Peck's personal Web site
Tourist trains in Europe
Everyone should have a hobby or distraction of some sort.
For the past some years, we've been fascinated by the "road trains", or tourist trains (in francophonie, the "P'tit Train"), that course festively through any European city or tourist destination with pretensions to coolness. Here are a few of the best of them.
You may not find this tangibly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Gruyères, Switzerland, 2003
We'd noticed them before, of course, but we first began meditating deeply about tourist trains, or 'road trains', in 2003, when the owner of this one in Gruyères noticed our photos on the Web, mistook our anglo-saxon sarcasm, and invited us to edit the English version of his website, which we were pleased to do.
"An innovation since our last visit", we'd written, "A TRAIN so you don't have to walk all about to see the sights! Splendid! The village is only one street about 150 meters long, but this cool train will save you the effort of walking back and forth along it AND take you down to, and back up again from, the cheese factory/museum in Pringy at the bottom of the hill."
We hate sarcasm, we're always sorry we did it afterward. The old weblink leads somewhere else now anyway.
Locarno, Switzerland, April 2005
We'd been visiting Cannobio and Lago Maggiore for a week, and passing back into Switzerland on the scenic route home: here's a rainy market day in Locarno, the Piazza Grande on an April Saturday with the tourist train pulsing through the lethargy. Our curiosity about tourist trains was savagely piqued.
It says "Muson River 1894". We'd never seen one of these before, and we were . . . mesmerized. The riders look less excited than they ought to be.
Fifteen years of lunching on the waterfront, and we've been watching eager visitors clambering aboard this Dotto F87 model nearly every summer's day.
Chambéry, France, August 2005
The Duke's Palace was closed on weekends, in case of terrorists (the programme is called "VigiPirate": close the spots for tourists whenever terrorists might be most likely to hide amongst them! Weekends!), but at least the Petit Train was working. We hadn't learnt enough about these little wonders to appreciate what we were seeing at the time; except that it was empty. Tourist trains are always meant to be attractively cute and fun, so normally for "little train" they will write "P'tit Train", which sounds cuter and funner than "Petit Train".
Prague, Czech Republic, 2007
Chugging up the hill from the Charles Bridge to Hradcany castle, a Dotto Train, apparently a P90 model, though the P90 is supposed to have six wheels on the engine, not four.
Two Dottos, awaiting the rush-hour crush, seen from the top of the Old Town Hall.
Aix-les Bains, France (Lac de Bourget), 2007
We were visiting Aix-les-Bains as part of a wetland management study tour of the Lac de Bourget in the Savoie, and we nearly broke our neck trying to get closer for a picture of this little darlin'. Also empty.
Morges, Switzerland, August 2009
Congregating from around the Canton de Vaud, we've descended upon the lakeside village of Morges on market day to take the boat across to Thonon for Lisa's birthday (lunch, shopping!) -- upon seeing this colorful rig we hadn't the sense yet to mutter: "That's not Dotto. That's cardboard."
Colmar, France, November 2010
This is the homebase of the Colmar tourist train, in the Place d'Unterlinden ("under the linden tree") and in front of the Monoprix supermarket that rambles through that whole city block.
Now . . . this is a proper Dotto Train, the classic Euro 5, called the "Muson River 1894". All over Europe, they vary in colors and advertising placards affixed to them, but not otherwise. (We love to see them and collect photos of them, but we've never sat in one).
Colmar: Ooh, ooh, here he comes, right down the city street. A long, green Tourist Train with a glum driver and a freezing Japanese couple sitting at the back of the last car.
Féchy, Switzerland, September 2011
Exactly outside our front door in Féchy-Dessus, at our new village's annual wine festival, here comes the P'tit Train to collect the celebrants and cart them down to the lower village for some more wine in the late morning of a broiling hot day.
"Me too, I'm going to Féchy." The tourist train (this is a Dotto Trains F87 model, apparently hired for the occasion from Trolley and Tourist Tours of Geneva) ran continuously up through Féchy-Dessus all day.
Off they go, back down to Féchy-Dessous.
Bari, Italy, October 2011
We love these European city tourist buses -- they're all exactly the same (they're Dotto Trains!) except for the paint job. Except that this is definitely not a Dotto Train. In fact, it looks homemade.
