Tuesday, January 19, 2010

New book on the Turin to Chambéry railway

This is the main arterial route between France and Italy for both rail and road traffic, and involves traversing the mountains that form the border area. The railway has a small association with New Zealand as initially a Fell third-rail steam train system which ran for 77 km over Mt Cenis was used, just as was used on the Rimutaka Ranges (and at 1100 mm the track gauge was not much more than the 1067 mm used in NZ). And like the Rimutakas, this was replaced with a long tunnel. There was a big difference in the longevity, however - the Mt Cenis line lasted only 3 years from 1868 to 1871, the Rimutaka system lasted 77 years from 1878 to 1955, but was much shorter in distance, only 5 km. Some of the Mt Cenis equipment was taken to Brasil, while the Rimutaka system was the third and last system using English engineer J.B. Fell's principles.

Since 1871 the Fréjus line, including the 13.7 km tunnel, has remained a full fledged alpine railway. The ascent to the the highest point (1,295 metres above sea level) involves a steep climb up the Maurienne valley (after which our Waikanae property is named) on the French side and the Susa valley on the Italian side. The book covers the full history of this route including the various electric traction forms and the international trains that have run over over it. The text is unfortunately in Italian only.

The photo shows St Jean de Maurienne, with the railway in the centre. (click for larger views.)

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