Santa Teresa Tramway
Vehicles, 1875-present

Allen Morrison

Except during storms and periods of reconstruction, the street railway on Santa Teresa hill in Rio de Janeiro has been carrying passengers continually since 1875. It is the oldest tramway system in South America. See history of the line. This page traces the origin and history of the line's vehicles.

Most of the cars operated by Rio's tramway companies in the 19th century appear to have been built by the John Stephenson Company in New York. Evidence from photographs, transport histories and advertisements is strong – but details are sparse since the order books of most early tramcar builders, including Stephenson, are lost. The 820 mm gauge line which the Empresa de Carris de Ferro de Santa Theresa opened in 1875 ran only from Praça 15 de Novembro to Rua Riachuelo in the flat, lower part of the city [see map]. Operation of this line and its cars was transferred in 1879 to the Companhia Carris Urbanos. The postcard view below, which shows two C.C.U. trams at Praça 15 de Novembro, gives an idea of what the ECFST terminus might have looked like in 1875 [col. AM]:

In 1876, in order to reach the regions on Santa Teresa hill and beyond [see map], the ECFST constructed an inclined plane railway – one of the first on the continent – and acquired new equipment from Stephenson, including two counter-balance funicular cars. This photograph was taken at the Stephenson factory on East 27th Street in New York [col. AM]:

It also imported an unknown number of small passenger and work cars for the 914 mm gauge tram system that it built on top of the hill [col. AM]:

The inclined plane railway and the hilltop tram system were both inaugurated on 13 March 1877. The first two tram lines ran from the top of the funicular to Largo do Guimarães, thence along Rua do Aqueducto to Curvelo and Vista Alegre; the latter route was later extended to Silvestre [see map]. The tram shown in this postcard view is headed south from the funicular station toward Largo do Guimarães [col. Elysio Belchior]:

In 1885 the name of the company was changed to Empresa do Plano Inclinado de Santa Teresa, and in 1891 to Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca, a name that it maintained for the next 73 years.

Two of the city's other tramway companies, Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico and Estrada de Ferro da Tijuca, had acquired franchises to electrify their lines in 1890, and the Santa Teresa company secured the same in 1892 – along with permission to run its cars over the 18th century aqueduct between Santo Antônio and Santa Teresa hills [see map]. General Electric engineer James Mitchell was engaged by all three companies, and all three ordered electric trams from John Stephenson in New York. The Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca purchased an unknown number of vehicles, one of which is shown in this photograph of the inauguration of its electric system on 1 September 1896 [col. Charles Dunlop]:

It is impossible to determine the seating arrangement on car 2 from that photograph, but car 3 in the postcard view below has ten benches – two double benches at each end and six reversible benches in the middle. The postcard was mailed on 30 December 1901 and may show the original design of the first electric trams in Santa Teresa [col. AM]:

On the other hand, the next photograph of a Santa Teresa tram – thought to have been taken about 1910 – shows only eight benches. The driver's platforms have been shortened and there are only single benches at the ends. Was it a reconstruction of the other design? Or did CFCC order different models? This picture provides a good view of the Peckham model 8-B truck, which was supplied by Peckham Manufacturing Co. in Kingston, New York. The Santa Teresa company used Peckham trucks under most of its trams for 115 years [Augusto Malta, col. AM]:

The next photograph shows an excursion on the Sumaré line by company officials, engineers and their families on 25 April 1906 [see map]. (The line opened to the public the following November.) The origin of the tram is unknown. It does not seem new and does not look like any other electric tram in Brazil. This could be a horsecar rebuilt, electrified and re-gauged by the company – or by any of the city's many other tramway companies [col. Charles Dunlop]:

By 1906 the Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca had operated electric trams for 10 years, had laid 32 km of track, and was accommodating more passengers each day. But it still owned less than a dozen cars. In 1908, without consulting its stockholders, it ordered 25 new trams from St. Louis Car Company in St. Louis, Missouri. Unfortunately, construction of the Sumaré line had cost more than expected, CFCC could not pay its bills, and filed for bankruptcy. Upon arrival in Brazil the 25 St. Louis cars were transferred to, and paid for, by the Rio de Janeiro Tramway, Light & Power Company, which had been organized in Canada in 1904. RJTL&P re-gauged and numbered them in its 475-500 series [col. AM]:

