The Tramways of
Além Paraíba ("Beyond [the] Paraíba") is on the north shore of the Paraíba do Sul River (which separates Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro states), 175 km upstream from Campos, 100 km east of Juiz de Fora and about 160 km northeast of the city of Rio de Janeiro [see area map]. The township was called São José d'Além Parahyba until 1923 and encompasses several small communities: São José, the original settlement where the city hall and cathedral are located; Porto Novo do Cunha, 3 km up the river, which is the business and commercial district; and Vila Laroca, a hilltop residential area in between. Population was 6,000 in 1925, is 35,000 today.
The electric tramway that opened in Além Paraíba in 1925 was one of the last built in Brazil, followed only by systems in Aracaju (Sergipe state) in 1926 and Bom Sucesso (also in Minas Gerais) in 1930. (Strictly speaking, one could add the unusual tramways that opened in Itatinga in 1958, Campinas/Taquaral in 1972 and São Luís/Tirirical in 1978.) The Além Paraíba tramway was also one of the first to close, after an accident in 1939, a fact that explains why it was one of the least photographed in Brazil.
Além Paraíba grew up at the junction of two steam railroads: the Estrada de Ferro Central do Brasil, which opened its 1600 mm gauge branch from Três Rios to Porto Novo in 1871; and the EF Leopoldina, which established its headquarters at Porto Novo and opened the first section of a meter-gauge line toward Leopoldina in 1874 [see area map]. A local industrialist named Affonso d'Angelo Visconti founded the Empreza Ferro Carril Além Parahyba in 1889 and inaugurated a 4 km mule tramway between São José and Porto Novo in 1891 [see city map]. The picture below, taken about 1900, shows an EFCAP tram passing the cathedral on Praça Coronel Breves in São José [col. AM]:
The rails shown in the foreground of the picture above belonged to the EF Leopoldina. The horse tramway followed the steam railroad along part of its route [see map]. In the early 1900s the tramway was acquired by Nicoláo Taranto, Severino Martins and Herculano Couto, who issued the following ticket for their Empresa Ferro Carril [col. Romeu Côrtes]:
In 1921, when the city's population reached 5,000, EFCAP owned 12 cars and 60 mules and transported 150,000 passengers. A Portuguese named Adão Pereira de Araújo, who had built the region's first electric power plant, purchased the tramway in 1923 and began electrification. The origin of the three 40-passenger open cars is uncertain, but they are similar to the vehicles that opened the electric tramway in nearby Cachoeiro de Itapemirim in 1924, which are of the type built during this period by Trajano de Medeiros & Cia in Rio de Janeiro. Note Araújo's initials, "A P A" [col. AM]:
This photograph shows the company's new electric tram fleet at the depot at the west end of the line in Porto Novo [see map]. The rails in the immediate foreground belong to the EF Central do Brasil. The hills in the distance are in Rio de Janeiro state, on the other side of the Paraíba do Sul river [col. Wanderley Duck]:
Most of the town's population turned out for the inauguration of Além Paraíba's new electric tram line, on Brazilian Independence Day, 15 November 1925. Crowds were so great and the festivities so extensive that the EF Leopoldina ran special trains back and forth all day long between São José and Porto Novo [col. Romeu Teixeira Côrtes]:
A poster commemorated the new era [col. AM]:
Track gauge of the electric tramway was one meter, its length was 4 km and, like the mule tramway, it paralleled the steam railroad along most of its route [see map]. The postcard view below shows Rua Adão Araújo in Porto Novo. That's the railway station on the left. The photographer was facing east. The river is behind the buildings on the right [col. Romeu Côrtes]:
In this view, the photographer was standing in approximately the same place as in the view above, but was facing the other way, west, toward the tram depot [see map]. The approaching tram is signed "São José". Rua Dr Luiz Mendes is called Rua Adão Araújo today [postcard, col. Romeu Côrtes]:
Another view of the railroad station in Porto Novo [see map] [col. AM]:
On the eastern end of the line in São José, the tramway and the steam railroad ran side by side down the main street [see map] [col. AM]:
In the 1930s one of the trams acquired a fancy destination board. Location is believed to be the tram terminus in Saúde [see map] [col. AM]:
Araújo sold the line to the Empresa de Viação, Força e Luz in 1931 and the tramway came to a grotesque end on 25 July 1939. Car number 3, pulling a funeral trailer, lost its brakes and missed the right angle turn on Vila Laroca hill. The vehicles crashed into a bakery and caused additional fatalities. The event was traumatic for the small town and the tramway never reopened.
Brazil-Ferro-Carril, Rio de Janeiro, 1925. News items in the "Tramways" section of this transport journal report on the construction and inauguration of the electric line between Além Paraíba and Porto Novo: 15 X 1925, p. 495; 19 XI 1925, pp, 625-626; and 24 XII 1925, p. 758.
Victor Silveira. Minas Geraes em 1925. Belo Horizonte, 1926. The chapter on "Além Parahyba" on pp. 753-754 mentions the electric tramway "recently inaugurated by the E.F. Leopoldina" [?]. There is a small illustration of the electric tram line.
Max Vasconcellos. Estrada de Frro Central do Brasil/Vias Brasileiras de Comunicação. Rio de Janeiro, several editions, similar titles: 1927-1947. Fascinating gazetteers of Brazilian railroads and the towns they pass. The "Porto Novo" and "Além Paraíba" chapters in the 1935 edition mention the tramway several times.
Ralph Mennucci Giesbrecht. Estações Ferroviárias do Brasil. A wonderful website about Brazil's railroads and railroad stations. See the Além Paraíba and Porto Novo pages.
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