4: A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE TRAMWAYS OF BRAZIL
(Additional information about tramways mentioned in this part can be found in the discussions of each individual city in Part 6, below.)
The development of Brazil's tramways depended upon political, economic and geographical factors that were unique in Latin America.
Because it was a colony of Portugal and its language is Portuguese, Brazil's political and cultural development was separate from that of the Spanish-speaking countries and its transition into a sovereign state took a different course. In the early 19th century, as the other South American colonies were waging bloody wars of independence against Spain, Brazil joined forces with Portugal in an alliance against France. When Napoleon overran Europe in 1807, the entire Portuguese court - 15,000 strong - moved to Brazil and made Rio de Janeiro the new capital of the Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarve. Brazil declared independence on 7 September 1822 but continued to be ruled by the Portuguese House of Bragança until establishment of the Republic on 15 November 1889. "Sete de Setembro" and "Quinze de Novembro" are common street names in Brazil. During this period of constitutional monarchy Brazil enjoyed a century of relative stability and strong industrial advancement.
One of the reasons for its progress was its extraordinary leader, Emperor Pedro II, who governed from 1831 until 1889. Pedro was a benevolent man and an intellectual who traveled widely and befriended literary and scientific figures in North America and Europe. He was also an amateur scientist and brought the latest scientific inventions back to his homeland. Brazil was the first country in South America to plan a railroad, had the continent's first electric telegraph, used postage stamps before the United States, founded the first geographical society in the hemisphere, et al.
Brazil's first cities, which were the sites of its first tramways, were the seaports along the Atlantic coast. Sugar, cotton and rubber were the early commodities and the important commercial centers before 1850 were in the tropical regions of the north: Salvador, Recife, Fortaleza, São Luís, Belém. Salvador was Brazil's capital until 1763. In the later 19th century, as coffee, mining, manufacturing and other industries developed in the more temperate zones, commerce shifted to ports in the south: Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, Santos, Porto Alegre, Rio Grande. Cities were slow to develop in Brazil's vast interior regions because of two geographical features: a coastal mountain range, running from Salvador to Rio Grande, made access difficult; the rivers that begin in these mountains flow peculiarly, not into the ocean, but westward into Paraguay and Argentina. In contrast to Paraguay, Argentina and most countries in North America and Europe, large cities did not develop along inland waterways in Brazil and there was no easy way to get produce from the fertile plains down to the seaports.
Railroads were the obvious key to the development of the interior, but these were expensive to build because of the terrain and great distances. The government awarded franchises to all applicants: the first contract, for a 450-km line between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, went to a Scottish homeopathic physician named Thomas Cochrane in 1839. Doctor Thomas Cochrane was a cousin of Admiral Thomas Cochrane, the English naval hero who came to South America to help Chile and Peru win independence from Spain. [Dr. Cochrane's father, Basil, and Admiral Cochrane's father, Archibald, were sons of Lord Thomas Cochrane, 8th Earl of Dundonald, Scotland. See Aroldo de Azevedo, Cochranes do Brasil (São Paulo, 1965).] But Doctor Cochrane could not raise funds for his project and it was a Brazilian named Irenéo Evangelista de Souza who inaugurated Brazil's first railroad, a 14 km line from Guanabara Bay north toward Petrópolis, on 30 April 1854. Robert Milligan, an Englishman, was construction engineer. Emperor Pedro II conferred upon Souza the title of Baron of Mauá: in addition to building the Petrópolis railroad Mauá also founded the Banco do Brasil, built shipyards in Niterói, installed Rio's first gas lamps, laid underwater cables to Europe, and inaugurated the first 48 km of the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo railroad in 1858.
With funds from the sale of his railroad franchise, Dr. Thomas Cochrane built Brazil's first street railway in Rio de Janeiro in 1858. The line began scheduled passenger service on 30 January 1859 and was christened by Emperor Pedro II on 26 March of that year. Brazil may have been the fifth country in the world, after the United States, France, Chile and Mexico, to have a street-running mule-powered passenger-carrying railway. [In view of the obscurity of the Brazilian line it seems possible, even probable, that other early operations are unknown. Horsedrawn streetcars began revenue service in New York in 1832, in Paris in 1855, in Santiago in 1857 and in Mexico City in 1858.]