Contrary to what has been written elsewhere, the St. Louis cars never ran in Santa Teresa. A 1910 newspaper article [see BIBLIOGRAPHY] reported that CFCC had purchased an electric tram second-hand from the Estrada de Ferro da Tijuca, and also a dozen horsecars from Companhia Carris Urbanos for use as trailers. It planned to buy new electric trams from a local builder, Trajano de Medeiros. The car shown in this postcard view of Sumaré Restaurant [see map] may be one of the latter [col.AM]:

The tram in the following photograph, taken on Rua Joaquim Murtinho [see map], is a Stephenson model from the early 1890s that was acquired from either the Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico or the Estrada de Ferro da Tijuca [col. AM]:

A 1911 newspaper reported that, in addition to Peckham trucks from the United States, CFCC was purchasing tram motors and other parts from Belgium. Belgian manufacturers were supplying complete tramcars at this time to Vitória, Curitiba and São Carlos, Brazil. A 1912 newspaper reported that CFCC had a fleet of 19 electric trams: 12 for passengers, 4 "mixtos" for passengers and baggage, and 3 work cars. The following picture shows an early work car leaving Santo Antônio garage [AM]:

In 1920, CFCC had a deluxe parlor car constructed by F. Passos & Companhia in Rio de Janeiro for the visit of Belgium's King Albert I. The royal family rode the car from Largo da Carioca to Silvestre, where it transferred to the cog railway to continue its trip up Corcovado Mountain [see map]. The tram allegedly ran only one day, then sat in the back of the CFCC garage for 32 years, until 1952, when it was scrapped. This is the only known photograph [col. C. J. Dunlop]:

The rest of the tramway fleet was less royal. An article in the industry magazine Brazil-Ferro-Carril mentioned the deplorable condition of the cars and frequent accidents [see BIBLIOGRAPHY]. In 1925 – perhaps as a result of the king's visit - CFCC acquired five new trams from Ateliers Dyle & Bacalan in Leuven/Louvain, 30 km east of Brussels [col. AM]:

[Detail of the advertisement above:]

No photograph has been found of a tram that looked precisely like that in Rio de Janeiro. But the five cars arrived and were numbered 31-35. Number 32, below, is apparently a Belgian model after minor adjustments. The benches, running board, clerestory and trucks are the same. The design established the pattern for CFCC passenger cars to come [col. AM[:

Tram number 7 in the next photograph looks similar, but is actually a reconstruction of a Stephenson car of 1896. It has been given some of the features of Belgian car 32, but the benches, grab bars and chassis are original, and the truck is unmistakably Peckham. The photograph was taken at Largo das Neves, terminus of the Paula Mattos line [see map] [col. Charles Dunlop]:

The following extraordinary photograph, no doubt taken by a tourist, is labeled "Lagoinha 14/9/1929". This is the best-quality and most recent view of one of the Stephenson trams of 1896. The CFCC seems to have added a larger roof [col. AM]:

Belgian tram 33 was photographed at Silvestre Restaurant, at the end of the Silvestre line, in 1930 [see map]. The restaurant burned in 1934 and was replaced by a new structure [col. Charles Dunlop]:

This new city terminal of the tramway was inaugurated in 1933 [see map]. Tram 13 shows a new arched roof design, but still has a clerestory and a large flat roof above it [col. Charles Dunlop]:

The three front-end views above of trams 3, 33 and 13 illustrate some of the American, Belgian and Brazilian contributions to the development of the CFCC tram car design. In 1953 CFCC presented two new trams, numbers 27 and 28, which established the design that became the standard for the next 60 years. Both had Peckham trucks [col. Charles Dunlop]:

A drawing of the CFCC "standard design" established in the 1950s [col. Charles Dunlop]:

