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The history of the unique Talgo trains dynasty

6 January 2023
Reading time ~ 30 min
Talgo 350 high-speed train
Talgo 350 high-speed train. Source: Talgo
Balberov Kirill, Founder of
Reading time ~ 30 min
Litvintsova Olga, Editor of International Projects, ROLLINGSTOCK Agency
Sanchez Miguel, Entrepreneur, Contributor of El Correo de Espana

Spain: Talgo celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2022. The producer’s rolling stock is based on unique technologies dating back to the 1940s. The author of the El Correo de Espana media and entrepreneur Miguel Sanchez has reviewed the evolution of the company and its technical solutions in a series of publications. The founder of media Kirill Balberov has translated and expanded these materials specially for ROLLINGSTOCK.

The origin of the company

Talgo is not only the brand name of the manufacturer but also the type of train. It has short aluminum cars constructed with the help of a tilting mechanism enabling automatic track gauge change directly while driving in order to switch fast from one track to another.

The train’s name TALGO stands for Tren Articulado Ligero Goicoechea Oriol that is a light articulated train created by Goicochea and Oriol. Alejandro Goicochea Omar was a designer and engineer who created the Talgo principle of trains construction, whereas José Luis de Oriol was a financier who supported the development of the train.

The Talgo company was founded in 1942. After Goicochea and Oriol built the Talgo 0 and Talgo I non-commercial prototypes and then Talgo II, the former stopped participating in the projects.

Talgo technology

Talgo trains have a completely different wheel system than usual railcars. It has the same number of advantages, but it is also not without disadvantages. The main downside is that trains can only be built articulated. The cars can be coupled and uncoupled through a complex procedure in the repair shops. The operator can’t change the number of cars in the train.

The main technological innovation of Talgo is the arrangement of wheel sets. Goicochea is said to develop the idea when he saw a kindergarten assistant assembling tricycles by mounting the front wheel of each on the axle of the previous one.

Wheelsets in the Talgo trains are located between the cars Wheelsets in the Talgo trains are located between the cars. Source:

Since the time when railways appeared wagons have been made with two axles at the end, which required them to be very close to each other. If the axles were any further, it would be difficult to keep the wheels in the right position on curves. That’s why originally the wagons were built short and to make them longer the axles were paired to form bogies.

Talgo’s initial solution was to build shorter cars with independent wheelsets. The wheels were not connected by an axle, and the bogies were located between the cars. At curves the rotating movement is transmitted over the rods causing the wheels to be mechanically aligned parallel to the track. It allows the railcar to turn at a higher speed and with a lower vibration level.

Talgo system implies that each of the wheels on the axle can rotate at a different speed. Source: Talgo

Talgo’s technology had been considered a breakthrough those days. It had been completely different from what was invented in 1825 in Great Britain”, the company says today. There were many unique characteristics. The light weight of the cars, reduced energy consumption, accessibility and comfort for passengers, stability and low operating costs are significant to date.

Talgo 0 was not even a railcar

The first prototype was built to test the system for operability and received the name of Talgo 0. It had a movable structure consisting of a long platform and formed by isosceles triangles. Wheels were connected to each other in a way that the axles were directed along the rails.

First test of the triangular steelworks designed by Goicochea, it was hauled by a steam locomotive The first test of the triangular steelworks designed by Goicochea, it was hauled by a steam locomotive. Source: Talgo

Alejandro Goicochea successfully tested this construction on August 21, 1941. While having a test run near Madrid it managed to reach a speed of 75 km/h. To develop this new system commercially the Talgo company was registered on October 28, 1942.

Talgo I: the first train burnt down

The second prototype was designed and built already as a train I. It was named Talgo I and unveiled in 1942. The train included the technologies from Talgo 0 specifically there was exactly one set of wheels between the cars and two axles in the tail car of the train.

