Around 1930 a new type of trains appeared all over Europe: self-propelled railcars powered by liquid fuel, consisting of a single unit with an open interior including the driver’s seat. The German Schienenbus looked like a bus that was put on the rails. In Italy, a car manufacturer took this concept to a higher level. The Fiat automotrici were modern, efficient and beautifully designed.
The Littorina can be regarded as a co-production of Mussolini and Fiat president Agnelli. The new train type helped achieve Mussolini’s political goals, proudly carrying the symbol of his fascist party on its front. Agnelli was able to realize his ambitions for Fiat’s railway division — as far as in Africa.
by Arjan den Boer
Even today, for many Italians who are no longer very young, the “Littorina” is that small brown train, very similar to a coach, which was driven like a truck and that ran quickly between the valleys, the mountains and the thousand, small, stations of the Italian province.
This was precisely the key to the popular success of this train in the late 1930s. With this means, on many lines, the expensive and heavy steam traction could be eliminated, gaining speed, flexibility of use and economy of operation. Furthermore, the Italian mechanical engineering industry was well prepared and equipped for the production of light vehicles with internal combustion and the railway administration was very interested in the development of this type of rolling stock.
In short, everything contributed to the rapid realization of a consolidated national design of this strange train, very similar to the buses of the time, of which many small details were also reused.
The first light railcar built for the FS, the legendary Alb 48 petrol, entered into operation on the Cerignola-Campagna-Cerignola line in 1933 and the success was immediate: elegant, light, equipped with comfortable body and provided with numerous windows, able to reach 110 km / h on the plain and be able to proceed in both directions. As soon as the trial period ended, about sixty of these railcars were used on the FS lines and many other types of diesel railcars were developed by the national industry for the FS, which built a specific Officina Motori for the maintenance of these vehicles in Florence.
It was only a stage of the prestigious evolution of these rail vehicles in Italy, a path that will take the FS to the first places in the world in this particular sector of railway traction. At the beginning of 1940 over 800 railcars of various types covered the Italian lines.
Ancora oggi, per molti italiani non più giovanissimi, la “Littorina” è quel piccolo treno marrone, molto simile ad un pullman, che si guidava come un camion e che correva veloce tra le valli, le montagne e le mille, piccole, stazioni della provincia italiana.
Tutto concorse, insomma, alla rapida realizzazione di una progettazione nazionale consolidata di questo strano trenino, molto simile agli autobus dell’epoca, dei quali venivano riutilizzati anche molti piccoli particolari.
Era solo una tappa della prestigiosa evoluzione di questi mezzi ferroviari in Italia, un percorso che porterà le FS ai primi posti nel mondo in questo particolare settore della trazione ferroviaria. All’inizio del 1940 oltre 800 automotrici di vario tipo percorrevano le linee italiane.
Presented by Romano Pisciotti