A motor car and matching trailer climbing the hillside up from Largo da Carioca [see map]. The trailer has the same eight benches as the motor car, but is shorter because it lacks the platforms for the motorman, and rides lower because it has a different truck. The motor car has a Peckham truck built at the beginning of the century [col. AM]:

Motor car and trailer approaching Largo da Carioca in 1957 [see map]. Since at least the 1920s all CFCC equipment was painted green [William Janssen]:

Motor car and trailer at Largo do Guimarães in 1958 [see map]. CFCC claimed 26 motor cars, 21 trailers and 9 work cars in 1960. Passenger cars were numbered 1-35; trail cars 40-60 [William Janssen]:

An old wooden "Segunda Classe" car at Silvestre terminus in 1963 [see map]. It has a classic Peckham truck [Earl Clark]:

In January 1964 all urban transport lines in Rio de Janeiro, including the Santa Teresa tramway, became the property of the new Companhia de Transportes Coletivos. CTC painted all its vehicles blue – or blue and silver. Car 2 has a new look, but retains its chassis, benches, bench hardware and Peckham truck of 1896 [col. Roy Budmiger]:

A trail car, in another blue livery, waiting for its leader at Dois Irmãos terminus in 1965 [see map] [Foster Palmer]:

In 1967 CTC rebuilt one of its cars as a closed model with "standee" windows, reminiscent of an American "PCC". But ventilation was poor, the car was hot and uncomfortable, and was later made a baggage car and renumbered 19 [col. AM]:

A "Segunda Classe" mixed passenger/cargo tram, strangely numbered 201, in 1967. Compare to car 102 above [Trevor Rowe]:

In 1973 CTC introduced a startling new livery to its Santa Teresa trams: yellow with blue trim and little red hearts above the bench posts. This photograph shows cars 9 and 17 at the new Largo da Carioca terminal – the line's 6th terminal downtown – which was dedicated in 1975 [see map]. The photograph was taken in 1976 [AM]:

An unidentified tram leaving Largo da Carioca terminal in 1980 [see map]. The livery has changed slightly – the chassis painted blue – but the car still has a Peckham truck [AM]:

Maintenance was lacking. On some days in the 1980s there were only 3 or 4 cars in operation. Tram 8 lost its brakes on a hill and smashed into a wall on 28/4/1981. There were 2 fatalities and many injured. Here is a 1983 lottery ticket [col. AM]:

CTC's three work cars, numbered 105, 106 and 107, also had little red hearts and Peckham trucks [col. AM]:

In 1984 an American visitor reported fourteen open cars painted yellow, #2, 3, 5-7; 9-14 and 16-18; open car #4 painted blue; two closed cars, #01 and 15; blue baggage car #19; and yellow work cars 105-107. But very few were in service. Tram #8 had not been rebuilt since the 1981 accident. He photographed #15 on the "Y" at Dois Irmãos terminus. Note Christ statue atop Corcovado Mountain above left [see map] [John Benson]:

Color experiments continued. In 1992 CTC repainted several cars green, in an effort to restore the style of early years. The little red hearts were gone. The author photographed this specimen at Largo da Carioca loop in 1994 [see map] [AM]:

The residents rebelled. They wanted the yellow back. But paint was not the company's principal problem. Maintenance had been neglected for 30 years and there were only two trams in operation in 2005. The Associação de Moradores e Amigos de Santa Teresa ("AMAST") [Residents and Friends of Santa Teresa] began an aggressive campaign to restore the tramway system. In 2006 the city signed a contract with a local engineering firm, T'Trans, to rehabilitate the remaining vehicles. Number 08, below, with a new truck designed by T'Trans, was the first to be delivered, in 2008 [col. AM]:

Five more renovated cars arrived. But some derailed on curves. On 16/8/2009 a professor was killed when the brakes on car #01 failed and it collided with a bus. A French tourist fell to his death on 24 June 2011 when he lost his grip on a tram as it crossed the aqueduct. The "protective" fencing along the track did not protect him. Two months later, on 27 August 2011, six passengers were killed and 50 injured when tram #10 overturned on Rua Joaquim Murtinho [see map]. The system was completely shut down.