The vehicle was created as a multiple unit with diesel traction. The head car was equipped with a 200 hp Ganz engine from Germany. An interesting feature of Talgo I was a design that mimics a shark. While trials the train reached a speed of 115 km/h and soon it managed to accelerate to 135 km/h.

Talgo I had an eye-catching design Talgo I had an eye-catching design. Source: Talgo

However, the train was destroyed by fire while being stored in a depot on February 5, 1944. The train had completed about 3,000 km of test runs by that time. The cause of the fire is unknown but according to one version it could have been done by competitors.

The beginning of serial production with Talgo II

Talgo II became the first train the company put into mass production. Due to the critical stature of the Spanish industry after World War II the production was organized in the USA at the American Car & Foundry (ACF) plant and was directed by Spanish engineers.

Talgo II trains were built using General Electric components, they consisted of coaches and diesel locomotives with one cab and electric transmission.

Talgo II built in the USA entered the commercial operation between Madrid and Hendaye with a speed of 120 km/h Talgo II built in the USA entered the commercial operation between Madrid and Hendaye with a speed of 120 km/h. Source: Talgo

An agreement to build two trains and three locomotives was signed In December 1945. Also, ACF built a third 6-car train named Talgo Model 1949. It was running for promotional purposes on the railway between New York and Chicago, as well as on the Pennsylvania Railroad until 1954. The second train built in 1959 was sold to Spain.

There were 7 trains in total built for operation in the USA and Spain. Their commercial operation began on March 2, 1950 in Spain. The train had an Art Deco style and could reach speeds of up to 120 km/h. The same trains were running on the Jet Rocket route between Chicago and Peoria.

The trains were decommissioned on January 15, 1972. The mileage was more than 8 mln km per each train. The part of two trains together with locomotives is kept in the railway museums of Madrid and Barcelona.

Old cars of the Talgo II train near the producer’s factory in Rivabellosa, Spain Old cars of the Talgo II train near the producer’s factory in Rivabellosa, Spain. Source: wikimedia

A bit different Talgo II cars were introduced in the late 1950s. The tests were held in New York until 1958, but were unsuccessful. However, general design ideas were used in the future when creating the Talgo III train.

Talgo III – the red train

Many innovations were applied to the Talgo III train. It received an eye-catching design with a red color prevailing and was operated from 1964 to 2010.

One of the new solutions was to include special generator cars in the train. Their function was not only to supply the train with power, but also to work as a link between locomotives of any type and the train. The relevance of the technology is explained by the fact that before locomotives required special equipment allowing to couple it with cars which have an unusual arrangement of wheelsets. With diesel locomotives of the 2000T model, the train managed to exceed the speed of 200 km/h for the first time in the history of Spain.

Talgo III train at Perpignan station in 2003 Talgo III train at Perpignan station in 2003. Source: wikimedia

Talgo III trains were the first to use a technology for changing the gauge while the train was moving. It was really important because in Spain a significant part of the railway lines has the so-called “Iberian gauge” with a width of 1,668 mm, whereas the traditional “European” 1,435 mm was also developing. This feature was in demand when operating on routes from Spain to other European countries as well. Trains with this technology were named Talgo III RD. The first direct train between Madrid and Paris started operation in 1968, and in 1969 a regular commercial service between Barcelona and Geneva began, too.

On tests of gauge changer On tests of gauge changer. Source: Talgo

Another model of Talgo III RD Camas sleeping cars appeared in 1974. They were included in the Barcelona Talgo train running between Barcelona and Paris at night.

Experimental train on the Gran Canaria Island

Goikochea decided to launch a completely new project in 1972. Although it was a personal initiative of the engineer, it would still be right to tell about it within the history of Talgo.

Alejandro Goicochea tried to create a completely new type of transport in the city of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The plan was to design an elevated road with TV-2 rubber-tired trains that would run on concrete overpasses. At the same time, the train should seem “suspended” between two concrete beams.

