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Railway - History

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While the regular running of funicular continued, the problem of the slope to the lower station, in 1902 executed still with horse carriages, was pointed out. Tourists took about 4 hours to reach it from Naples. Cook Company, already owner of the funicular, decided to build an electric railway, which linking Pugliano with the lower station, made the funicular less isolated. A similar project had already been elaborated in 1896 by engineer Minieri, who planned a railway about 20 km long from Naples to Vesuvius; the total cost estimated for this line was around 2,5 million liras. Keeping this project in mind, J.M.Cook consulted engineer George Nobel Fell, already famous having realized other mountain railways. He proposed a standard gauge of 1453 millimeters, a steam traction system, and a superstructure with Abt rack for the 7,5 kilometers of maximum gradient.

The never realized railway Naples-Vesuvius, planned by George Nobel Fell
(Funiculý funiculÓ - Gamboni, Neri)

The executive plan was entrusted to the English engineers Bruce and White. In their plan, the railway, leaving from Piazza Municipio in Naples, and touching S.Giovanni a Teduccio, Barra, San Giorgio a Cremano, Bellavista, Pugliano e San Vito, would have gone up to the Observatory and to the funicular lower station. The project was approved and the relative concession obteined, but it wouldn't have never began because of the high cost. 
However, part of the project was retaken in 1901 by SFSM (Southern Secondary Railways Company), already managing a line from Naples to Ottaviano and that wanted realize a railway from Naples to Poggiomarino, passing for Barrra, Pugliano and Pompei. Cook Company was left with the only possibility of  building the last tract of railway, going from Pugliano to Vesuvius. The engineer Strub of Swiss Locomotive and Machine Works and Mr.Morgenthaler of Brown-Boveri contacted Cook with an alternative suggestion to the exorbitant projects already valued. They proposed an electric railway from Pugliano to Vesuvius, with the rack portion reduced to 1,6 kilometers and the cheaper Strub system instead of the Abt. The line would thus be only 7,7 kilometers in lenght and would cut the cost by three-quarters in comparison with the projects valued. J.M.Cook accepted their advice, so in 1902 works began. In the same year Cook Company built Eremo Hotel to give hospitality to numerous tourists. Next year, works had end and on 28th September the new railway Olivi(above sanctuary of Pugliano)-San Vito-Eremo-Vesuvius(funicular lower station) was inaugurated.

Map of Vesuvius Railway Pugliano-Vesuvius inaugurated in 1903

In 1904 the new tract Naples-Poggiomarino of SFSM with a stop in Resina, was inaugurated, too. This station made funicular less isolated. In 1906 a new eruption destroyed the funicular and caused considerable damages to Vesuvius railway, which were quickly repaired. In the meantime, the need to reduce further travelling times, induced Cook to add a new tract of rail, connecting in this way, Olivi station with Resina stop of SFSM; in front of it was built the new starting station, called "Vesuvio", inaugurate on 6th January 1913. After 23 years of silence, in 1929 a new and imposing eruption endangered the existence of railway which wasn't damaged. The railway survived to 1944 eruption three tracts of track were buried by lava. The power station risked remaining destroyed, too.

Lava stopped miraculously on the wall of the Power Station

Albert Edward Wilkins of RAF near carriage n.6. See blog article.
Thanks to Phil Taylor and Russell Wilkins who owns the photo

Passengers were few, costs rose and the line made a considerable loss. Cook could see no prospect of finding money to rebuild the funicular and offered the whole thing for sale. It was sold in December 1945, to the SFSM, the company operating the Circumvesuviana Railway for the sum of 3.100.000 liras. In 1946 e 1947 the tracts destroyed were repaired, so it was possible to reach the funicular lower station, never rebuilt, by train. Here tourists could get on cone on foot thanks to a comfortable and practicable path. The SFSM programmed a new funicular and to change the track gauge to their own 950 millimetres, connecting the two lines at Pugliano, and using new 68-seat rack/adhesion electric railcars from Naples to the summit. This ambitious plan proved far too expensive, and by the end of 1948 had been abandoned in favour of building a road to the upper terminus and a chair lift to the summit. In 1949 Cook put Eremo Hotel for sale. The beginning of Fifties decreed the railway decline. Eremo Hotel was ceded to private citizens in 1951. By 1953 the improved road was complete as far as the Observatory and the excursion coaches from Naples and regular bus from Pugliano brought people to this point, where they changed to a shuttle train for the last 2,1 km until the chair lift. A rack locomotive pushed two cars, usually 6 and 7 up from the depot each morning and stand at Eremo all day until the convoy returned home at night. The dried branch below the depot, no more useful by now, was cut off.

Regular bus took tourists to Eremo Station, where existed a shuttle train Eremo-Mt.Vesuvius

In the autumn of 1955 the road was finished and the railway closed. The track was still there in 1958, derelict and overgrown, but was later removed and the cars and locomotives broken up for scraps.



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