The reconstruction program had failed. AMAST and other Santa Teresa residents staged demonstrations on the streets, demanding that the "renovated" cars be withdrawn and the old trams returned. The government relented and signed a new contract with T'Trans to build 14 completely new trams with a design approved by Santa Teresa residents. The tramway garage, the substations, and all the tracks and overhead wire on the 15 km system would also be replaced. The traditions of the past would be maintained, but the city would build an entirely new tramway system.

On the outside, the new T'Trans trams look very much like the old model. But the mechanics, truck and electrical system inside are very different. The new cars are essentially modern light rail vehicles in 19th century bodies. See 24 enlargeable photographs taken at the T'Trans factory. A new car numbered 16 began testing there on 28/5/2014 and was delivered to Rio de Janeiro on 27/8/2014, the third anniversary of the 2011 accident. (Some residents found the timing distasteful.) Tram 16 was placed on display at Largo do Curvelo [see map] [Paulo Pacini]:

It began testing on a section of Rua Joaquim Murtinho – where the 2011 accident had occurred – on 1/9/2014, and made its first trip in three years over Os Arcos – as the aqueduct or viaduct is called in Brazil – on 1/10/2014 [see map]. Five new trams, numbered 16-20, had arrived by the end of 2014. Number 20 was photographed at Largo da Carioca terminus in January 2015 [Paulo Pacini]:

Here is its control panel [Paulo Pacini]:

The new trams began providing free rides between Largo da Carioca and Largo do Curvelo on 27 July 2015 – almost four years after the 2011 accident [see map]. Two thousand passengers waited hours for a ride on 1 August. Service has since been expanded...



(in order of publication)

"The John Stephenson Company" in Street Railway Journal (New York): short articles about the electric trams that it is building for the Tijuca, Jardim Botânico and Carioca lines in Rio de Janeiro – 6/1891, p. 330; 7/1891, p. 386; and 2/1896, p. 139.

"Companhia F. C. Carioca" in Gazeta de Notícias (Rio de Janeiro), 2/9/1896, p. 2. Inauguration of the Santa Teresa tramway.

"Strassenbahnverkehr in Rio de Janeiro" in Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift (Berlin), 22/10/1896. Electric tramway development – and opportunities for German companies – in Rio de Janeiro.

"The Street Railways of Rio de Janeiro" in Street Railway Journal (New York), 13/10/1900, pp. 975-979. Feature article about Rio's tram systems, including the "Carioco" line [sic].

"Electrical Apparatus in Brazil" in Electrical World and Engineer (New York), 3/1901, p. 380. By electrifying the Jardim Botânico, Tijuca and Santa Teresa tramways the General Electric Company of the United States is dominating the development of electricity in Brazil. The English should take note.

"Cars for Peru, Brazil and Porto Rico [sic]" in Electrical World and Engineer (New York), 5/9/1903, p. 913. The purchase of Stephenson trams and Peckham trucks in Lima, Rio de Janeiro and San Juan.

"Companhia Ferro Carril Carioca" in Jornal do Commercio (Rio de Janeiro), 29/3/1910, pp. A.1-A.3. Long article on the company's finances includes three paragraphs on its rolling stock.

"Associações: Companhia Ferro Carril Carioca" in Jornal do Commercio (Rio de Janeiro), 28/3/1911, pp. B.1-B.2. Long article on the Sumaré fiasco includes two paragraphs on the company's rolling stock.

"Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca" in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 22/10/1925, p. 530. Long, critical article about the frequent accidents on the line and the deplorable condition of the vehicles – "which should have been sold for scrap long ago".

[untitled news item] in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 1/4/1926, p. 312. Announcement that the Ferro-Carril Carioca has acquired five new trams from Dyle & Bacalan in Belgium and will build trailer cars to match.