Experimental rail system on the Gran Canaria Island Experimental rail system on the Gran Canaria Island. Source:

An experimental section of the line was being built for several years in front of the Ministry of Public Works, which should have approved the application. Problems with the supply of components led to three years delay in presenting new type of transport.

Since the line was powered by generators the train was moving slowly, although according to the designer’s conception it should have reached the speed of up to 180 km/h. Seeing the discrepancy between the declared characteristics of reality the local authorities became concerned.

Also, the environmentalists intervened saying that in order to build such infrastructure many palm trees would have to be cut down. The conservatism rose among media suggesting that if such a system were built from one end of the island to the other, it would look like Las Palmas was “caged”. As a result, the project was not approved and the structures were dismantled.

Experimental transportation system on the Gran Canaria Island

Talgo Pendular with a tilting body

Talgo IV became the first train with the Pendular system, which regulates the body tilt. The train was introduced in 1980 after several years of testing. It managed to develop a speed of 230 km/h in 1978.

A tilting system for train cars when entering a curve. Source: Talgo

The wheels axles of such a train had connections with special suspension struts. The cars were connected to the undercarriage at the top of these stanchions and tilted as the train went through a curve. This passive system was different because it did not require electronic sensors or hydraulic equipment. An important advantage was that it practically did not require maintenance or the use of any engine. The system was only activated if the curve radius was less than 1,500 m and the speed exceeded 60 km/h.

The whole series consisted of cars for the Iberian gauge and included the ability to reach speeds of up to 180 km/h. These trains were operating both day and night in Spain. This rolling stock was also exported to Germany, the USA and Argentina. During tests in Germany, Talgo Pendular reached a speed of 291 km/h. Renfe stopped the operation of all such trains 41 years after implementation, in May 2021.

Sleeping cars of the Talgo Pendular train were running throughout Europe and had play areas for children, as well as televisions in the compartments Sleeping cars of the Talgo Pendular train were running throughout Europe and had play areas for children, as well as televisions in the compartments. Source: Talgo

From Talgo V to Strizh

Talgo V series differed from the fourth in the presence of an additional option for changing the gauge.

Talgo VI or Talgo 200 are the improved trains of the fifth series. Their production start is largely associated with the opening in 1992 of the first high-speed line in Spain from Madrid to Seville. Such trains were operated mainly with the T3000 locomotive made by the German Krauss-Maffei.

Talgo cars with a T3000 locomotive, 2000 Talgo cars with a T3000 locomotive, 2000. Source: Jean-Pierre Vergez-Larrouy/wikipedia

These were trains for international run between Spain and France under the Elipsos Trenhotel brand. They were operating until being canceled in December 2013 due to the commissioning of the Barcelona-Figueres high-speed line.

Tilting trains were exported by Talgo to other countries: Germany the USA, Kazakhstan and Russia. Also, the production of Talgo Pendular cars started in Seattle, USA in 1997. In the same year the Talgo train reached 333 km/h as part of a test drive between Ciudad Real and Mora, Spain.

The production of Talgo 200 trains was established in Seattle The production of Talgo 200 trains was established in Seattle. Source: Talgo

Talgo IX “Strizh” trains were delivered to Russia in 2014. They were made on the basis of Talgo VI cars and re-equipped for operation on the Russian gauge of 1,520 mm and in cold climate conditions. Trains for Russia were delivered in two different modifications of seated and sleeping cars.

The “Strizh” trains were initially supposed to run to Kyiv but when the relations between Russia and Ukraine were broken the sleeping train began to operate on the Moscow-Berlin line. After the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it entered the Petersburg – Moscow – Samara routes. The “seated” rolling stock ran from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod. In 2022, the operation of trains was suspended due to sanctions.

Similar trains are in operation in Kazakhstan, where Talgo built the Tulpar plant. After 670 wagons were assembled there the site was transferred to the management of TMH. In recent years the cars were assembled at the Tulpar plant using Talgo technology by the Kazakhstan Temir Zholy operator itself.

