The Trolleybuses of Recife
The city of Recife, capital of the state of Pernambuco in northern Brazil, has had a trolleybus system for 41 years, but because of its remote location the operation is one of the least known and least photographed on the planet [see chart of Latin American trolleybus installations]. The municipally-owned Companhia de Transportes Urbanos inaugurated the city's first lines in 1960 with 65 trolleybuses purchased from the Marmon-Herrington Automotive Company in Indianapolis, USA. It was Brazil's seventh trolleybus system. Along with 50 identical units built at the same time for Belo Horizonte, Brazil (which opened its system in 1953 – see 1963 photo), Recife's first trolleybuses were the last trolleybuses manufactured by the Indianapolis firm and the only ones that it built with three sets of doors. Today, the Recife Marmons are the only Marmons in (nearly) original form still in operation anywhere in the world. Recife's first trolleybus routes ran to Torre, Casa Amarela and Campo Grande - see map on another page. The postcard below, mailed in 1961, shows trolleybus 013 headed east on a bridge between Santo Antônio and Recife islands. [coll. Allen Morrison]
The original 65 Marmons were numbered 001-065. In 1966 CTU acquired 20 trolleybuses from Aços Villares in São Paulo, which it numbered 066-085, and in 1970 50 more Marmons from Belo Horizonte which closed its trolleybus system in 1969. The Belo Horizonte vehicles were renumbered 086-135. The photograph below shows original Marmon 065 and ex-Belo Horizonte Marmon 086 in Recife in 1980. [Allen Morrison]
In 1970 CTU also acquired five Massari trolleybuses second-hand from Belo Horizonte, which it numbered 136-140. Carrocerias Massari of Guarulhos, near São Paulo, also built trolleybuses for Porto Alegre and Fortaleza, Brazil. The Recife system reached its peak in 1970 with 140 trolleybuses on 18 routes [see map]. The photograph below, taken in 1980, shows Massari 139 on Rua do Sol. [Allen Morrison]
Some of the second-hand Marmons received a new livery in 1980. There were still nine trolleybus routes running in Recife that year. [Allen Morrison]
This postcard shows one of the bridges over the Capibaribe River - looking east from the mainland toward Santo Antônio island. Four trolleybuses - a Marmon, a Villares, another Marmon and another Villares - head westbound from their terminals on Av. Guararapes [see map]. [coll. Allen Morrison]
The entire Recife trolleybus system closed at the end of 1980. But in 1981 CTU restrung wire and opened a new service along Av. Norte and purchased a dozen new trolleybuses from Ciferal in Rio de Janeiro. Here is Ciferal 602 on rebuilt "Elétrico" route 602. [CTU]
A new route in reserved lanes opened along Av. Caxangá in 1982 and a completely new line, partially in reservation, opened to Olinda in 1991. The latter line was extended to a new interchange on Pernambuco highway 15 (PE-15) in 1994 [see map]. Some of the Marmons were rebuilt and renumbered in the 200, 500 and 900 series. Here is 216 on Av. Dantas Barreto in May 2000. [Andrew Ludasi]
The photograph below shows one of Recife's oldest trolleybuses entering the depot on Rua 13 de Maio [see map] in December 1999. [Marcelo Almirante]
In March 2000 the trolleybus system was privatized and ownership passed to the new Cidade do Recife Transportes. CRT purchased 18 of the 22 trolleybuses of the Ribeirão Preto trolleybus system, which had closed in July 1999. The fleet was built by Villares in São Paulo in 1982. Here are ex-Ribeirão Preto trolleybuses 957 and 959, resplendent in their new CRT livery, at the PE-15 terminus [see map] in March 2001.
CRT also repainted seven of its best Marmon-Herrington trolleybuses in the new darker blue. In addition to the CRT emblem between the rear doors, the new livery includes the logos of the EMTU (Empresa Municipal de Transportes Urbanos) and SEI (Sistema Estrutural Integrado), agencies that coordinate transport in the city. Here is 43-year-old 006 at the PE-15 terminus of route 900 [see map] in March 2001.
Other Marmons were not so fortunate. CRT retired 23 of its oldest vehicles in April 2001. This photograph shows 208 and 502, still in their CTU(R) paint scheme, at the Macaxeira terminus of route 641 [see map] in March 2001. Shortly after this photograph was taken, these vehicles were scrapped and route 641 was "temporarily" closed.
In April 2001 CRT also temporarily de-electrified trolleybus route 434, which shared a center reservation with diesel buses on Av. Caxangá [see map]. [coll. Marcelo Almirante]
After April 2001 trolleybuses ran only on route 900 in Recife. CRT's contract specified that trolleybus operation must continue, and it allegedly ordered a fleet of new electric vehicles from Busscar in Joinville (Santa Catarina state) in southern Brazil. But the new vehicles that arrived in Recife later that year were diesel models. The city administration initiated legal proceedings. CRT suspended trolleybus operation on 24 September 2001 "until," in its words, "the new electric vehicles arrive." As of January 2003 the electric vehicles have still not arrived, trolleybus operation has not resumed, the derelict trolleybuses sit in the yard on Av. 13 de Maio, and the city has not spoken further of the matter. The trolleybus system in Recife lasted 41 years.
Helmut Halle. "Der Trolleybus in Recife (Brasilien)". Der Stadtverkehr (Brackwede, Germany), 4/1962, pp. 107-8.
Companhia de Transportes Urbanos. Tróleibus do Recife: Um Programa Que Deu Certo. Recife, 1983.
Waldemar Corrêa Stiel. História do Transporte Urbano no Brasil, pp. 300-1. Brasília, 1984.
José Henrique d'Amorim Figueiredo & Antônio Carlos Perruci Loureiro Alves. "O Sistema Tróleibus de Recife". Trabalho apresentado no I Encontro Técnico entre Países Latino-Americanos sobre Transportes Urbanos, Brasília 1985. Brasília, 1986.
Additional information was supplied by Marcelo Almirante in Rio de Janeiro, Antônio Gorni in São Vicente, Sergio Martire in São Paulo, Murilo Machado in Recife, Andrew Ludasi in Princeton (New Jersey) and especially - after 2001 - by José Martins da Silva Junior in Camaragibe, a Recife suburb.
This website was created by Allen Morrison
See my 7-minute video of
The Trolleybuses of Recife
See my website about
The Tramways of Recife
and launched on 28 April 2000.
New text and photographs were added in 2001.
Final comments were added in 2003.
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