"Segurança em trilhos renovados" in Revista Ferroviária (Rio de Janeiro), 2/2007. Detailed description of the condition of the tramway system and the work that needs to be done.

C. J. [Charles Julius] Dunlop. Subsídios para a História do Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro, 1957; second edition, 2008. The chapter "Ascensão ao Morro de Santa Teresa", pp. 205-224, is the definitive history of the Ferro-Carril Carioca and its predecessors. Seven illustrations.

"Rio de Janeiro: Le Tramway d'Orphée" in La Vie du Rail (Paris), #880, 20/1/1963. Brief article referencing the French-Brazilian film "Orfeu Negro". Six photographs.

G. B. Claydon & G. Mather. "South American tramways today, Part 2: Rio de Janeiro" in Modern Tramway (London), 8/1977, pp. 271-279. Nice survey, despite misinformation about equipment. Map, 11 illustrations.

Alan R. Lind. From Horsecars to Streamliners: An Illustrated History of the St. Louis Car Company. Park Forest, 1978. Job #805 dated 4/11/1908, shown on p. 340 of the order list, notes 25 8-bench open trams for the Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca. The note on p. 341 about the use of these cars in Rio de Janeiro was speculation and is wrong.

Norma Silva Hauer. "Cartas" on p. 2, Caderno B, Jornal do Brasil (Rio de Janeiro), 6/10/1980. Excellent full-page survey of tramway development – and crises – in the 1960s and 1970s.

José Banaudo. "Brésil: dernier tram à Rio" in L'Écho du Rail (Breil-sur-Roya, France), #50, 6-7/1985, pp. 25-29. Impressive 5-page description of the system and its vehicles. Fleet inventory! But misinformation on the trucks and track gauge. 2 maps, 14 large photographs.

Allen Morrison. The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York, 1989. History, pictures and map of the Santa Teresa system on pp. 93-113. In addition to the original paper edition, there is an online version. Other photographs and data on my website, The Santa Teresa Tramway (1998).

R. Dussart Desart. Du Caire à Tientsin: 120 Années de Tramways Belges à l'Étranger. Bruxelles, 1991. This massive, but unpublished, survey of the Belgian tramway industry notes the five cars that Dyle & Bacalan built for the Ferro-Carril Carioca in 1925. See vol. VI: Étude Géographique.

"Onde o bonde não faz a curva" in O Globo (Rio de Janeiro), 18/3/2008. p. 10. A tram rebuilt by T'Trans derails on a curve.

"Tragédia anunciada sobre trilhos" in O Globo (Rio de Janeiro), 17/8/2009, p.8. Full-page illlustrated article about the problems with the "rebuilt" trams.

"Paes pega o bonde andando" in O Globo (Rio de Janeiro), 18/8/2009, p. 12. Another full-page illustrated article about the Santa Teresa tramway problems. The line will be taken over by the municipal government.

Governo do Rio de Janeiro. Imprensa RJ, 28/5/2014. Novo Bonde de Santa Teresa entra em fase de testes na fábrica. Brief article with 24 splendid photographs of the new trams under construction, and testing, at the T'Trans plant in Três Rios.

Associação de Moradores e Amigos de Santa Teresa ("AMAST"). Impressive website with dozens of articles, photos, etc., about Santa Teresa and its trams – and tramway problems. It is largely due to this organization that the tramway is still running today.

Much of the material on this page is a product of the author's long friendship with Charles Julius Dunlop (1908-1987), who was an officer and director of Rio de Janeiro Tramway, Light & Power Company for 30 years, and finally president of the Ferro-Carril Carioca. In addition to Sr. Dunlop, the author would like to thank Paulo Pacini of Rio de Janeiro, Roland Dussart Desart of Brussels, Roy Budmiger of Oslo, Earl Clark of Cincinnati, and Harold E. Cox of Wilkes-Barre, for the assistance that they provided.

Also see The Santa Teresa Tramway:
my illustrated history of the line

See my general index of

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Allen Morrison

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7 October 2014

Copyright © 2014-2114 Allen Morrison

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