Catching the train deep under the Apennines

A major link in the Italian rail network is the 18.5 kilometre long Apennine Tunnel, passing under the Apennine Mountains to connect the railways of north Italy with those of Tuscany and central Italy. But it is notable for more than just length – second longest in the world when completed, and 16th longest today – but for a railway station located midway through the tunnel – “Stazione delle Precedenze”.

The first railway connecting these Bologna and Florence opened in 1864, via a steep and winding single track route over the Apennines.

However increasing rail traffic saw the need for a more direct route, so a double track “direttissima” (most direct) route was approved. Construction of the Apennine Tunnel commenced on this route in 1923, from three locations – the two tunnel portals, as well the middle.

The central shaft was located at the village of Cà di Landino.

With a funicular railway running through two 500 metre long shafts on a 27 degree incline to the tunnel itself.

On 5 December 1929 a ceremony was held at Stazione delle Precedenze to mark the breakthrough of the tunnel.

With the tunnel opening to trains on 22 April 1934.

Due to the length of the tunnel, the decision was made to build a station in the middle – “Stazione delle Precedenze”.

Two crossovers were provided in the station cavern to allow trains to change tracks, and two 450 metre long siding tracks beside the main double track tunnel, so that slow or failed trains would not delay other services.

All controlled by a signal panel.

Passenger platforms were also provided for the residents of Cà di Landino.

Accessed via 1863 steps!

Trains still used the Apennine Tunnel today, but Stazione delle Precedenze was closed to passengers in the 1960s – equipment rooms now occupying the site, the passing tracks having been dismantled, and the crossover points converted to remote control.

Further reading

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Turning a locomotive on a reversing star

There are many ways for a locomotive to be turned – reversing loops, turntables, and triangular junctions. But there is one bizarre track configuration that can also do the same job – a reversing star.

Google Maps

How they work

Reversing stars were common on the railways of Italy, where they are known as Stella di inversioneItilian language Wikipedia describes them further.

The reversing star is configuration of railway tracks in the shape of a five pointed star that allows the reversing of an asymmetrical rail vehicle, such as a steam locomotive, in a limited space.

The reversing star is functionally equivalent to a turntable or return loop. Identical functionality can be obtained through a star configuration with an arbitrary number of points, as long as they are odd. In reality, in addition to the pentagram inversion star, only the reversing triangle is used.

Being a fixed installation, the reversing star requires less maintenance than the turntable and therefore was for this reason preferred to it in some cases. Compared to the reversing triangle, more widespread in the United States , the number of manoeuvres required is greater, but the space occupied is much smaller. The dimensions are also much smaller compared to the return loop, but it has the advantage of being able to reverse an entire train.

And how they are used to turn a train.

The star consists of five segments, two of which are usually connected to the main track for entry and exit, while the other three are dead ends. Alternatively, a single entry / exit track can be provided with four dead end tracks. There are a total of five sets of points, one at each vertex of the star, as well as three diamond crossings.

The locomotive coming from the mainline enters the star from the access track and proceeds on the first leg. After switching the points, the locomotive moves back to the second leg, then advances on the next leg and then moves back onto the exit track, returning to the mainline with the front facing the direction opposite to the one at the entrance.

At least five reversing stars were built on the railways of Italy.

Malles Venosta

Malles Venosta is in South Tyrol, and opened in 1906 as the terminus of the newly built Val Venosta railway. It closed in 1990, but reopened in 2005. The reversing star was built in 1930, and is still operational today for the use of tourist trains.

With at least one HO scale model version also existing.

Carbonia Stato

Carbonia Stato station in Sardinia opened as the terminus of the Villamassargia-Carbonia railway in 1956, with a reversing star provided instead of a turntable.

Google Maps

Today the line is used by tourist trains.

With steam locomotives using the reversing star.


Oristano station in Sardinia opened as the terminus of the San Gavino Monreale railway in 1872. A reversing star was provided by World War II, with the remaining in place until 2013, when the tracks were dismantled.

Google Maps

San Candido and Brennero

Reversing stars were installed at stations of Brennero and San Candido following World War I, when the division of Tyrol under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, which created a need for locomotives to be turned at the new national borders.

Both stations remain open to trains today, but the reversing stars have been removed.

