A journey inside the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci in Milan and through the highlights of the Rail Transport Pavilion. 100 years of the evolution of rail transport, starting from the second half of the 19th century.

691 022 steam locomotive

This locomotive is the last in existence from a group of 33 that were in use until the late 1950s. The fastest ever to be built in Italy, it was designed to improve passenger service on the main national lines. It was first produced in 1933 by installing the boiler designed for the 746 in the 690, which had already been in service for 20 years. This increased not only the efficiency but also the load, making the 691 suitable only for the Milan-Bologna and Milan-Venice routes. To better distribute the weight, a twin-axle front truck and a Bissel truck were used to support the boiler. In 1939, a special housing was designed; this allowed the 691 026 to reach a record-breaking speed of 130 km/h. However, this housing was never used on a large scale because it was too heavy.
You can also climb aboard the 691 engine.

You can enter inside the 691 locomotive

552 036 steam locomotive

Every lover of Westerns will undoubtedly recognize this steam locomotive. This is a rare Italian example with an American wheel arrangement, meaning it has a twin-axle front truck and two driving axles with very large wheels. From 1890 to 1914, the 552 hauled the London-Bombay postal train along the Milan-Brindisi route once a week. The train was ferried across the English Channel before crossing France and entering Italy through the Fréjus road tunnel. It embarked on an English steamer in Brindisi, passing through the Suez Canal and continuing on to India. For this reason, it became known as the "Indian Mail". There was a baggage car for the mail, two sleeper cars, and a dining car. It had a top speed of 100 km/h, which was considerable for the period.

E 430 001 electric locomotive

Before you stands the world's first alternating current electric locomotive. It was designed for the Lecco-Sondrio Valtellina line, which was one of the earliest railway routes to trial electrification using hydroelectric power. The line used high-voltage, three-phase, 3,600 V electricity at a frequency of 16.7 Hz. This way of supplying the current made managing the line safer and cheaper than lines using direct current. This frequency was optimal for transferring movement from the engine to the wheels without needing to transform it with gears that the industry of the time was unable to produce. These trains were leased by Switzerland to tackle the 20-kilometer Simplon Tunnel, as they solved the problem of steam locomotive fumes. They continued to operate on the Valtellina routes until the end of the 1920s.

Horse-drawn tram – Omnibus

In Milan, horse-drawn trams started to become common from 1860 onward thanks to the work of the Società Anonima degli Omnibus (the Omnibus Corporation). Unlike traditional carriages, they ran on tracks, reducing discomfort caused by poor road surfaces and making for a more pleasant journey. The main line was Milan-Monza, which could be covered in roughly two hours. This involved switching the two horses halfway through the 16-kilometer journey. There were no other stops, so passengers hopped on as the tram was moving using the rear running board. This gave rise to an Italian expression: "attaccarsi al tram" (literally "hang on to the tram"), meaning "it's your problem/you're on your own".

GR s685-600 steam locomotive
1908, modified in 1931

This engine owed its success to its combination of power and speed. It was also inexpensive to manage and easy for train drivers and stokers to handle. It began life in the 1930s as an altered version of the GR 680 and soon spread along all the main lines, starting with the Rome-Naples route, as a means of hauling fast trains. This model boasted a new feature not present in its predecessor, the GR 680: the superheater, which used heat emitted by the boiler to warm the steam for more power. The 685 was taken out of service in 1968. The letter "s" that precedes the name of the locomotive stands for "special". This indicates a further modification of the steam distribution system in the cylinders, as designed by Caprotti.
You can also climb aboard the GR s685 engine.

You can enter inside the s685 locomotive

BC 34 – "Gamba de Legn" steam locomotive

The Milanese called these small steam locomotives "Gamba de Legn" (literally "wooden leg" or "peg leg"), probably due to the distinctive, wobbly way they moved. At the end of the 19th century, horsepower was replaced by the first tram locomotives, which were both more powerful and cheap to manage. The body was closed along the sides to protect bystanders and horses from accidental puffs of steam and from gravel thrown up by other carriages. This locomotive initially covered the Milan-Gallarate line as a commuter service before being used for the Monza-Trezzo sull'Adda line. The Gamba de Legn made its final run in the summer of 1957.

3rd class FNM car

This Ferrovie Nord Milano car was able to accommodate 60 seated passengers for a 15-ton maximum load. Although designed for third class, the car was fitted with some small luxuries such as oil lighting (later replaced by battery-powered electric lighting) and luggage racks. It could travel at 70 kilometers per hour, although there were very few engines and railways capable of handling such speeds at the time it was built.

746 031 steam locomotive

Before you stands the largest and most powerful Italian steam locomotive ever built. Until electric trains were introduced in the post-World War II period, this locomotive hauled the country's heaviest trains, including Sicily's long express trains and the famous Espresso del Levante from Milan to Bari and Taranto. It was designed at the end of World War I to better distribute the weight of the locomotive along the axles. This reduced the impact on the railways themselves, which had not been maintained during wartime. One of the locomotive’s strengths was its large and efficient boiler, so much so that this was also integrated into the 690 in the 1930s. The result was Italy's fastest ever steam locomotive, the 691. The 746 operated on some of Italy's main routes until 1957 before seeing out the rest of its days on secondary routes.

Credits: Story

Exhibition by
Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia
Leonardo da Vinci

Via San Vittore 21


Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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