If it were dealing with art, it would have already made the newspaper headlines and a few mentions on TV. As it is, the Fondazione Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane (Italian FS Foundation) deals with the history of the Italian Railways, and the FS (State Railways) in particular, something which fails to fill the general public with much enthusiasm these days.
I say “these days”, because when the project has been completed, and the technical and human historical heritage made available to the whole country is readily useable, we feel sure that the Foundation will be recommended at an international level as a model for highlighting the value of a company’s history and, in the case of the Italian Railways, an important part of the country’s history. This is not rhetoric – the figures speak for themselves. The overall patrimony includes a library of over 50,000 volumes, over 500,000 pictures, thousands of which are on old photographic glass plates, 80,000 dossiers on railway line projects, 7,000 original technical drawings of locomotives and carriages and the National Railway Museum of Pietrarsa, created by restoring the very first railway workshops ever to open in Italy in 1840 by command of the Bourbons. But above all, it includes approximately 250 historical vehicles, including locomotives, railcars, carriages and wagons in perfect working order, which in 2014 alone were used to run over 100 historical trains journeys in different parts of Italy (all sold out). The Foundation was established thanks to the enthusiasm, and to a certain extent, the stubbornness of two people: former CEO of Gruppo FSI, Mauro Moretti (as of May last year CEO and General Manager of Finmeccanica) who came up with the idea and wanted to make it happen, and Luigi Cantamessa, a young engineer, but more importantly railway man, who now runs it. We met up with him in the premises, now almost finished, which the Foundation has taken up on the ground floor of Villa Patrizi, the historical seat of Gruppo FS Italiane in Rome, just a cock-stride from the Termini Railway Station.
Railway Engineering: Mr. Cantamessa, first of all can you tell us how the Foundation came about and what its aims are?
Luigi Cantamessa: I’ll start with the second part of your question. The Fondazione Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane aims to safeguard a huge historical and technical heritage which, in the best case scenario, risked going missing and in the worst case scenario, being stolen or destroyed completely. Once this has been done, it wants to publicize it, so that everyone, not just a handful of rail enthusiasts, can get to know about and value this heritage. This will involve different approaches which go from making the most of the libraries and the museum (for those interested in taking a closer look at the historical aspects), to publicizing the amazing patrimony of photographs and films, which tell the story of over 100 years’ of Italian history, and the circulation of our historical trains, our “ambassadors” wherever there is a railway line. Trains which we already use to offer “slow” tourism opportunities for everyone.
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