Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Steam Diesel & Electric

Two Aging Workhorses
I spent the morning at the Museo Ferroviario Della Puglia (Apulia Railway Museum) today. A bit out of the way, on the wrong side of the tracks (literally), and down a one way road, but definitely a wonderful way to spend a warm sunny morning in Lecce.

The Engineer's Tools
I walked down yesterday to find out that the museum was closed because it had two large tours booked, and one of them consisted of what seemed like 100 very excited six year olds, and another a high school class trip. I was only too happy to wait for today to visit. Not only were there no tours, I had the entire museum to myself. The only other people I met were a few of the dedicated volunteers that man the museum and restore the rolling stock. Where in some of the other museums I felt I was being shadowed by suspicious staff, here I was pointed in the right direction and allowed to explore.
Inside a Passanger Car

Tiny Shunting Engine
The museum consists of locomotives, from a 1911 steam engine to a tiny self-powered shunting engine. There was a pedal powered handcart, and a huge car used for luggage and steam heating for the whole train. There are many train cars from standard passenger cars to a prisoner transport wagon. There were diesel engines and a massive electric locomotive. As well there were many miniature trains and model train setups. Of special interest to me were the support systems with those gears, leavers and sprockets I love. They had a huge lathe for re-turning train axles, and an example of a general workshop used to service the trains. Some of the cars were open and you could explore them, but many were closed. Many of these engines and cars are not restored; they are worn and beaten survivors of years of use on Puglia’s railway routes. I believe that many of these trains actually still work, and the guide tells of historic train tours on the tracks of Salento for special events. Examining some of the engines they look operational to me. Inside two long rail couches there was an interesting display of model trains and historic railway posters.

Fiat Support Van
I enjoyed being allowed to just wander among the many rolling stock, and discovered another group of cars outside, one being touched up by a volunteer, and off to one end I discovered a collection of very sad looking support vehicles. Two were old hand carts that had been converted to motorcycle engine power. Two were obviously based on WWII US Army jeeps, and one appeared to be two mini Fiat vans welded end to end with controls at either end. One was a custom bodied vehicle based on the fiat chassis. Pictures in the excellent English guide show these vehicles that used to check tracks and perform track maintenance, in much better shape than they appear now, rusting away in a corner of the facility.
Prisoner Transport Car

Wandering around the museum, I could not help thinking of my Grandfather. He loved trains and built model trains. He would have loved this museum, and I could just imagine exploring this place with him. He would have been able to explain everything, and I know he would have been fascinated with the many interesting displays.

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