[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

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Chapter II

Section III.
Railway Construction considered in relation to the ultimate Railway system

5. - Line 50. The West Coast Route. Rome-Leghorn-Pisa-Genoa-Turin-Modane (France).

a) Description of Line.

No diagrams are included to illustrate this line.

In peacetime this was a line of some importance, connecting, as it does, Rome to the industrial North and France. It was however second in importance to the inland line-Line 65 Rome-Florence-Milan. In wartime, its importance arose from the fact that it followed closely the 5th Army drive up the West coast from Rome to Leghorn and gave support to subsequent operations in the Appenine Mountains North-East of Leghorn.

From Rome the lines makes directly for the coast. It then turns North-West and follows the coast through the port of Civitavecchia to a point about 15 kilometres North of the town and port of Orbetello. Here the line diverges from the coast through a gap in the coastal hills and comes to the town of Grosseto. From Grosseto the line continues North and then West, coming out on to the sea coat again for a short distance before turning inland again to byepass the irregular promontory of Piombino. Just North of this promontory, the line comes out again on to the coast which it follows closely up to the port of Leghorn. From Leghorn, through the port of Spezia to the port of Genoa, the line in general follows the coast closely except for an excursion inland were it passes through Pisa.

At Genoa, the line finally leaves the coast and turns North climbing steeply through the valley of the river Polcevera, crosses over the watershed into the valley of the river Scrivia down which it runs to Novi. At Novi, the lines leaves the Scrivia and crossing a broad plain joins the river Tanaro at Alessandria. Following the Tanaro for 30 kilometres up to Asti, it then leaves the river and continues West crossing some low hills into the broad upper valley of the river Po which it crosses to reach Turin.

Leaving Turin, the line travels nearly due West up the valley of the river Dora Riparia to Bussoleno and then turning South-West follows the tributary river Bardonecchia up to the town of Bardonecchia, where it turns North-West and passing through the Mount Cenis tunnel crosses the border into France, finally emerging from the tunnel at the French town of Modane.

The scale of engineering works on the line is very variable. In general, it can be said that the line is more heavily engineered in the North than in the South. Between Rome and Spezia the line passes through open country. With a few exceptions, the rivers draining the hills are short in length and discharge into the sea individually. Although this fact tends to increase the number of structures, it equally tends to reduce the size of individual structures. The most heavily engineered section, in this length, is a section about 20 kilometres in length just South of Leghorn, were the line runs along coastal cliffs.

From Spezia to Genoa the line is very heavily engineered. Over the whole of this length, it runs along the coastal cliffs, necessitating numerous tunnels and high viaducts. For about 30 kilometres out of Genoa, where the line climbs steeply up the valley of the river Polcevera to the valley of the river Scrivia, it is more heavily engineered than any other section of line in Italy. Virtually the whole of the line is either on viaduct or in tunnel. From this point to Turin, engineering works are small in size and few in number, and the line runs on easy gradients.

From Turin for 45 kilometres up to Bussoleno, where the line follows the river Dora Riparia, engineering works are light and gradients easy. After passing Bussoleno, however, the character of the line changes abruptly, gradients are steep, and engineering works are numerous and heavy, finally culminating in the Mount Cenis tunnel.

The line is electrified and is double track throughout except for a short section between Turin and Modane.

b) Scale of Demolitions.

The scale of demolitions on this line was very variable. In the section Rome to Vada (just South of Leghorn) and Leghorn to Pisa which were the only sections of the line reconstructed during the period of hostilities, 28 bridges out of a total of 125 bridges, of span of 5 metres or greater, were demolished. Damage to track throughout the whole 308 kilometres length of the route was light. There are no tunnels in these sections. Connection from Vada to Leghorn was made over a secondary line.

From Pisa to Genoa, damage was heavy and was, in the main, due to deliberate demolitions.

From Genoa through Turin to Busoleno, damage was very light and was, in the main, limited to bomb damage to isolated major structures. From Bussoleno to Modane in France, six major bridges had been demolished deliberately and the famous Mount Cenis tunnel was gravely demolished at each end.

c) The Repair of the Line.