Track gauge was 1676 mm (5 ft 6 in), the same as on the Petrópolis railroad, and the 7 km line ran from Praça Tiradentes in downtown Rio to the suburb of Tijuca. The engineer is believed to have been an Irishman named William Ginty, but other construction details are sparse: the cars might have been built in Mauá's shipyard in Niterói, by a Danish carriagemaker in Rio named Röhe & Irmãos, or by John Stephenson in New York, who built the trams for the pioneer line in Chile. The Baron of Mauá bought the Tijuca mule line the next year and converted it to steam traction, establishing the first steam tramway in Brazil in 1861. Some of the equipment for the Tijuca steam line came from Joseph Wright & Sons in Saltley, England.
Street railways soon opened in other cities. A Frenchman inaugurated a mule line in Porto Alegre in 1864. An American opened a tramway along the waterfront in Salvador, using trams bought second-hand from Boston, in 1866. The Brazilian Street Railway Company, founded in London in 1866, inaugurated a steam tramway in Recife in 1867; the locomotives, built by Manning Wardle & Company of Leeds, are believed to have been the first constructed exclusively for street railway purposes. Another steam tramway opened in Maceió in 1868 and an American named James Bond built a steam tramway in Belém in 1869. Belémers believe that Bond's name was the origin of the Brazilian word for tram (see Part 2, above). Passenger cars for both the Recife and Belém tramways, as well as the Boston cars that ran in Salvador, were built by the John Stephenson Company in New York.
The prestige tram company during this period was the Botanical Garden Rail Road that began operation in Rio de Janeiro in 1868. Founder was Charles B. Greenough, who was formerly with the Bleecker Street & Fulton Ferry Rail Road in New York. The high standards which Greenough established in the residential districts of Rio's "Zona Sul" (South Zone) became a model for other cities in Brazil and throughout South America. The Botanical Garden cars were also built by Stephenson in New York. Another American, Albert H. Hager, founded the Rio de Janeiro Street Railway and inaugurated a second system in Rio's "Zona Norte" in 1869. The first Brazilian-owned tramway in Rio, the Ferro-Carril da Vila Isabel, began operation in 1873.
Mule lines opened in Belém in 1870, in Santos, Niterói and Recife in 1871, in São Paulo - the first inland system - in 1872, in São Luís and Pelotas in 1873, in Campos in 1874 and in Rio Grande in 1875. A brochure about Brazil issued at the Universal Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876 lists 33 systems in 14 cities - including three companies in Recife, five in Salvador and 13 tramways in the city of Rio de Janeiro. In 1877 a steam-powered inclined plane railway was constructed in Rio de Janeiro and an isolated mule tramway began operation on the top of Santa Teresa hill.
By 1880 the number of tram systems in Brazil may have reached 50; in 1885 there were perhaps 75. New steam lines opened in Rio in 1882, in Santos in 1885, and between São Paulo and the village of Santo Amaro in 1886. Animal systems were inaugurated in Campinas in 1879, Fortaleza and Florianópolis in 1880, Juiz de Fora in 1881, Curitiba in 1887 and in Ouro Preto, Brazil's famous Baroque city, in 1888.
Most of Brazil's early tram systems were financed, installed and operated by foreigners, principally from England, Germany and the United States. Soon after inauguration, however, ownership of most of these systems passed to Brazilian corporations or to the local municipalities.
Emperor Pedro II attended the 1876 Philadelphia Exhibition and met Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell. It was only a few months later, in 1877, that the first electric telephones were installed in Brazil's capital. Two years later, in 1879, electric arc lamps illuminated the Dom Pedro II railroad station in Rio de Janeiro. In the same year, the Botanical Garden Rail Road established electric telephone communication between its five tram stations. In 1881 Edison incandescent lamps lit an industrial fair at the Campo da Santana in Rio and in 1883 the city of Campos, state of Rio de Janeiro, inaugurated the first electric street lighting system in South America. All of these events took place only a short time, in some cases a matter of months, after similar achievements in North America and Europe.
