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Alpine Railway


Communications link - High Speed Trains - Pendolino          

 The Pendolino Story Background    
The super high speed trains require special track to run on. Track and corridors may seem as very expensive investment of billions on euros/dollars, so often the solution is to try (conventional) high speed first with lower speeds and tilting EMUs like Pendolino to improve the comfort of travelling. 
The idea behind the Pendolinos too is to allow higher than normal speeds on the normal curved track by tilting the passenger compartment of the train a few degrees. Using tilting trains gives the country additional decades to build the high speed lines and often quarantees better service level for areas where building of the new track can't be judged.   
The tilt on trains was first introduced in 1938 in U.S.A. by Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. The invention was a passive tilting system with unproper dampening and caused seasickness instead of the intended better comfort, so the experiment did not lead to the production phase. After much research the first successfull passive tilting train was finally created in 1950s by Talgo to use in Spain. For the active tilting system the first atttempts were made in Great Britain in 1970s in the form of Advanced Passenger Train or APT. While the initial experiment was not successfull: seasickness was the result again, this phenomenon was later fixed simply by adjusting the units to tilt slightly less (enabling still a slight sence of "cornering")! However, the initial negative publicity lead to withdrawal of the prototype trains.  
 First steps of Pendolino     
Fiat Ferroviaria bought the active tilting technology from the British for it's Pendolino trains and the prototype ETR401 started successfull runs in 1975. It run successfully for years and this created the foundations for the success of the later Pendolino trains that can be found in many countries in Europe: Czech Republic, Finland (operator VR-Yhtyma), United Kingdom (operator Virgin Trains), Italy, Portugal, Romania, Russia (soon with both the RZD (the Russian Railways) and a joint venture Karelia Trains between the RZD and the Finnish State Railways VR-Yhtyma), Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland in the form of Cisalpino (a joint operation between the SBB/CFF of Switzerland and Italian FS) and outside Europe the growing railroad nation China.
Italian Pendolino ETR450
In 1982 Fiat acquired the patents from the whole British APT project, guaranteeing the company exclusive market for the tilting segment for the coming years. The result of this was the Pendolino ETR450 (picture above), very similar in outward appearance to the 1975 ETR401 prototype, but running as fast as 250 km/h (155 mph)! With relative restricted markets (and huge capitals needed to successfully build trains) the manufacturer of the Pendolinos was in 2002 fusioned into the
French giant Alstom, better known for it's family of TGV and AGV  super high speed trains.  
 Future of the Pendolino   
While the new (improved tilting mechanism by Alstom) orders of Pendolinos run 250 km/h (155 mph) and look very much like the AGV, the Karelian railways new Pendolinos are curiously capable of just 220 km/h (137 mph).  The Chinese "Pendolino" based on older design used in Finland is NONTILTING but capable of 250 km/h (155 mph) running and the outside design is very similar to the later Pendolinos. It's not hard to guess that in the near future some Pendolino trains will be capable of 270 km/h (168 mph) or more, the limit of the super high speed class trains.  

SBB Pendolino ETR610 in "Swisalpino" colors, Basel, Switzerland
In the future The Pendolinos will probably provide also an interesting opportunity for the former East European countries to improve their traffic service levels, since currently there will hardly be sufficient funds to built high speed tracks to replace the aged an inadequate current infrastructure.     
While Pendolino has been successfull in replacing many of the traditional locomotive hauled trains, there have been additional unit orders in many cases, one of the latest being the 4 new unit and and 62 additional trailer order from Virgin Trains on United Kingdom.   

 Pendolino Train Sets of European Operators     
   Virgin Trains Pendolino units       
   Swiss Cisalpino Pendolino versions    
   Finnish VR-Yhtyma Pendolino version  
   Karelian Trains Pendolinos             
 Italian Pendolino types     

 Future developments of Pendolino concepts   

 Other international use & exports       

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   Super High Speed main page...     

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Some of the newer additions:  

The Virgin Trains Pendolino class 390 train whoozing by Watford Junction at an amazing speed in Great Britain. Picture by Stanislav Voronin March 2007.   
A Finnish VR-Yhtyma variant of the Pendolino
A Finnish variant of the Pendolino. Here a double unit tilting on the curve outside Helsinki metropolitan area. Picture by Stanislav Voronin 2007. 
A Finnish VR-Yhtyma variant of the Pendolino
The Original Cisalpino 1 ETR470 making a stop in Zurich. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo  2006.   

the newer generation Italian high speed train. This train has "Eurostar" written on it's side, but should not be mixed with the Channel Tunnel trains. Picture by Hannu Peltola 2007.