The Strizh train at the Ostbahnhof station in Berlin The Strizh train at the Ostbahnhof station in Berlin. Source: Gregory Ro/wikimedia

Talgo XXI HSR diesel train

Talgo presented the Talgo XXI HSR diesel train project at the Franca Station in Barcelona in January 1999. It was a fundamentally new vehicle, which could be operated on both European and Iberian gauges.

Talgo XXI achieved a speed of 256 km/h during tests on a high-speed line in Spain establishing a world record for a diesel train on July 9, 2002. However, only two trains were produced and both are now used for technical needs.

Talgo200HSR train Talgo200HSR train. Source: Wikimedia

The Administrator of Railway Infrastructures (Adif) uses these trains in Spain for inspection trips. “The test train successfully performs work to determine the condition of the tracks, the contact network and the electrification system, as well as to ensure the correct operation of the signaling”, the Talgo’s website says.

Talgo VII

The Talgo VII train was introduced in 2000  and incorporated the best of the Talgo Pendular and Talgo XXI. The cars have an air-operated hydraulic braking system whereas the power is supplied from the locomotive, not from the intermediate power cars. The train is adapted to move at a speed of 250 km/h using locomotive traction.

Talgo VII Talgo VII. Source: wikipedia

The manufacturer took care of the comfort of passengers traveling at high speed through the tunnels. To avoid pressure jumps often accompanied by unpleasant “hits” on the ears the atmospheric pressure was increased in the cars.

Braking characteristics were improved as well. Air conditioning generators were located in the lowest part of the car which made it possible to lower the center of gravity and increase the interior space of the car. It is worth noting that in the middle of the train one car had two wheelsets, while the rest were equipped with one in accordance with the traditional Talgo technology.

Talgo VIII are trains based on Talgo VII and made for export to the USA. The operation of these trains was stopped after Talgo VI had an accident in December 2017 in Washington State, when three passengers were killed and 57 people were injured. It was then considered that such trains were not safe to operate in the United States, although it was all about previous modifications. Two Talgo VIII trains intended for the US market were acquired by Nigeria for commuter service in 2022.

Talgo 250 and 350

Talgo 250 is a high-speed push-pull train model with a design speed of 250 km/h. Currently, three series of this model have been produced: 130 and 730 series for the Renfe operator and Afrosiyob series for Uzbekistan.

Renfe’s 130 series trains are hauled by bi-mode (DC and AC) locomotives with Bombardier Transportation technologies. The series includes 45 trains equipped with gauge change technology. It is interesting that locomotives were also equipped with this technology for the first time. They were created on the basis of an earlier TRAVCA prototype locomotive from Talgo. The absence of the need to change the locomotive when moving the train from one track to another greatly accelerated the transportation process.

Starting from 2011 fifteen 130-series trainsets have been converted to 730-series trains with the end cars replaced with diesel-generator cars to allow trains to operate on non-electrified sections. Exactly such a train had the accident on July 24, 2013 near Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain when 78 of the 218 passengers on board died. According to media reports, the train exceeded the speed limit twice.

Another variation of the Talgo 250 is the Afrosiyob series for Uzbekistan, which ordered in total of 6 such trains. These are AC trains were adapted for 1,520 mm gauge. In July 2022, it became known that Uzbekistan was looking for funds to order an additional batch of Talgo.

Talgo 250 Afrosiyob for operation on both electrified and non-electrified lines Talgo 250 Afrosiyob for operation on both electrified and non-electrified lines. Source: Talgo

Talgo 350 is a train produced jointly with Bombardier Transportation and designed for high-speed passenger transportation at speeds up to 350 km/h. The second name of the train is AVE class 102.

The train was designed primarily to operate on the Madrid-Seville high-speed line. When the tender for the supply of trains for this line was announced, Talgo did not have trains for such speeds in its backlog.