In the 1880s there were at least three experiments with electric tramways. A battery-powered car, apparently of local design, ran from July 1883 until early 1885 on the outer end of the Fonseca tram route in Niterói. [Battery trams were first tried in Paris in 1881 and in London in 1882. See J. H. Price, A Source Book of Trams (London, 1980), p. 40.] In 1884 Emperor Pedro II attended a demonstration in Fonseca of "bondes elétricos com fios subterrâneos" (electric trams with underground wires). These Niterói operations, unfortunately, were not well documented and the only information available on them comes from brief newspaper accounts. Across the bay in Rio there were several electric tram demonstrations at the Brazilian Railway Exposition of 1887. On 2 July 1887 the Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico (reformed as a Brazilian company in 1883 after Greenough's death) operated a tram powered by a storage battery designed by Edmond Julien of Belgium.
The electric tram era in Brazil began in earnest in 1891 with the simultaneous construction in Rio de Janeiro of two electric tramway systems using overhead wires. [A third line planned that year in Salvador, Bahia state, was not built; electric trams did not run in that city until 1897.] Both were built by the Thomson-Houston Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, USA - which was reorganized as the General Electric Company in 1892 - and both were supervised by a young Canadian-born engineer named James Mitchell. [Like Thomas Cochrane who installed Brazil's first animal tramway in 1859, Mitchell was of Scottish descent. His parents emigrated from Scotland to Pembroke, Ontario, where James was born in 1866, and later to Boston, Massachusetts. James took a job with Thomson-Houston and was involved in the installation of electric tramways in Pittsburgh, Omaha, Scranton, Des Moines and Denver, before going to Brazil at age 24 in 1890. Assigned the GE franchise for Brazil, he founded his own company in 1899 to import American electrical equipment, but sold his rights to the Brazilian Eduardo Guinle in 1903 (see discussion in text). Mitchell later held important managerial positions with the tramway companies in São Paulo, Salvador and Manaus. In 1910 he returned to the U.S. and founded Alabama Power Company, of which he was president until his death in 1920. Mitchell Dam, on the Coosa River near Montgomery, is named after him.]
The first to begin construction was the Estrada de Ferro da Tijuca, a 5 km, 600 mm gauge mountain railway that ran from the end of the São Cristóvão horsecar line in Tijuca up a serpentine path to a park at Alto da Boa Vista. Track was laid, wire was hung and John Stephenson of New York shipped twelve (!) electric cars to Tijuca in 1891. But the company went bankrupt and the cars sat unused in the barn for seven years. The first electric railway to start revenue passenger service was the second to begin construction: the Flamengo line built by the Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico along Rua do Russell in the Zona Sul. Length was 4 km, track gauge was 1435 mm, and the first three electric cars, also built by Stephenson, had Robinson radial 3-axle trucks. Tests began in August 1892 and Marshall Floriano Peixoto, Vice President of the newly proclaimed Republic of Brazil, was present at the formal inauguration of Latin America's first electric tramway on Saturday, 8 October 1892. [Technically, Latin America's first electric tram ran in Mexico. A short electric line from Laredo (Texas), USA, across the Rio Grande into Nuevo Laredo (Tamaulipas), Mexico, opened on 12 March 1890. But the line ran only a few blocks on Mexican soil and could hardly be considered a Mexican enterprise; it existed only as a branch of the Sprague tramway system across the river.]
Like the Botanical Garden horsecar system in 1868, the Jardim Botânico electric tramway a quarter of a century later set new standards for urban transportation in Brazil. It began building its own equipment in 1897, had a fleet of 75 electric cars in operation by 1903 and ran its last mule-powered line in 1905. The Jardim Botânico company built a tunnel under the Carioca mountains that enabled Brazilians to get their first glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean at Copacabana Beach.
Mitchell and General Electric electrified the Ferro-Carril Carioca lines in Rio's Santa Teresa district in 1896 and put the Tijuca railway into service in 1898. Gauge of the Santa Teresa lines was changed from 914 mm to 1100 mm, the widest that would fit on the 18th century aqueduct that brought the cars from the hills into the center of town. The first vehicles were built by Stephenson in New York and completion of the Carioca network in 1897 gave South America its first entirely electric tram system. Two of the lines still operate today.
