Diary of a photo-safari
Every year railways in our country give hospitality to a mass of foreigner railfans travelling on most unpopular lines or on best private lines looking for emotions and feelings going well over the simply pleasure of travelling on a train. Groups coming from England, Germany or Europe organize photo tours with steam trains or with old diesel or electric compositions, often in joint with national wellknown groups. In the finally vast panorama of heritage trains these kind of tours are always long-awaited, overall those organized by DGEG, by The RTC, by C.Maria Fagioli more than single railfan organized tours, like ones by Andrč Sinn and Hansjurg Rohrer. Particulalrly this last one - after having left switzerland trains photography in 1976 (his country) - started tripping all along our nation since 1971, with his first runs on FCL lines with locos or material now vanished. By then, every year Rohrer hosts a serie of trains in a restricted area, following organized dates tour let you trip and shot quite well on some of the most beautifull lines of our railways. After some steam tours on FS - in times when prices for these trains were more normal - the attention of Rohrer's group is moved to italian private lines, with more focusing on south and isles lines. In April of this year i was joining this photo tour, organized on FC and FAL lines, on a calendar from 7/4 to 13/4. This is the tale of that experience. After having solved all economic papers, the meeting with the group - 18 members - was in Catanzaro Sala at 8 pm on 6 of April. I arrived there directly, while other railfans were coming from 2 preceeding days in Sicily on FCE, where the also used old steam loco Mascali. Rapidly we were in the hotel. On first day - sunday 7 - was dedicated to a freight train with steam loco FC 353 from Catanzaro to Gimigliano and to a trip from Catanzaro to the sea with an old dmu coupled with a diesel rack loco on the rack part of the trackage. The 353 was very powerful and it was waiting us ready in the depot and after some shunting moves we were right down the line. After having run the 10 kilometers of the line to Gimigliano, we made water and then we went back to Catanzaro. The light now was right so we made many stops on bridges, tunnels and points similar to alpine railways. Once arrived in Catanzaro, we were ready to board on the old M2 railcar in the red/yellow colors coupled to one of the three rack pushers LM2 built in Switzerland. We leaved and immediately we were on the rack line bracketed by the rack loco fronting us, which with big noise and shacks had hard work for our photo stops on this line. Arrived in Catanzaro Sala FC the loco leaved our railcar while we went to the Lido even stopping near S.Maria rounded by curious people of the townfor a photo with our M2 sided to FS trains on the standard gauge track. Once climbed to Catanzaro Cittą we left our ralwaymen , right then ready to depart with a steam train to Cosenza hosted by The RTC. Instead we transferred to Lamezia and the next day to Gioia Tauro. In the morning, among little railcars arriving and departing from the small terminus of FC lines, standed our diesel freight made up with some flat cars and a wagon with seats trailed by a flashing LM4 loco, cleaned by graffiti right for the occasion. Until Cinquefrondi we stopped some times to take pics of our train in nice locations or in forgotten stations. On the returning leg, in the noon, a M2 in new colors was taking us to Palmi with some stops to the iron bridge parallel to the FS one. Railwaymen of this group of lines expressed us their bad feelings about the future, when in 2003 the region will take control of the train services instead of the actual society, without the will of mainteining them. At the end we tripped right to Cosenza, where we made our base for some days. The first of these - 9 april - we ran to S.Nicola Silvana Mansio (the highest station in Europe) - on Sila mountains - aboard of an old M2. Along this wonderful line we made many photo run-bys even meeting some trains, really few to be honest. The original plan was to go until S.Giovanni in Fiore, but this trackage is now closed due to rails works. On the unique scenery of the Sila's plateau our little M2 seemes hiding, thanks even to a black sky mining colors of our shots. The day before we had steam daparture from Cosenza to Rogliano with a freight pulled by the 353. Men were coming from a hard service with the english group and even with the C.M.Fagioli special. Our trip - in long tunnels and steep grades - had sure not to be so simply, but the loco was really in nice shape, overall thanks to hard extra works of some railwaymen loving their job, hardly fighting with years of un-culture in railways societies. Many were the meetings with normal trains - all new M4 graffited - and plus we were followed by a diesel passenger extra with LM4 and two coaches bound to Catanzaro for extras on next days. The trip ended in Rogliano , where an ordinary train took us back to Cosenza. From here, the next day, again with a common train, we turned back to Rogliano. Today the train was a diesel freight with a green LM4, ready to Cosenza. Even here: tons of photo stops and rolls went by. The precision of photo-stops in Rohrer's trains is well-known: everything has to be in the right place to obtain a nice shot: light, scenery, train composition and much steam (if there is a steam loco!). Once in Cosenza, a long journey waited us to reach Gioia del Colle and our next hotel. In the morning - even if with some disguides due to faulting to our FS railcar - we reached Altamura - under a storm - where our special was waiting for us: another freight with a red LM4. Bound to Matera, we stopped to those lost stations on this highly used line and in some points where now the line diverts from its original course. In Villa Longo switchback and return to Altamura. Meanwhile wheater was cooming better , just right to a singolar excursion on Potenza's line: in the noon the steam loco FAL 402 (former Murgia Express) was trailed by our LM4 and some wagons on the nice bridge rounding old Gravina town. Arrived there, the diesel was uncoupled and 402 was free to run over the bridge on some run bys. All this because the steamer is now less powerful than in the past: for safety reason the boiler is now checked to a bar lower than original and Coale valves are still suffering some illness. It's remarkable that all these handworks are again in charge of singolar railwaymen, after society quickly colored the steamer roof in white (!!!) and added the electronic label on a side of the cab...... On the next day - 13 april, last of the tour - a long and articulated trip was waiting us, with the 402 and some wagons along the hard line from Gravina to Avigliano Lucania. In the morning we were all ready to the long journet, but the machine was still under pressure, so first photo stops were mostly coreographic. Many stops were made in the nice hilly landscape that this track is offering until 402 was ready, when show went on: due to the non-perfection regulation of the valves, when men was about to move the loco, steam and heat was coming out with violence from every hole with grey and black columns. Finally the loco won, but to be sure all the rest of the trip was a sequence of coupling and un-coupling moves to let the diesel helping us out from our shots. In Irsina we met RTC group, joining the train with us (and reducing economic costs...) until Avigliano. Arrived in this double gauge yard, we left the train bound to Potenza and already booked for another train the day after. On a FS local to Foggia we started our trip back to home, who in Italy, who outside. I remeber and here salute members of the team: the only railfan coming from Holland, those four from Germany, the 3 members coming from Austria and all 9 Switzerland railfans, among them Gert who helped me taking some pics when i was ill to a feet (...). And now all i can do is wait the next trip! If you want to join ot to know which are next tours, visit Rohrer's website here. To see some strange pics of this trip go here .