"Continued from my 'Camigliatello' page . . ."
From Cosenza to Catanzaro
Cosenza to Catanzaro is FC’s ‘main line’, though perhaps this is an inappropriate description for a railway which is every bit as sinuous as that to Camigliatello, as it crawls its way round and through the high, forested ridges which run westwards from the Sila massif. As on the Camigliatello branch, running is sprightly, the railcars touching between 70 and 80 km/h on straight sections of line (usually those in the longest tunnels) yet still having to work very hard to keep to time. Scenically, the route divides itself into three sections; an interminable ascent to the summit tunnel shortly before Soveria Mannelli, the line investigating the upper end of each and every side valley, followed by a fairly straight run down the broad upper Corace valley. After the long tunnel between Madinna di Porto and Gimigliano this valley changes character dramatically, its floor plunging and its sides narrowing and steepening precipitously (I would refrain from calling it a ‘gorge’, though) leaving the railway stranded high up on the eastern slopes and pursuing a convoluted and breathtaking route between tunnels and viaducts as it makes for the upper part of Catanzaro, a magnificent hilltop city perched at an altitude of around 350 m atop a ridge between the valleys of the Fiumarella and Musofaldo.
Services on this route are, naturally, most frequent at its outer ends – between Rogliano and Cosenza and Soveria Mannelli and Catanzaro. Over the years, the Cosenza to Rogliano service has increased from 12 train pairs in 1983 to 14 in 2006, with a similar increase on the section of line south of Soveria Manelli (there are six departures from the latter between 05.35 and 08.25 to cater for commuters and schoolchildren!) The section in between sees six or seven trains a day each way (there were 11 in 1983), some through workings, others nominally with a change of train (not always in practice, though!) End to end journey time for the 99 km varies between about 2h30 and 2h45. From the leading vestibule of the railcars a good view of the line ahead can be obtained through the cab access door.
Cosenza’s site is a grand one, with views southwards down the broad trough towards the coast. Catanzaro Città station is, as its name suggests, well-placed for the centre, the main FC depot, works and bus garage occupying a plateau gouged out of the hillside just west of the station itself. A fine view of the complex can be obtained from the road above the tunnel at the east end of the station. But Catanzaro, like Cosenza, suffers from cars. The latter seem to spend their lives snaking nose to tail through the one-way streets, which are barely wide enough to accommodate both them and pedestrians. The old quarter starts beyond the Piazza Matteotti (this has its own gloomy, semi-subterranean halt on the line down to Lido), and yes, there are itineraries one can follow which separate one from the exhaust fumes for a while. In the Piazza G. Rossi there is a very smart establishment offering three-course lunches for ten euros – a bargain in Italy. I would have sampled it during my visit, but they start serving at one, and I had a long journey round the ‘toe’ planned for that afternoon. For hotels, though, Catanzaro could be a bit of a let-down. Few, and expensive was my conclusion. Best to visit for the day from elsewhere.
Down the rack (or the funicular) to the coast
Although the FC service between Catanzaro and Catanzaro Lido is a frequent one – usually two or three trains per hour – the timetable is anything but clockface. FC plans to establish what it describes as a ‘surface metro’ on this route, extending north beyond Catanzaro to the next station, Gagliano, with state of the art CTC. And the railcars used here must be the most hideous in the whole of Europe. Such is the amount of graffiti they carry that it is impossible to say what their real livery is. Inside, the taggers have tagged everything taggable – walls, bulkheads, ceiling, seats. Efforts are made to keep the windows reasonably free of the mess.
The line plunges into tunnel on leaving Catanzaro Città, crossing from the Fiumarella to the Musofaldo side of the ridge. After Piazza Matteotti it burrows back to the Fiumarella side, and dives at a 10 % gradient with 2872 m of Strub rack. One of the best photographic locations is adjacent to the road viaduct over the gorge, on the winding descent of the Via Carlo V. This is also the way down to the FS station, in the valley below, but be warned – it is a walk of about four kilometres, with no steep short cuts! The line passes through four more tunnels before emerging into Catanzaro Sala station, where the rack ends. This is actually adjacent to the FS station (there is a connecting girder footbridge), and a cock-stride from the funicular. Until 1997, when the rack-fitted Class M4c 350 railcars were delivered, Sala was where the three Class LM2 700 diesels, built by SLM between 1981 and 1985, would couple up to the earlier types of railcar to push them up the hill. At that time there were 26 train pairs on weekdays (30 in 2006), and just one minute was allowed (nominally) for coupling and uncoupling! The 11 km run from Città to Lido, closely paralleling the FS line, takes 23 minutes.
Now, FC is a clever company, with its finger in many pies. In addition to its rail services, it also operates a host of bus routes in Calabria (5.7 million passengers, 122.8 million passenger km and 10.1 million bus km in 2003). It runs five car parks, too, and the largest of these, with 650 spaces, is situated at the lower end of the Catanzaro funicular, which is also where quite a number of bus services originate and terminate. The funicular runs to Piazzale Roma at the eastern end of the old quarter on the top of the ridge. 678.37 m in length, it rises 158.23 m on a maximum gradient of 28.14 %, with journey time varying between 150 seconds (non-stop) and 270 seconds (with an intermediate stop at Piano Casa). Departures are every ten minutes at peaks, every 15 minutes off-peak, though should queues develop additional services are provided. In 2003 around 500,000 passengers were carried, which does indicate that some folk are sensible and think before attempting to drive into the city centre.
Continued on my Marina de Catanzaro page.