Dwight Peck's personal website

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 terribly 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.

Nyon, 2005

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.

Périgueux, France, June 2009

Rocamadour, France, June 2009

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.

Lucerne, Switzerland, May 2011

In Lucerne, a Dotto city train approaching the Musegg Wall tower at the end of the city wall along the River Reuss, 29 May 2011

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 in Lecce, 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.

Genoa, Italy, February 2012

Behold! Under the Sopraelevata Aldo Moro, the elevated highway in the port of Genoa -- 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.

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

In Toledo

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.

Morges, Switzerland, 3 June 2013

Definitely a non-standard road train. This one seems to belong to the Touring Club Suisse caravan/camping establishment in the huge park on the western edge of the old town.
In fact, it was made by Carrelli Elevatori, a subsidiary of Cerin S.A. of Giubiasco in Ticino, which specializes in forklifts.

Nyon, Switzerland, October 2013

The lovely Dotto Train, an older F87 model, that's been making the rounds of Nyon for many years.

Geneva, Switzerland, Paquis neighborhood, October 2013

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.

Trento, northern Italy, December 2013

The classic Dotto Muson River 1894, in Christmas get-up

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France, December 2014

Cheating a bit, the actual Dotto Muson River Euro 5 was not in service in this cold

Cremona, Italy, March 2015

A colorful road-train from the Coast-to-Coast-Express line of tourist attractions from Italpark LLC, Cremona, Italy, March 2015

Gubbio, Umbria, Italy, November 2015

A brand-new Dotto Muson River 1894, at a regular stop in the Piazza Grande, in front of the Palazzo dei Consoli, November 2015

This train went into service in March 2015.

Turin, Italy, December 2015

Parked in the Piazza Castello in front of the Palazzo Madama. The Cavourese company operates nearly 200 buses in the region, with a variety of Mercedes, Iveco, Scania, and Setra models, but this one is not shown on their website.

Lutry, Switzerland, June 2016

A colorful tourist train, the Lavaux Express, which makes hourly loops through various villages of this lakeside UNESCO World Heritage site, "Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces".

The train was built for the non-profit Lavaux Express Association by Moret Machines Agricoles of the nearby village of Savigny.

The Villa Borghese, Rome, Italy, November 2016

An attractive Dotto Train Muson River 1894 in front of the Galleria Borghese

Heading off into the park at dusk

Zürich, Switzerland, December 2016

Christmas cheer on the Sechseläutenplatz

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.

And this -- its twin -- roams the metropolis of Staunton, Virginia (September 2013)

And again in Staunton, Virginia, in June 2018

The Door County Trolley -- two of them have just rolled in to Gordon Lodge for group lunches. The company, out of Egg Harbor, Wisconsin, USA, sponsors Scenic Tours, Lighthouse Tours, Wine Tours, Beer Tours, Culinary Tours, 'Ghost Tours' (whoo), Spring Blossom Tours, and perhaps best of all, the Bloody Mary and Brunch Tour ('a Sunday morning eye opener'). Built by Double K, Inc., Trackless Trolley Buses, of Crandon, Wisconsin.

And a special treat

A Dotto Trains Muson River 1894, making its rounds in the Ben Aknoun Zoo in Algiers (thanks to Stuart Denyer for that)

Additional content

This is the very Muson River (not much to look at it, is it?) in Castelfranco near Treviso, Italy, where the headquarters of the Dotto Trains are located 400 metres down that road across the way, 28 February 2017. (Would that I had remembered that at the time.)

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 31 May 2012, most recently updated 21 August 2018, 13 September 2021.

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