Verona Porta Nuova

This one isn’t a true reversing star, but a complex arrangement of track to the west of Verona Porta Nuova station that allow a complete train to be reversed.

Google Maps

Further reading

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Moscow Metro curved, side and triple track stations

Each of the 232 stations on the Moscow Metro might have a unique look, but there is one design feature the majority share – two tracks flanking a central island platform. But how about the exceptions?

Ornately decorated central passage of the platform, with chandeliers above

Adopting a standard

Russian-language Wikipedia describes how the ‘standard’ station design came to be.

On 15 June 1931 at the meeting of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union it was decided to build the Moscow Metro to improve the transport situation in the city. In November 1931, construction began on the first experimental site on Rusakovskaya Street. During the design, a debate arose about the type of future metro stations: whether they will have island or side platforms. It was decided to adopt a three-vaulted station with island platform design.

And so the design spread across the Soviet Union in the decades that followed.

Train streaks out of the platform

But what of the exceptions?

Side platforms

Eight Moscow Metro stations have side platforms, but only one of which is underground – Алекса́ндровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad).

Excluded from the initial plans for the first stage of the Moscow Metro, it was decided to build the station once the route had been decided, so the tunnel was expanded in size to allow curved platforms to be built beside the tracks.

Curved platforms at Александровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad) station

Four more stations with side platforms are located on the above ground section of Line 4Кутузовская (Kutuzovskaya), Студенческая (Studencheskaya), Фили (Fili) and Кунцевская (Kuntsevskaya).

Moscow Metro train on line 3 arrives at Кунцевская (Kuntsevskaya) station

Vykhino (Выхино) was built as an above ground station with side platforms.

Мякининo (Myakinino) was constructed on the second floor of a shopping mall.

And finally we have Технопарк (Tekhnopark) – an above ground station retrofitted to an already operational stretch of the Zamoskvoretskaya line.

Curved platforms

Six Moscow Metro stations have platforms located in a curve, and we’ve covered two already – Алекса́ндровский сад (Aleksandrovsky Sad) and Кутузовская (Kutuzovskaya).

Международная (Mezhdunarodnaya) and Выставочная (Vystavochnaya) stations were designed to “light metro” standards, but changed during construction to handle normal sized trains, requiring platform extensions alongside curved tunnels.

While Пя́тницкое шоссе́ (Pyatnitskoye Shosse) and Зя́бликово (Zyablikovo) were built from scratch with slight curves.

Triple track stations

And finally, the strangest station design – three tracks served by four platforms.

Партизанская (Partizanskaya) was built with such a configuration to handle crowds headed to a nearby stadium that was planned but never built.

While Полежаевская (Polezhayevskaya) was built as a junction station for a never constructed branch line.


Meanwhile on the Nizhny Novgorod Metro there is a platform arrangement not found anywhere else in Russia – two island platforms and four tracks located in a single station cavern.

Московская (Moskovskaya) station: the only station with this layout in Russia

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Rubber stamping Russian restaurant menus

As I travelled across Russia, there was peculiar on the menu at every restaurant I ate at – each page had a rubber stamp on it.

ресторан sign on the roof

Featuring what seemed to be the name of the restaurant, and a signature.

Official looking stamp on a Russian restaurant menu

So why stamp each page?

Another Russian restaurant menu with a stamp on every page

The only reason I could think of was to prevent fraud, but I could only find one reference to restaurant menu seals online, in an article on Russian Railways dining cars.

Each dining car has an approved menu with prices and list of dishes, but I have not seen a single dining car which works on this way – the directors print their own menu, forge the seal on it and work on it, of course the prices are 30- 50% higher from this menu.

So who is responsible for approving the restaurant menus?

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Switching from right to left on the Wiener Straßenbahn

Trams on the Wiener Straßenbahn run on the right hand side just like every other road vehicle in Austria, but there is one exception – the elevated tracks of line 26.

E1 tram 4830 and trailer heads up Kaiserstraße at Westbahnstraße

Opened in 2013, the 4.7 kilometre long extension of tram route 26 links the U1 station at Kagraner Platz with U2 station at Hausfeldstrasse, running on a viaduct between Laaer Ostbahn and the Wiener Nordrand Schnellstraße.

