Meraviglioso Garfagnana: With a passenger, 741.120 passed the 900 year old "Ponte della Maddalena" at Borgo a Mozzano 11.May, 2009.

The Franco-Crosti design with its feedwater heater parallel to the boiler were an Italian invention almost as characteristic for the country as the vespa and the pasta. Attilio Franco and Dr. Piero Crosti, two engineers of the Italian Ferrovia dello Stato FS, began in 1939 with modification of Gr 671. The concept was that the preheater did warm up feeding water, thus remaining at relatively low temperatures compared to the boiler, so the remaining heat from combustion gases could be absorbed ideally. The design increased the overall efficiency substantially.

In contrast to the Gr 623 and 743 classes built by 1940 with its massive tubes alongside the bolier that gave the engine an odd look, the class 741 had two relatively small preheaters only on one side and the chimmeney on the other, which disfigured the engines far less. 81 FS 740 were fittet with Franco-Crosti equipment between 1954 and 1960 and taken into operation as 741. The fact that the 741 remained in service until the very end of steam in Italy in 1978 is evidence of its successful design.

Le ore del mattino hanno l'oro in bocca: In the first sunrays of a spring day, 741.120 and 740.278 storm up the valley. Ponte a Moriano, 03.05.2008
Spettacolare doppia trazione: Near San Pietro, the train passes that old Tuscan manison. 03.05.2008
At Diecimo, the train awaited a crossing and an overtaking by regular some passenger trains. Time for the crew to check and lubricate the running gear as well as getting pressure for the coming ascent.
The Ponte della Maddalena, originally called Ponte del Diavolo, is a remarkable example of medieval engineering, built in the 11th century. It was part of the Via Francigena, a pilgrimate road all the way from France to Rome. According to the legend, the Devil would build the bridge for the people of Borgo a Mozzano if he could claim the first soul to cross the bridge. When the bridge was completed, the townsfolk sent a dog across, thwarting Satan's plans.

Later in the 20iest century, another arch was added to allow the railway to pass underneath. Could the line have been integrated any better into the ancient structure?

(741 and 740, 03.05.2008)

With a downhill, Franco Crosti 741 passed this old road bridge in the lush green Serchio river valley. Fosciandora, 04.05.2008.
Just after a tunnel, 741 120 stormed past Fosciandora station with its tipical, Italian building. Just the "Capo" della Stazione seems to be missing here! Picture taken by Margrit Iseli, 04.05.2008
In sight of the medieval town of Ghivizzano with its castle overlooking the valley, 741 120 makes swift progress towards Calavorno. 04.05.2008
Meglio tardi che mai - Better late than never, we said, when Franco-Crosti 741.120 evantually rumbled down the Serchio valley with a hefty 3 1/2-hour-delay. The positive side was, though, that the light had turned in the meanwhile, allowing this shot of Franco-Crosti 741.120 accelerating at Castelvecchio. 11.May, 2009.
Linea Romantica: In the narrow Serchio valley between Fosciandora and Castelnuovo, the line mainly goes in tunnels, only interrupted by a few bridges. Here, the train had just emerged from a tunnel to disappear moments later in the next. 10.05.2009
One can almost sense the peace and tranquility of a Sunday afternoon in the Apuane Alps. 04.05.2008
Lush green hills and manisons of Tuscany at Ponte a Moriano, where the line crossed the Serchio river once again. 04.05.2008
There are always flowers for those who want to see them. At this old railwaymen's cottage near Ponte a Moriano, the flowers could, rather than in Henri Mantisse's proverb, hardly be overseen. Franco Crosti Gr. 741 thrashed towards Lucca, leaving the Apennin mountains behind. 11. 05. 2009
There is no shortage on Viaducts and Bridges on the Garfagnana-Line. Here, 741.120 and 740.278 approach Camporgiano. 03.05.2008
Se non vero, ben trovato: Allowedly a bit of photoshop was required to make this shot presentable: Just when the train pased this lovely bridge near Piazza al Serchio in the early morning, a thick cloud obscured the sun. So what? Back home, after some two hours of work, it was all done: Merging multiple pictures with different exposures into one did all the gimmick. Like it or not, but wouldn't it have been a pity to throw away such a shot? 04.05.2008
On the viaduct at Poggio, the train would have almost been lost if it had not been steam. With open regulator, the Franco-Crosti passed the bridge with the majestic mountain range of the Apuane Alps in the background. Its highest peak, Monte Pisanio, rises nearly 2000 Meters. 04.05.2008
Tempi passati: In Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, there were some derelict remnants of the steam-era. 741 120 awaited a crossing by a regular passenger train. 04.05.2008
The wheezing sound of the Franco-Crosti 741 on the grade above Castelnuovo di Garfagnana could be heard long before it passed this peaceful setting at the Lago di Pontecosi. 03.05.2008
"Pi facile a dirsi che a farsi" - "Easier said then done", was chasing the 741 on the narrow roads of the Garfagnana, even more so, as the Italian train crews tended to interpret schedules their own way and rushed through at stations they were actually meant to stop. Still, Margrit managed to jump out of the car and made this pleasant shot behind Poggio Careggine Va, while I got stuck in a traffic jam with Italians complaining vociferous!  03.05.2008, Margrit Iseli.
To turn the engine in Piazza al Serchio, the tender had to be parted from the engine, pushed manually from the turntable, then engine and tender were turned and coupled again. This time consuming venture was, as an Italian peculiarity, execised in day-to-day operation until the very end of steam at places where only small turntables were available. 03.05.2008
Eppur, si muove! -  Nevertheless, it moves! Whatever you may think about the appearance of the Franco-Crosti engines - the design improved efficiency a great deal and allowed coal savings of up to 20%, so it is no surprise that the 741 were among Italy's last steam engines on the duty roster. Piazza al Serchio, 03.05.2008

(c) Markus Fischer, Zuerich