Over 40,000 railway-themed volumes are housed in the library, including monographs, collections and magazines all brought together and preserved over time by the men and women of the Italian railways. This important legacy is now conserved in Villa Patrizi in Rome, seat of the FS Foundation and has been catalogued in accordance with international library standards and, importantly, it is available for consultation.
Thanks to the online catalogue students, experts and enthusiasts have the entire list of publications at their fingertips and can then consult what they need in the Reading Room.
Like the railways themselves, the origins of the Library pre-date the founding of the Ferrovie dello Stato company in 1905. As far back as the 1880s a number of independent railway enterprises, such as SFAI (Società delle Strade ferrate dell'Alta Italia), SFR (Società delle Strade ferrate Romane), Rete Adriatica and Rete Mediterranea had started their own individual book collections which were then merged to a create a central library under the General Directorate of the State Railways, created in 1906.
With the passing of time and technological advancements the library grew. While the 1920s and ’30s saw the addition of numerous publications on the upgrading of the rail network, the constitution of the FS Foundation saw the arrival of the contents of Florence’s Service Material and Traction Archive where projects and rolling stock maintenance manuals were stored.
1. Italian and foreign 19th and 20th century rail transport periodicals, such as the «Bollettino delle strade ferrate» (Turin 1850), the first magazine of its kind, and the «Rivista Tecnica delle Ferrovie Italiane» (1912-1940), which was replaced after the World War II by «Ingegneria Ferroviaria», the most important Italian periodical in this field, and today published by CIFI – Collegio Ingegneri Ferroviari Italiani.
2. Rail transport statistics. Among other statistics volumes, we can find the complete series of «Relazione statistica annuale» (the annual statistics’ report) reflecting the rail company’s activities from 1867 to 1992, when it was replaced by the annual balance sheet.
3. Legal texts and parliamentary inquiries. This section houses texts on not only rules and regulations but also tomes containing the full legal processes on drafted laws: they testify to the immense public interest in rail transport. The management of the railways and the plans for its development, during the fifty years that followed the unification of Italy in 1861 were important topics of debate.
4. Maps. These are extremely rare and valuable documents and date back to before the country was unified. Among the oldest maps we can find colour representations which trace the lines built by the Southern, Mediterranean and Sicilian rail companies and which reveal, with great accuracy, the historical layout of many railway lines.
5. Pre-unification railway documents. These papers testify to the origins and the development of the different rail networks throughout Italy and the petitions and proposal put forward by citizens.
6. Other works. The Library’s reading room is home to many other books covering a wide variety of different subjects, ranging from the «Italian Encyclopaedia» or «the History of Italian Architecture » to books on law and economic texts, all of which are available to the public.