And hard upon that one, here comes another. Similarly homemade, cardboard, different paint job.
Lecce, Italy, October 2011
In the cathedral square of Lecce, the Dotto Train is waiting to get up a full load of appreciative tourists.
The Piazza del Duomo, and its belltower of 70.72 metres built in 1661-82, and its Dotto Train with only one carriage on it because it's October and starting to get pretty chilly in the afternoons.
This too is a Muson River model, called the Euro 5, usually with a 4-cylinder diesel engine by Iveco (Fiat) but with an electric version as well. Dotto (founded by Ivo Dotto in 1962) is based in the Treviso region near Venice and makes most of the neat tourist trains in European cities; only Germany's Tschu-Tschu is a serious rival. (The Muson River is a negligible channeled stream that flows through Castelfranco Veneto in the Treviso region.)
Orta San Giulio, Italy, November 2011
Orta is a lovely town of a thousand-plus residents in a fantastic mountain setting, and it's got a lively small-scale tourist trade in the summers. We're here in mid-November, though, so the tourist train looks despondent. This is a Dotto Train "Muson River 1894" as well, the Euro 5 model, probably the most common road-train model in Europe, very cute and very serviceable, but sometimes empty.
Genova, Italy, February 2012
Behold! Under the Sopraelevata Aldo Moro, the elevated highway in the port of Genova -- it's another wonderful Dotto Train.
In fact, it's Dotto model Muson River Euro 5, pausing to load up with eager tourists before pushing off for a rewarding journey past all the most scenic spots. Clang clang.
The Muson River Euro 5 making its rounds through the Piazza de Ferrari, by the Ducal Palace.
Chartres, France, April 2012
We're parked at the South Porch of the Cathedral of Chartres, and the tourist train is passing by. It looks so familiar!
Of course it looks familiar. It's a Dotto Train Euro 5, the Muson River 1894, with about 50 passengers in a group at 7 euros a head. Do the math.
Some days later, goodbye, Dotto Trains 'Muson River 1894' model. They do look better when they're filled up with Japanese tourists or Old Folks Outings, but probably that's the nature of the business.
Morges, Switzerland, May 2012
We're here in Morges for the Belle Epoque steamships' annual naval parade, and here's the tourist train passing by again -- it seems NOT to be a Dotto Train!
Every European city worth visiting has a beautiful tourist train, the vast majority of which are manufactured by Dotto Trains from the Veneto region in Italy, and most of the rest of them by Road Trains "Tschu-Tschu" (as in "choo choo") in Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz, Bavaria, Germany. This is NOT a Dotto Train, so . . .
It's a Tschu-Tschu!
An impressive T120 or T180 model, named "William" (Guillaume). How vibratingly exciting, this is really our first Tschu-Tschu! Now (in April 2013) beginning its third season, the whole enterprise has been judged to be successful, with more than 4,000 passengers in 2012, and there are plans to expand its routes up into the villages nearby.
Cully, Switzerland, October 2012
Based at Cully near Lausanne, a Dotto Muson River Electric classic with hoardings on it, called the Lavaux Express -- "Tourist train in the land of the 'grands crus'!" -- running one-hour trips along the shore and up through the UNESCO World Heritage vineyards of the villages in the Commune de Bourg en Lavaux.
We're left to wonder where this all might end. Someday, perhaps, we will pay the money and ride in one of them, and penetrate closer to the core meaning of the thing, but probably not.
Meanwhile, in the USA . . .
The "Hometown Trolley", coursing down the thoroughfares of Ashland, Wisconsin, on Lake Superior, August 2012. That's the brand name (like Dotto and Tschu-Tschu in Europe), based in Crandon, Wisconsin, but with nationwide sales, and this is the Mainstreet model.
Toledo, Spain, November 2012
The manufacturer's name is obscured but it's probably a variant of the Dotto Trains 2x4 Euro 5 Muson River
With a temporary, pretend driver (courtesy of the kindly real driver) (This was my first ride on such a train.)
Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, December 2012
Dotto Train Muson River 1894, moving faster than my little Coolpix could get warmed up.
and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 31 May 2012, revised 11 April 2013.