Fiat Railbuses in Sweden

To replace the railbuses in the Y6 generation, SJ needed a new diesel motor vehicle in the late 1970s. After test drives with several foreign types, the choice fell on the Italian manufacturer Fiat, which was commissioned to deliver 100 vehicles to become type Y1. The basic construction was based on the type ALn 668 of the Italian state railways, a bogie motor car that was manufactured in 787 copies 1954-1983. Not all Y1 vehicles were manufactured in Italy, but some of them were built under licence in Sweden by Kalmar Verkstad. Numbers 1267-1336 were built by Fiat, 1337-1366 by Kalmar Verkstad.

In 1979, the first, Y1 1267, arrived in Sweden via the ferry Helsingør-Helsingborg, and tested in the Östersund area. The colour scheme was orange with a grey roof and the vehicle number was placed in big white numerals on the fronts on a black background. The interior consisted of two lounges with a toilet in between. The colour of the seat upholstery was either green (where manufactured by Fiat) or red (where manufactured by Kalmar Verkstad). The first 25 units had 76 seats, but as this was perceived as crowded, the number was reduced to 68 in subsequent units.

When the deliveries of Y1 were in progress, SJ realised that, above all on the Norrland lines, they also needed a couple of units with extra cargo space and the order was changed so that 12 units were built with a small cargo area. These units became YF1 and had only 48 seats. On both the Inlandsbanan and the Halmstad-Nässjö line, Y1 units pulled a luggage wagon or freight wagon, something that went well when the train consisted of several motor cars; however, a lone Y1 with a trailer had to work hard because the Y1 units had been delivered with a rather weak engine.

The Y1 units were gradually installed on almost all non-electrified railways with passenger traffic and thus spread throughout the country, from Ystad-Simrishamn in the south to the Haparanda line in the north. The units were quickly appreciated for their good running properties even on bad tracks. Compared with Y6/Y7, however, they were heavier and more expensive to operate. Due to their origins, they were nicknamed “pizza racers” and “spaghetti trains”!

The trains were initially affected by some problems during the winter because parts of the equipment were quite unprotected. Among other things, the cooling air intakes in the chassis were blocked again (a problem that previously occurred with the Y6 generation). The intake was therefore later rebuilt and extended up on the carriage side (the large protruding ‘boxes’ on the bodysides). Both Y1 and YF1 received multiple equipment and up to six units can be driven together. Such long trains are unusual, but trains with four or five carriages have occurred on the Inlandsbanan and the Malmö-Ystad line, among others.

In connection with the county traffic reform at the end of the 1980s, when each county transport company had to take over traffic on the smaller tracks, they began to repaint the units in different colours and the Y1 is probably the Swedish vehicle that has existed in most different variants when it comes to liveries! During the 1990s, many of the units were also modernised with new interiors and new, stronger Volvo engines. Several of the YF1s were rebuilt into Y1 as the need for freight space decreased and now there are no YF1s left in traffic in Sweden. The motor vehicles SJ had after the county traffic reform became redundant and were sold to Croatia and Serbia. Three were also sold to NSB in Norway, where they were used on the Bratsbergsbanen until 2015. A total of 28 Y1/YF1 were exported in 1996-2001, later followed by additional units. Some even ended up on another continent – in 2013, Östgötatrafiken sold five Y1s to Uruguay. The last remaining YF1 motor vehicle in Sweden, Y1 1325, was rebuilt in 2007 by Svensk Tågteknik into an auxiliary / tow truck for the Norwegian National Rail Administration. In 1996, Banverket bought a Y1 from SJ, which was then converted into a conference motor vehicle with the designation PMV 2000. It is now used by the Swedish Transport Administration with the designation Y1S 1363 and has been given a red colour scheme.

After Västtrafik took its last Y1 out of traffic in December 2019, all county transport companies have now replaced Y1 with Y31/Y32 motor vehicles. However, there are still some Y1s left in traffic on the Inlandsbanan, and DVVJ also uses Y1 in the summer traffic Mellerud-Bengtsfors. Svensk Tågkraft has a total of four units for internal use during the autumns and the Norwegian company Taraldsvik Maskin has a motor vehicle for transport on the Norwegian part of the Ore Line. The three units that Västtrafik took out of traffic in 2019 have been sold to Svensk Tågkraft (Y1 1270) and Infranord (Y1 1271 and 1272). Three units have become museum vehicles: Y1 1343 (which has an original engine and interior) at the Railway Museum, Y1 1299 at Nässjö Railway Museum and Y1 1359 at Malmbanans Vänner / Norrbottens Järnvägsmuseum.

The Y1 was proposed as a model in H0 scale by Lima not long before their demise. They were going to produce every livery that the units had appeared in, but probably not the YF1, nor the original condition version without the air intakes on the sides. It was an ambitious program and did not materialise. A few years ago, One:87 produced a high-specification model of the Y1, but at a price that was prohibitive to most modellers. The fact that the Y1 had become a symbol of SJ local trains, its absence from the affordable market was causing modellers quite a degree of frustration and consternation.

NMJ’s model of the Y1/YF1 is a much appreciated model and the first batch (original condition, two of each Y1/YF1 analogue; and an undetermined number of DCC variants) sold out extremely fast. NMJ has hinted that their model will be an historic documentation of the SJ Y1; so maybe the orange versions with the air intakes will be next, and gradually the newer liveries. NMJ hints that not all liveries will be produced, rather the ‘most important and interesting’ versions. It is remotely possible that the exported versions could also appear!

The model comes complete with factory installed light functions and loud-speaker. It has NEM362 coupling pockets, but there seems to be some inconsistency with spare parts. At one end the model is fitted with a full plough and no coupling; but at the other end there is a coupling and a plough that has been ‘compromised’ to make way for the coupling. The end without the coupling does have the NEM mechanism to which a coupling can be fitted. In one of the units acquired by the former FLMJ, the accessory bag has the spare coupling but no plough; the other unit has no spare coupling. The information leaflet that comes with the model states that spare ploughs are included, but they’re not. Nevertheless, NMJ is maintaining a collection of spare parts for warranty and after-sales service. The accessory bag does include mirrors, brake hoses and steps, etc.

The model is designed for so-called Radius-2 and upwards, which is tighter than the usual requirements for modern models! The models are generally maintenance-free, but a tiny amount of lubrication may be necessary, and NMJ recommends a couple of brands for this purpose. There are very concise instructions for mounting the accessories and decoder. The model comes as a B’2′, meaning a power bogie at one end, and a trailing bogie at the other; the actual units are (1A)'(A1)’. NMJ recommends 15 minutes running-in at half-power, in each direction. One particularly nice detail (not properly explained in the leaflet) is that the model includes the red tail lamps at gutter-height, which in DCC, flash correctly. (Jeco’s X2000 has this feature, even on the Analogue model, so a modification shouldn’t be too difficult!)