The Virgin Trains Pendolinos, British Class 390       

The Pendolino class 390 in the attractive Virgin trains livery. Click the picture to see a the details on the larger version!  Picture from Watford Junction by Stanislav Voronin 2007. 

The Pendolino class 390 unit number 12 cab with all the controls ergonomically accessible for the driver.  Picture by Martin J. Galloway under Creative Commons

The Virgin trains operated Pendolino class 390 trains in United Kingdom  form the largest single Pendolino fleet in the world. The fleet has 52 Pendolinos (the 53rd was lost in an accident in 2007 at Grayrigg) and Alstom Savigliano Italy has started work on the 4 additional 11 car trains in early 2009. Of the existing 52 units, 31 will recieve additional 2 cars and there is an option to extend the other 21 class 390 trains as well.   

Technical details  
Type: Pendolino, British Class 390
Owner: Angel Trains (subsidiary of Babcock and Brown) 
Operator/Franchise(until 2011): Virgin Trains
operations area: : West coast route in UK 
-> Number of Units and configuration: 52 9 car units (468 coaches) (one unit was lost in an accident in Grayrigg in 2007). 4 new 11 car units will be added in 2010 - 2012. 31 of the older units will receive 2 new cars at the same time, with an option for the 21 remaining units.   
-> Delivered to use:  original 2001 - current, 4 units 2010-2012
-> Unit numbers: 390 001 - 390 053
 -> Configuration: driving trailer + 7 trailers + driving trailer
      after upgrade:  driving trailer + 9 trailers + driving trailer 
-> Capacity: 439 passengers
     145 first class passengers
     294 standard class passengers
-> Unit length: 9 car: 217,4 m, 11 car: 265 m 
-> Unit power: 5100 kW (6840 Hp) (12 x 403kW),
     in Pendolinos the power is distributed throughout the train.
-> Regenerative braking system
-> Power to weight ratio (Hp): 12,3 
-> Single current versions: all, 25 KV 50Hz overhead 
-> Operational max. speed: 230 km/h (143 mph) ,
     currently 210 km/h (130 mph) due to cab signalling issues  

-> Mass, metric tons: 466/471 metric tons  
-> Max tilt: 8%  

-> Coupler type:   
-> Gauge: 1435 mm, 4'8,5"
-> Axle weight max: 15 metric tons

Easy recognition guide

  • The newer generation round Pendolino nose with black, yellow and red coloring 
  • Pendolino tilting mechanism visible on trailers  
  • 9 (or soon on certain units 11) middle cars  

  More class 390 pictures will follow shortly... 
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 Cisalpino 1 and 2 Train Sets      

The Pendolino ETR470 Cisalpino unit 9 making a stop in Zurich in Switzerland. Cisalpino is a joint venture for Swiss SBB/CFF and Italian State Railways (Ferrovie dello Stato) FS.  Picture above by Ilkka Siissalo.
Picture below: The Cisalpino Pendolino 470 unit in Lugano in the summer of 2009. Picture by Donald M. Hall.
Cisalpino ETR470 Pendolino number 6 in Lugano
SBB Pendolino ETR610 in "Swisalpino" colors, Basel, Switzerland
Fourth generation of Pendolinos, the ETR610 operated as Cisalpino 2, looks very much like the  had a totally new design by Giorgetto Giugiaro was the next evolution step. Picture above by Ilkka Siissalo and below by Chriusha 2009, published under Creative Commons 3.0. Cisalpino 2 ETR610 at test in Biel Switzerland
The latest news from Switzerland suggest that the long term cooperation between the Trenitalia and Swiss SBB is over. The SBB sees that Trenitalia has been sloppy on the maintenance of these trains thus causing severe operating probelems and delays for the trains. It is also seen that Swiss are avoiding these trains now, a good reason to withdraw from cooperation. It is easier to start with a fresh new brand than try to fix something that has been damaged for years of neglience. However, it remains to be seen where the SBB can buy the maintenance services for those Pendolinos that will end up to its ownership. The British and the Finns seem to be very good at what the Italians have not been able to do. Maybe it would be worth considering these two options for the maintenance / maintenance consulting. In Finland much of the operating conditions are similar to Switzerland, with cold and snowy winters. 
We will confirm these rumors in the near future.
The Cisalpino, a joint venture of Swiss SBB/CFF and Italian Trenitalia, is currently recieving its second generation of Pendolinos. These units will to be in daily revenue generating use in 2009 and 2010 between the two countries. The second generation Cisalpinos are of Alstom type Pendolino 610 which obviously has its roots on the same design board as the impressive AGV. The top speed for the new generation Pendolinos equipped with Altoms own tilting mechanism is now increased 250 km/h (155 mph) despite the demanding snowy conditions in Switzerland!        
For the older Pendolino ETR470 (Cisalpino 1) on the picture on left please see for more information!  
Technical details
-> Delivered to use:  1996 (to be retired in 2009 - 2010, secondhand use might be in Russia?)
-> Number of units:  9  (81 modules)
-> Unit numbers: 1 - 9
-> Configuration:  2M-2T-2M-T-2M
-> Capacity: 473+2 passengers in two class configuration
-> Owned and operated by: Cisalpino (joint venture of FS and SBB/CFF
-> operations area:  Switzerland, Italy

