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Piazza Al Serchio Sunday Service

I had the good fortune to spend some weeks working in Italy and would sometimes venture out at weekends in search of steam. From the FS - Italian State Railways - timetable, I noticed the line from Lucca to Aulla in a particularly scenic part of Tuscany had one Sundays Only loco hauled return passenger to a place called Piazza Al Serchio. All other trains were marked as being railcars. So it seemed worth a trip - if nothing else it would be a pleasant day in the countryside.
On arrival at Lucca on Sunday 15 September 1974, I was pleased to see a class 940 2-8-2T in steam outside the loco shed, it certainly looked hopeful for some steam activity. The loco hauled train had gone up the line to Piazza Al Serchio earlier in the day, but I caught a railcar which would get me there in time for the return working at 16.58.

It was undoubtedly a spectacular section of railway - in the twenty kilometres between Castelvecchio Pascoli and Piazza al Serchio, I counted no less than nineteen tunnels and ten stone viaducts.

Coming into Piazza al Sercho, it was heartening to see 940.031 sizzling away outside the tiny loco shed, barely big enough for the engine.

940.031 with its train at Piazza Al Serchio - one carriage, one wagon. Apart from me, I recall the only other passengers
seemed to be relatives of the loco's fireman! Quite why the service ran is a mystery to me^ - perhaps it was used to train footplate
staff or maybe there was a need for a mixed train. Steam probably ran the weekdays freight on the line.

940.031 receives attention at Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, whilst the fireman's son 'cabs' the loco. Below is the station at Castelnuovo.

It was a line on which I would have liked to have spent more time and checked out the most photogenic spots from lineside.

Nowadays, the line remains in operation and there is the occasional steam hauled special, so perhaps those lineside shots are still possible. In a further reminder of my trip, 940.002, a classmate of 940.031,is preserved at Piazza Al Serchio*.

* Picture of 940.002 is here http://www.eastbank.org.uk/images/Tuscany/IT1989-0304.jpg

^ In 1989 there was a daily return trip with a diesel loco and carriages to supplement the railcar service.