill Nelson I shared this because I think it's a beautiful story and I'm glad to see that someone find it interesting.
    Please feel free to share it with any railway-enthusuiast you think can enjoy it and let me know what do you think of it when you'll have read it.
  10. Tonino

    Tonino Member

    ...An update.
    Finally, after restoration of the "outside", the inner rebuilding has started!

    Here are some "fresh"images from ATBA Facebook Page

    560160_10205037830735128_44470827471075683_n.jpg 1509737_10205037838095312_6001074431938273945_n.jpg 10619956_10205037847415545_4800290301282512301_o.jpg 10649000_10205037827775054_6824590922886229483_o.jpg 10658537_10205037861455896_8159664976748803829_o.jpg 10675609_10205037857615800_9107560331729153510_n.jpg 10689793_10205037821614900_4180409682885916308_n.jpg 10689846_10205037841575399_5893552846498817162_n.jpg 10702059_10205037816054761_6891383506964768001_n.jpg 10750197_10205037818094812_1736329452055239318_o.jpg

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