-> Unit length: 236,6 m
-> Unit power: 5880 kW (7885 Hp)
-> Power to weight ratio (Hp):
-> bicurrent versions: 15 kV 16,7 Hz, 3000 V
-> Operational max. speed: 200 km/h

-> Mass, metric tons: 460  
-> Coupler type: 
-> Axle weight max: 15 tons

Easy recognition guide

  • White with Cisalpino logo at the ends and the side. Obviously this will be retaped after the new brand is invented. 


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FinnishVR-yhtyma S220 Pendolinos, Finnish Class Sm3     

One on the numerous Pendolino pictures on the, here the Sm3 Pendolino double unit on a snowy day of Finnish winter near Savio in the Southern Finland. Pendolinos are the only high speed units for the scarcely populated Finland. The picture below shows the tilting mechanism in action on the curve.  Pictures by Stanislav Voronin.  


Picture: Finnish VR Pendolino S220 units are seen here after their morning dash from countryside to the center of Finnish capital Helsinki.  
The Pendolinos in Finland form the backbone of the higher than normal transportation. Finland has only 5 million inhabotants scattered mainly througout the country so no real high speed track has been built in the form of France and Germany.
Technical details for Pendolino S220 
-> Finnish class: Sm3 ,
-> Manufacturer type: Pendolino S220 (400 series) 
-> Delivered to use:  1995 2 units, 1999 - 2006 16 units
-> Number of units: 18 (108 modules)
-> Unit numbers: 73XX
-> Configuration:  MCC+MC+2T+MC+MCC    
-> Capacity: 307 passengers in two class configuration
      1st class: 47 seats, 2nd class: 260 seats 
-> Owned and operated by: VR-Yhtyma (The Finnish Railways)
-> operations area:  Finland

-> Unit length:  158.9 meters  
-> Unit max width: 3,2 meters
-> Unit power: 4000 kW (5364 Hp)
-> single current versions: 25 kW 50 Hz
-> Operational max. speed: 220 km/h
-> Tilting mechanism: Active, Fiat design 
-> Maximum tilt: 8%

-> Mass, metric tons: 304,7 t  
-> Coupler type:  
-> Axle weight max: 16 tons

Easy recognition guide
  • Seen only in the Finnish Area on most heavily trafficked lines, mainly in the Southern Finland. 
  • VR Logos on both ends and on the left side entrance of the coaches. 
  • Most units are red/white/gray but some are repainted white/green/gray and have "green themed" vinyls covering train sides.