The experimental train consisted of a 4,000-kW locomotive created using core components from Bombardier and six cars. After successful tests, up to 12 cars were included in the train. The train can reach speeds of up to 350 km/h, however, its certified operating speed is 330 km/h due to the limitations of the propulsion system and energy saving causes.

The train was nicknamed Pato (“duck” in Spanish) because of the aerodynamic design of head cars, reminding a duck beak. Such a design reduces the noise generated by air resistance at a maximum speed. After Talgo 350 trains became “ducks”, Talgo 250s were nicknamed “ducklings”.

Talgo 350 of the Renfe’s fleet Talgo 350 of the Renfe’s fleet. Source: Talgo

Over time the 112 series began to be produced in addition to the AVE 102 series. Its main feature is the passenger capacity with 318 seats in the first series and 365 in the second. The increased capacity was achieved by adding one row of seats in the car by eliminating the “caboose” area (storage for food carts) in the end car, reducing the width of the backrests, installing more compact air conditioning equipment and replacing a number of cars with lower class of service. The 112-series trains are more interesting for operators and it is a prevailing tendency because the price per seat on the train is decreasing, while the operator’s income is growing.

Trains have been in operation since 2005 till today. Alongside Spain, they are exported to Saudi Arabia.

Delivery of Talgo 350 to Saudi Arabia Delivery of Talgo 350 to Saudi Arabia. Source: Talgo

A promising line of Avril, ICE L and Vittal trains

Talgo Avril continues the line of high-speed trains of the Spanish manufacturer. It was first presented in September 2010 at the InnoTrans exhibition in Berlin. In 2016, Renfe ordered 15 of these trains with an option for 15 more.

The train features a wide choice of configurations and the ability to work at high speeds of up to 330 km/h. There are variations both with a fixed gauge and with the ability to change the gauge during the trip. Trains can operate on electrified and non-electrified sections of the track, can be equipped with an additional body tilt system and have a different cabin layout. The G3 modification is designed to carry 590 passengers, whereas the G4 version is more modern and has increased passenger capacity.

Talgo Avril reached 360 km/h between Ourense and Santiago on the Iberian gauge in 2022. Previously, the speed record on such a track was 220 km/h. The manufacturer and operator have announced the readiness to operate the train at a speed of 330 km/h regardless of the gauge.

Talgo Avril Talgo Avril. Source: Talgo

Despite all the prospects of the development, the producer has problems with the delivery of the train. In 2022, Renfe already stated that it was exploring the possibility of imposing penalties on Talgo. The delivery of the first trains was scheduled for January 2021, but has not yet taken place. The last promised date is May 2023.

In turn, the ICE L trains became the development of Talgo VI and Talgo IX ideas. They were ordered in 2019 by Deutsche Bahn and demonstrated in 2022. They are expected to operate at a maximum speed of 230 km/h. Each train will be completely low-floor, it will include a multi-system electric locomotive working with different power supply and signaling systems. There will be 17 passenger cars per train, however its number can be changed later.

Talgo L for DB Talgo L for DB. Source: Talgo

Talgo also introduced the range of commuter and regional Vital trains in 2014. This is a low-floor train that can accelerate up to 160 km/h. A four-car train with a length of 78 meters can have a different layout of the train. However, Talgo faced problems contracting this model. In 2019, the Spanish manufacturer was announced the winner of the tender for the supply of 32 electric trains to Latvia, but after an appeal the contract was signed with Skoda Transportation.

Render of the Talgo Vittal train Render of the Talgo Vittal train. Source: Talgo

However, Talgo announced that it plans to start developing hydrogen trains for suburban and regional transportation. It is assumed that the train will be able to reach a maximum speed of 140 km/h when powered only by hydrogen cells, and 220 km/h when powered by a catenary. The producer received a €35 mln loan from the European Investment Bank to develop key components and systems for low-carbon rolling stock.

Based on a series of publications by Miguel Sanchez, author of El Correo de Espana. Translated, edited and expanded by Kirill Balberov, Founder of, specially for ROLLINGSTOCK.