With an elevated island tram stop at the Gewerbepark Stadlau industrial park.

Vienna uses unidirectional trams, which have doors on one side only.

ULF-B tram 635 passes a older E class tram and C class trailer combo at Westbahnhof

Which requires trams to run through the island platform on the left hand side.

Trams switching from right to left at the Süßenbrunner Str/Oberfeldgasse stop.

And then back again at the Forstnergasse stop.


Here is the view from route 26 tram – 3:35 to 7:10 covers the section of left-hand running.

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Gothenburg tram swapping sides from left to right

In the Swedish city of Gothenburg the tram network has a curious section of track – a diamond crossing that swaps the left and right tracks around.

Sweden switched from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right on 3 September 1967, the day being Dagen H or “Högertrafikomläggningen” (“The right-hand traffic diversion”).

Tram operator Göteborgs Spårvägar started planning for the change from 1964, with 27 trams, 24 trailers and a bus converted for right-hand traffic, and 53 new motor-buses for right-hand traffic purchased. In 1965, 30 new right-hand trams were added.

Another planned project of the 1960s was the conversion of the tramways to an underground rapid transit system, so new tram extensions were built to ‘premetro‘ standards.

Line 8 from Frölunda to Angered is one example, with tramway passing through city streets using traditional right-hand running.

But to save on construction costs in the underground section, it was decided to build an island platform at Hammarkullen, which required the single-directional trams to use left-hand running through the tunnels.

Which required trams to switch from left- to right-hand running partway along the route – at the Hjällbo stop.

The crossover is at grade, so only one tram can occupy it at a time.

Further reading

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Lookalike Melbourne trams in Lisboa

I recently found a familiar looking trams in an unexpected location, when reading about about a new tram order for the Portuguese capital of Lisboa.

Railway Gazette has the back story:

CAF wins Lisboa tram tender
19 December 2019

Portugal: CAF has won a competition to supply 15 trams to Lisboa bus and tram operator Carris. CAF’s proposal was selected ahead of a bid from Stadler, whose offer was around €1·5m more.

The €45m procurement was launched in April 2018 and includes €5m for maintenance activity. The tender specifications stipulated that the trams needed to be ‘bigger and have more capacity’ then the current Carris fleet.

The first of the 15 vehicles is expected to enter service in 2021 with the remaining cars arriving over the course of 2022-23. The tram procurement is the first to be undertaken by Carris since 1995, when it ordered 10 articulated LRVs from Siemens.

This is that comes to mind when I think of a Lisboa tram.

But the tram in the mockup looks just like those that run in my home city of Melbourne, Australia.

E.6018 on a shakedown run heads west along La Trobe Street

The tram in question being a Melbourne E-class – a three-section, four-bogie articulated tram built by Bombardier’s Dandenong factory, based on the Flexity Swift design.

Given Bombardier didn’t appear to tender for the contract in Lisboa, how did a Melbourne tram end up in as a mockup?

I’m guessing that the tram operator or local government did the mockups themselves, without the involvement of a tram manufacturer, and their designer just picked whatever modern looking tram they liked as the base.


Believe it or now, but two Portuguese trams have visited Melbourne before – a Bombardier Eurotram from the Porto Metro in 2003, and the Siemens Combino Plus from Metro Transportes Sul do Tejo in 2007. Both were sent over by the manufactures, on promotional tours to win future tram orders.

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Bizzare narrow platforms on the Bucharest Metro

The Bucharest Metro is a rail network with an interesting history, with the bizarrely narrow platforms at Piața Romană station being one example.

The bulk of the platform being less than a metre wide.

With passengers having to wait in the cross passages that lead to it.

The reason for the bizarre configuration – the station was built in secret against the wishes of Elena Ceaușescu, wife of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu – as Romanian magazine Historia explains.

The peril of narrow and curved platforms has made Piața Romană unique among the subway stations in Bucharest. It’s strange appearance we owe to Elena Ceausescu, who removed it from the map of the subway designers in 1985, for a bizarre reason.

“There are too many stations, stop them!” – this was the order of Elena Ceaușescu when she saw the project for the Berceni – Pipera subway section 2, one of the three designers of the station, Sorin Călinescu, told us. He argues, however, that this subway stop was built in secret, in violation of the comrade’s order, which was unwavering in her decision.

