Salviamo l'E550.025


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St. Louis ETE members (l to r) Ulrich Wagner, Dave Weidler, Ben Lapinski, and John Schott pose in front of the E 550.025 during a Museum outing

See how the E550 looked when it arrived in 1968

As is often the case, few people are aware, and even fewer care, as a distinctive and irreplaceable piece of railroad history rusts and crumbles into the dust. Such is the case with the Italian Railways E550.025 on outdoor display at the Museum of Transport in St. Louis, Missouri.

Very few examples of foreign railway stock exist in the U.S. Many states still have their French Merci "40 and 8" box car intact and on display (as a thank you for aid given during WWII, France gave a box car full of French products to each of the 48 states). The E550.025 was donated to the people of the United States by the Italian Government in 1968 and is a prime example of high output three-phase electric traction. This class of locomotive numbered 186 units and was used extensively on the Giovi incline leaving Genoa, Italy. The only other surviving E550 (E550.030) is in the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milan.

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Closeup of the unique "trolley" arrangement of the E550 - power was collected from dual overhead wire necessitating two isolated collectors on the fixture.

Besides being a prime example of the type of motive power used in the now defunct three phase electrical system which covered much of northwest Italy, this locomotive has significance to U.S. industry; much of the electrical system engineering was done by Westinghouse-Italy. This same type of electrification was once installed in the Cascade Tunnels

When I last saw this unit in 1988, the paint was obviously peeling and rust had appeared.

News:

  • September 2009: During a phone conversation, President Mario Malavasi of the Museo Ferroviario Piemontese told me that on 1 September the official documents regarding the transfer were signed. All that remains is to raise the money for the transportation!
  • July 2009: Word has reached us that the Museum has again reversed its thinking and has finally agreed to divest itself of the E.550. According to information circulating in Italy, the locomotive's new home will be the the Museo Ferroviario Piemontese headquartered in Torino. GianFranco Ferro informs me that the price tag to transport the loco to Italy is approximately $80,000!

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    E550.025 to return to Italy

    Mule of the Giovi E 550.025 will return in Italy after 41 years: given by the Italian Government to the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis in 1968 the triphase locomotive that with its twins revolutionized train movement at the beginning of the last century, returns to Italy thanks to the actions of the Piemontese Railway Museum and the will power of its President, Professor Fabio Malavasi.

    Arrival at Savigliano is contingent on the logistics of over-the-road and oceanic transportation. The U.S. museum agreed to transfer the locomotive after deciding to concentrate its efforts on maintaining and displaying only locomotives of North American origin. Only one other locomotive of this group exists; E550.030 is on display at the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Milano.

    -M. Bruzzo

  • January 2005: I was contacted by the Vado Ligure plant now owned by the Bombardier corporation (Vado Ligure is the location where these locomotives were built). They were interested in acquiring the locomotive so that it could be cosmetically restored and put on display in time for their 100th anniversary in April 2005. I conveyed their proposal to the museum and put them in touch with one another, but nothing came of it. Turns out that Bombardier had also approached the Milan museum with the same request for E550.030 and was similarly turned down.
  • July 2002: The Museum has reversed its position (see the item below), deciding to keep the little Italian electric. This happened just as we found out that a rail museum in Torino had obtained support to acquire the E550 and return it to Italy. With this news, we hope to be able to catalyze the Museum into action!
  • Early 2001: The Museum has decided to redirect its efforts exclusively to North American transportation items. We are in contact with GianFranco Ferro, co-author of the definitive book on the E550, and plans are underway for the eventual repatriation of this locomotive to Italy.
  • July 2000: Thanks to Pietro Pinto, a friend of GianFranco's, we now have accurate samples of the three paint colors needed to restore the E550.

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Closeup of the side showing the peeling paint and surface rust around the cast number plate common to most Italian locomotives.

The European Train Enthusiasts continues its campaign to collect donations to help offset the cost of moving the E550.025. If you can help with this effort, please contact ; potete scrivergli anche in Italiano.

Learn more about the European Train Enthusiasts.

More E550.025 Photos.

E550 Technical Data (Phase I Locos).

For more information on Italian Railways, visit: The Italian Railway Bibliography (in Italian)

Last update 4 Sep 2009
This site maintained by Blaine Bachman and created with the photographic assistance of Bill Comfort, Jr.