Happenings, changes, modifications,...
-> January 2009: Two Finnish Pendolino units suffered from flying ice in tunnels breaking a total of 40 windows on the other and 4 on the other unit. A disaster was narrowly avoided as the inner windows were only partly shattered, not broken. The first thoughts were that the ice was originating from the build up from the train itself and the shock wave of the tunnel caused the ice to move, instead of the cause being the common tunnel ice. In countries like the U.S. there are maintenanace units equipped to remove the tunnel ice in winter with special wires, plows and shotguns as the ice can be a hazard for trains in tunnels. If the cause is found to be build up of the tunnel ice, maybe this kind of troops would be a good idea for Finnish infrastructure maintenance authority as well?
-> May 2010: the first of the Pendolino units was painted green themed, basically the red color on the exterior cahnged to green and green themed stockers attached to the sides of the coaches.
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Italian Pendolino trains    
Italian ETR401 Pendolino
The very first Pendolino, the ETR401 pictured here in 2006 sitting at the depot in Italy. Picture by Daniele Neroni 2009, provided under Creative Commons Licence.  
Italian Pendolino ETR450
ETR450, the Generation 2 for the Pendolino train. Already capable sppeeds of up to 250 km/h /155 mph) and equipped with the APT originating tintilng system exclusively used by Fiat Ferroviaria. Picture by Jeff Leknes 2009. 
FS Pendolino ETR460
Third Generation Pendolino, the ETR460, had a totally new design by Giorgetto Giugiaro was the next evolution step. Picture by Jeff Leknes 2009. 
Cisalpino 2 ETR610 at test in Biel Switzerland
Fourth generation of Pendolinos, the ETR600/ETR610, look very much like the  had a totally new design by Giorgetto Giugiaro was the next evolution step. Picture by Chriusha 2009, published under Creative Commons 3.0.     
The Pendolino ETR401 was the first Italian unit to start runs in 1975. The train is easily recognizeable by its distinctive round nose. The train had 2 driving trailers and 2 intermediate cars. The technology of these trains was later adapted to use in the next generation 450 Pendolino prototype, which started its revenue traffic in 1989 in Italy. The maximum tilting andle of this unit is an incredible 13 degrees!
The ETR460/470/480 series were the first improved production series of the improved Pendolinos. While the ETR460 and ETR480 are in use in Italy, the ETR470 is the Swiss-Italian Cisalpino 1. Again there were significant improvements: the tilting mechanism was now in bogies only instead of extending the mechanism to the car bodies, the new aluminum construction was used and the modern AC traction was introduced.    

Picture by Chriusha 2009, published under Creative Commons 3.0. 

Manufacturer type: Pendolino ETR450
Technical details 
Delivered to use:  1988
Number of trainsets: 15  (135 modules)
Unit numbers:  
Configuration:  4M-T-4M   
Capacity: 386 passengers in first class only configuration
      1st class: 386 seats, 2nd class: none  
Owned and operated by: FS (Trenitalia)
Operations area:  Italy

Unit length:  234 meters  
Unit max width: 2,75 meters
Unit power: 5000 kW (6715 Hp)
Single current versions: 3000V DC
Operational max. speed
: 250 km/h (155 mph)
Tilting mechanism: Active, Fiat design 
Maximum tilt: 10% / 6,5%

Mass, metric tons: 403 t  
Coupler type:  
Axle weight max: 13 tons

Easy recognition guide

  • Seen only in the Italian area   
  • Typical rounded first generation look 
  • Painted white with a broad red stripe 


Manufacturer type: Pendolino ETR460
Technical details 
Delivered to use:  1994
Number of trainsets: 7  (63 modules)
Unit numbers:  
Configuration:  2M-2T-2M-T-2M   
Capacity: 478+2 passengers in first class only configuration
      1st class: 137 seats, 2nd class: 341   
Owned and operated by: FS (Trenitalia)
Operations area:  Italy

Unit length:  237 meters  
Unit max width: 2,8 meters
Unit power: 5880 kW (7885 Hp)
Single current versions: 3000V DC
Operational max. speed
: 250 km/h (155 mph)
Tilting mechanism: Active, Fiat design 
Maximum tilt: 8% / 6,5%

Mass, metric tons: 445 t  
Coupler type:  
Axle weight max: 14 tons

Easy recognition guide

  • Seen only in the Italian area   
  • Typical third generation look with slightly rounded corners, otherwise flat front
  • Painted white with a broad red stripe 
  • olfashioned looking scissorlike pantograph

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 Karelia Trains Pendolinos, Finnish class Sm6       
Karelian Trains Allegro Pendolino Sm6 nr1 unit inside Ilmala depot with a Pendolino Sm3 of VR-Yhtyma, Helsinki, Finland
Picture above: The Allegro unit 01 shares the service facilities of VR-Yhtyma with the S220 Pendolinos. Notice the near similar design on both trains only noticeable added differences being the technologies required in Russia.
Picture below:  Unit 01 on the test run in Kerava Finland. This is the first ever press picture published of the train on line. Both pictures by Stanislav Voronin 2010.
Karelian Trains Allegro Pendolino Sm6 nr1 unit onlin for the first time in Kerava, Finland
Karelian Trains Allegro Pendolino unit outside Ilmala depot in Käpylä, Helsinki, Finland
Picture above: the roofline clearly shows the multiple communications equipment needed in either Russia or Finland, where the trains go into operation. 
Below: The techniques of the 400 series Pendolino clearly show in this picture taken from below when the train was lifted in the harbor. Both pictures by Stanislav Voronin 2010. 
Karelian Trains Allegro being lifted from the ship