The problem raised by Elena Ceausescu was that both the working class and the youth “started to get fat” and needed to walk more, recall those who worked on the construction of the subway.

“We received an order from the Communist Party to exclude at least one station from the scheme, which was almost impossible because we were few and they gave us plans. We decided to eliminate, only on paper, the most important station, so that afterwards we would be obliged to replace it.” explained Călinescu, the current head of the consulting department Metroul SA.

Călinescu tells that when the works began on the Berceni-Pipera section, in 1986, the people who officially worked on the section of the University Square – Victoriei Square prepared the land in the area around Piața Romană. In a record time of three months, the builders made some tunnels behind the thick walls we see today, with the thought of being transformed into platforms later.

The line M2 tracks through Piața Romană station opened on 24 October 1987, as part of the 8.72 km long five station extension from Piata Unirii 2 – Pipera.

Passengers all onboard, the hoards are trying to leave the platform

Initially trains passed through the incomplete station without stopping, but following pressure from the Bucharest residents the go ahead was given to complete the station. The remainder of the station was excavated, and the walls to the tunnel broken through, with Piața Romană station opened a year later on 28 November 1988.

Further reading

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Moscow Metro stations inside train depots

Another entry in the list of oddball Moscow Metro stations is Pervomayskaya (Первомайская) and Kaluzhskaya (Калужская) – both were constructed inside a train depot!

Pervomayskaya station

The story starts in 1950 when the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line was extended 1.5 kilometres to a new ground level depot at Izmailovo on the eastern edge of Moscow. The Izmaylovo District next to the depot was unserved by the metro, so the decision was made to convert roads 21-23 of the depot shed into a station, with an island platform built over the centre track.

On completion in 1954 Pervomayskaya was the first Moscow Metro station to be located at ground level, and the only one to have a wooden roof. Architect Nikolai Ivanovich Demchinsky designed the station with marble walls and platform, whitewashed ceiling, and lobby building facing the street.

Photo via PastVu

Pervomayskaya station remained in service until 1961 when the line was extended further east to a ‘new’ Pervomayskaya station, with the old station replaced by Izmaylovskaya station a short distance to the south.

Today the station still exists, the platform having been demolished but the tiled walls and decorative reliefs intact.

The station vestibule also remains, hidden beside inside the depot yard.

Kaluzhskaya station

In 1962 Kaluzhskaya Depot opened at the southern end of the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya line.

Soon after it was decided to extend passenger services a short distance inside the depot, so a temporary station was constructed inside the depot shed, opening to passengers in 1964.

Photo via

With public access from the tail end of the depot shed.

Following the extension of the line further south to Belyayevo (Беля́ево) in 1974 the temporary station inside the depot was closed, replaced by a new underground station a short distance to the west, also called Kaluzhskaya.

Today the station platform and tracks remain in place, with the lobby used as a staff lounge, but the street entrance is hidden by a neighbouring office building.

Sources – Pervomayskaya station

Sources – Kaluzhskaya station

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Russian language railfan magazines

If you only speak English then the language barrier gets in the way of exploring the wide world of railways – railfans usually stick to their own language when discussing their hobby! The railfans of Russia are no different, with at least two Russian language railway enthusiast and modelling magazines currently being published.

The first is «Железнодорожное Дело» (“Railway Business”) which has been published since 1991:

The Anthology for Railway Fans and Railway Modelists

The other is «Локотранс» (“Lokotrans”) founded in 1993:

The work of the almanac is carried out in the field of popularization and preservation of the history of railway transport, the provision of information to support the activities of historians, collectors, modellers and manufacturers of large-scale copy models, which are an important component of this movement; assistance in the conduct and development of amateur retro-rail tourism; Restorations of monuments of history of technology, the establishment and development of partnerships with similar organizations and the media.

I stumbled upon both magazines in a Moscow model railway shop, and picked up a few back issues to flick through the photos, and get utterly confused given I can’t read the language!

And a tram footnote

The publishers of «Железнодорожное Дело» once published a tram magazine called «Бугель» (“Bow Collector”) but it no longer seems to be in print.

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