The repair of the line was undertaken in six stages. First the section Rome to Civitavecchia (81 kilometres) was repaired by 40 Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C., under command of R.C.E., S.A.E.C., to open the port of Civitavecchia and give rail support to 5 Army during the period 13 June to 15 July 1944. Second, the section Civitavecchia to Pisa (255 kilometres) was repaired by M.R.S. American Section to open the port of Leghorn and give rail support to 5 Army during the period July to November 1944. Thereafter the line was abandoned as a military project, as its course diverged from the direction of the main army thrust. The third section, Pisa to Spezia (76 kilometres), was repaired by Italian State Railways' contractors and was opened to traffic on 18 November 1945. The fourth section, Spezia to Genoa (89 kilometres), is under construction by Italina State Railways' contractors against an estimated date of completion of 10 February 1946. The fifth section, Genoa through Turin to Bussoleno (212 kilometres), was little damaged and was opened by the I.S.R. unaided, shortly after the cessation of hostilities. The sixth section, Bussoleno to Modane (60 kilometres), had been demolished in a number of places and repairs were put in hand by 61 and 62 Tunnelling Companies, S.A.E.C., under command of R.C.E., S.A.E.C., and by 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E., and later by 160 Railway Construction Company, R.E., under command R.C.E. 1212. Mechanical Equipment was provided by 45 Mech. Equip. (Tn.) Platoon, R.E. The object of this work was to provide a rail route to Channel ports for leave and release trains, without passing through Switzerland. Work was commenced on 16 July 1945 and still continues against an estimated completion date of middle 1946.

d) Repair of Section Rome - Civitavecchia.

Repair of this section was carried out as stated above by 40 Railway Construction Company, S.A.E.C., under command of R.C.E., S.A.E.C., between 13 June and 15 July 1944. The line from Rome to Civitavecchia was opened on 1 July.

This section was pratically undamaged for the first 35 kilometres. Beyond this, however there was moderate damage to the main line by bombing. Two small bridges and water supplies at stations had been demolished by the enemy. Most of the work which had to be done on this section was in Civitavecchia Station and Port area, which had been extremely heavily bombed. A large number of wrecked trucks had to be removed and a complete new station yard constructed on the old station site, as well as sidings to serve the docks, then under construction by American Engineers.

e) Repair of Section Bussoleno to Modane.

After the cessation of hostilities and when trains started running from Italy to the Channel ports for the conveyance of leave personnel, the need was felt for an alternative outlet from Italy to France to avoid payment of the heavy toll charges exacted by the Swiss Government on all trains passing through that country. Attention was immediately turned to the Turin-Modane route as being the most expeditious alternative.

Previous reconnaissance had already revealed some major demolitions on this line in the section between Bussoleno and Modane. Six bridges, all of them large ones, were demolished and the Mount Cenis tunnel was known to be demolished at each end, but no entry had been made into the inside of the tunnel, so that conditions there were unknown, as was the extent of the demolitions at the ends. Neverthless, in view of the necessity for opening the line quickly, 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E., moved in to the area on 16 July and took over the reconstruction of three of the bridges from contractors then at work. A further bridge was taken over from the contractors on 21 July. The remaining two bridges were left in the hands of the contractors who reconstructed the original arches according to plan. Of the four bridges taken over by 159 Coy., two consisted of rolled steel joist spans on trestle piers, one consisted of a Roth Waagner span of length 66 metres, and one consisted of a 113 ft. standard W.D. Lattice Girder span.

Early in July, a detachment of 61 Tunnelling Company, S.A.E.C., was moved to the South portal of the Mount Cenis tunnel and the remainder of the unit arrived on 17 July. Work was immediately put in hand in conjunction with an Italian contractor. As a result of negotiations with the French authorities, 62 Tunnelling Company moved to Modane on 16 August and started work on the North portal in conjunction with a French contractor. Unfortunately, these two units were unable to stay long enough to complete the work as they were due to return to the Union. The work was therefore taken over by 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E., on 25 October. A detailed description of this work is given in Chapter III, Section 8.

Thus the whole line came under the jurisdiction of 159 Railway Construction Company. Disbandment of the unit intervened, however, and the only job that they were able to complete was the Lattice Girder Bridge over the river Dora Riparia which was opened to traffic on 15 October and work completed on 20 October.

Figure 43. - Line 50. Ponte Serra de la Voute at Km. 65.305 North of Turin. Reconstruction using a 112'-9'' Standard Lattice Truss span was carried out by 159 Railway Construction Company, R.E., under Job Nº. 50/603 from 16 July, 1945 to 20 October, 1945. The span is shown prepared for launching with the tailpiece counterweight in the foreground attached to the main girders.

By this time, owing to there being no prospect of opening the Mount Cenis tunnel rapidly, the priority of work on the line fell sharply and it was decided to abandon the work to contactors.

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[Railway reconstruction Italy 1943-1946 published by Royal Engineers, 1946]

Alessandro Tuzza