Karelian Trains Allegro being lifted from the ship

The Karelia trains is a joint venture between the RZD of Russia (the mighty Russian Railways) and the Finnish state owned operator VR-Yhtyma. VR-Yhtyma already has 18 400 series / S220 Pendolino units in use.  The arrived new trains look very similar to the older ones, but there are also some major improvements to their technology.
Finnish Class: Sm6 
Manufacturer type: Pendolino ETRXX0   

The first two Pendolino units are in Finland and have been going through various tests phase both in Finland and the first unti also in Russia.
Technical details   
-> Built by: Alstom in Italy  
-> Type: Pendolino 400-series / S220 
-> Owner: Karelian Trains
-> Operator:
Karelian Trains   
-> Delivered to use: according to plans in 2010 

-> Number of units: 4
-> Unit numbers: 01 - 04, UIC: 94 10 3890001 - 94 10 3890004  
-> Configuration: MCC+MC+3xT+MC+MCC

-> Capacity: 
-> operations area: Finland and Russia

-> Track gauge: 1524/1520 mm 
-> Unit length: 

-> Electrical systems: 25 kV 50 Hz and 3000V DC  
-> Unit power: 5500kW (7478 Hp)
-> Operational max. speed: 220 km/h  (137 mph) 
       test drives were done with 10% overspeed: 242 km/h   
-> Tilting mechanism: active, pneumatic,  
maximum tilt: 8%

-> Mass, metric tons:    
-> heated, airconditioned and partly pressure controlled environment for the passengers and train service personnel.  

Easy recognition guide

  • Large Allegro-logos on both fronts
  • Seen in Russian west and Finland 
  • If seen in Finland the blue color (of RzD) is missing form the Finnish class Sm3 pendolinos, which are either red or green.   
  • Cuurently the trains are being test run mainly between Helsinki and Lahti so the best changes are that you see these there.
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 Slovenian Pendolinos      

Picture: .        
To be added...

Technical details  
-> Delivered to use:
-> Number of units: 
-> Unit numbers:  
-> Configuration:
-> Capacity:
-> Owned and operated 
-> operations area:  
-> Unit length:
-> Electrical systems:
-> Unit power:  kW (___ Hp) 

-> Power to weight ratio (Hp): 
-> Operational max. speed:  km/h  
-> Tilting mechanism: Active, Alstom design 
-> Maximum tilt: 

-> Mass, metric tons: ___ net / ___ t gross
-> Coupler type:   
-> Axle weight max: ___ tons

Easy recognition guide

  • U. 
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Other interesting pages in this category on 

  Super Fast Trains Main Page  
  Super High Speed Trains News   
  Super High Speed Trains records Page   
  TGV & AGV page         
  AGV Page    
  Intercity Express - ICE  and Velaro Page       

  Shinkansen picture & fact page    
  Watching Super Fast Train at Paris Gare du Nord      
  The SNCF TGV Roster Page     
  Pendolino special page        
  Cisalpino (ETR470 Pendolino) story by Ilkka Siissalo in the Swiss section!    
  Sokol from Russia     

  High Speed in Russia   
  Super High Speed Efforts in the U.S.   
  Super High Speed in China   
  Maglev technology Page - levitation on the rail   

  Super High Speed Lines and Corridors...         
High Speed Services:
  Allegro - Helsinki Finland to St Petersburg Russia  
  AVE - High Speed service of Renfe Spain  
  Cisalpino - The Former Joint Venture of SBB/CFF and Trenitalia   
  FYRA - High Speed service of NS and SNCB in Benelux countries 
  Sapsan - High Speed service of RzD of Russia  
  Thalys - High Speed service from France to Benelux countries   
  TGV - High Speed service of SNCF in France    

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© Railroad Reference 2004 - 2010  -  Created in May 2008 John McKey, Updated 1.11.2010 John McKey