Yes, This Adorable Fiat Van-Based Train is Real, and It’s Your Friend
Ever heard of a train with a four-speed manual?
Everyone loves a little guy. A smol boi. Italy's state railway sure does, which is why it used to operate a fleet of amiable-looking draisines based on Fiat vans. They're retired now, but a couple dozen still exist in museums or operation conditions.
These draisines (known as speeders in the U.S.) were, according to Italian model train blog Scalaenne, called Fiat 500 Motocarrellos and were assembled by Fiat rather than a railroad. They don't look like 500s, and that's because their bodies came from Fiat 850T vans, which donated their fronts to both ends of these machines. Photos of their insides show accommodations as spartan as they come: Seating consists of slatted wooden chairs and benches capable of fitting six or so people.
In their middles were air-cooled, 500-cc parallel twins from the Fiat 500, making some 22 horsepower. That power was sent through a four-speed manual transmission to chain-driven wheels, pushing these featherweight Fiats (reportedly weighing around a ton) to a top speed of 56 mph. It's unclear how many were built, but there were evidently at least a couple dozen made—Scalaenne said 27 still existed as of 2012.
Motocarrellos seem to have been operated exclusively by FS Italiane, the state-owned railway conglomerate, which likely would've used them to transport track inspection or maintenance crews. (That's primarily what speeders are used for in the States.) At least one example used in Sardinia was said to have been used to transport valuables and had grates installed on its screens and a machine gun on the roof for defense. That specific unit is reportedly on display today at Volandia, an Italian transportation museum.
As for the one pictured up top, C694 was returned to running condition in 2012. Later in the decade, it received a full restoration and was acquired by an Italian rail preservation society. That means it's exactly where it belongs: With people who will ensure these charming little contraptions will be around for future generations to enjoy.
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