A group of American industrialists, led by an official of the United States Rubber Company, built an electric tramway at Manaus, capital of the state of Amazonas, in 1899. Equipment for this line was allegedly supplied by the Johnson Company in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and track gauge was meter. General Electric installed another meter-gauge electric tramway in Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state, in 1902. Its first six cars were built by Jackson & Sharp in Wilmington, Delaware.
The General Electric Company built most of the early electric lines in Brazil, and also in other countries in Latin America. But other companies were not standing idly by. Siemens & Halske, the pioneer German firm, installed electric power plants and street lighting in several cities in Brazil in the 1890s and inaugurated an electric tramway in Salvador, state of Bahia, in 1897. Chronologically this was Brazil's third electric tram system, after the Jardim Botânico and Carioca lines in Rio, and it was its first foreign-owned electric tramway. The German trams in Salvador, built by Waggonfabrik Falkenried of Hamburg, introduced bow collectors to South America. All the American installations used trolley poles.
In 1899 the Deutsche Bank of Berlin bought the Vila Isabel mule tramway in Rio de Janeiro and hired Siemens & Halske for electrification. Fifty German trams with bow collectors, built by Van der Zypen & Charlier of Köln, began running on the streets of Rio de Janeiro in 1905. In 1906 Siemens-Schuckertwerke (successor to Siemens & Halske) began electrification of the tramway across the bay in Niterói. The Niterói cars also carried bow collectors, but were built by St. Louis Car Company, USA.
The other important tramway entrepreneurs at the turn of the century were the Canadians, who created South America's first great tramway empire. A group of North American capitalists headed by Alexander Mackenzie, a Toronto lawyer, and Frederick Pearson, a New York engineer, founded the São Paulo Railway, Light & Power Company in Toronto on 7 April 1899. Pearson had installed electric tramway systems in Brooklyn, Toronto, Winnipeg and Montreal and had designed the underground conduit system used by the Metropolitan Street Railway in New York. He ordered 15 passenger cars from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia - Brill's first electric order for Brazil - and opened the first trolley line in São Paulo on 7 May 1900. Mackenzie made fellow-Canadian James Mitchell his General Manager in 1901.
The São Paulo company was a great success: 25 electric cars were running on 25 km of track by the end of 1900; 85 cars on 85 km of track in 1902. Mackenzie, Pearson and another American, Percival Farquhar, went to Toronto and founded the Rio de Janeiro Tramway, Light & Power Company on 9 July 1904.
Rio already had three electric tram systems - Jardim Botânico, Carioca and Tijuca - and the Vila Isabel system began electric operation in 1905. In 1907 the Canadians purchased the Vila Isabel company, the São Cristóvão company, the Tijuca railway and the horsecar lines operated by the Carris Urbanos company and electrified all the tram lines in Rio de Janeiro within 28 months. They also bought the telephone company, the gas company and the local water works and built South America's largest hydroelectric plant 80 km north of the city at Ribeirão das Lajes. "A Light," as the company was called by Brazilians, did not acquire the Jardim Botânico and Carioca tram systems, but within a few years it controlled most of their stock.
The North Americans met with little resistance from the Brazilian government in these enterprises. But they were bitterly opposed by Brazil's rich and influential Guinle family, which sought control of public utilities in Brazil's large cities. The conflict between the Canadians and the Guinles was widely publicized and had a profound effect on the development of tramways in Brazil and on the attitudes of Brazilians toward the foreigners who ran them.
When Eduardo Guinle acquired the General Electric franchise from James Mitchell in 1903, the North American tramway companies stopped buying tramway equipment from North America. São Paulo Light had bought its first cars from Brill and St. Louis, but obtained 20 trams from Trajano de Medeiros, a new Brazilian builder, in 1903, and began building its own equipment in 1904. Rio Light acquired one tram from Brill in 1905 and ordered 35 cars from St. Louis in 1906, but it sold the latter to Niterói and bought no more passenger equipment from the United States. In 1908 it ordered 60 cars from United Electric and Brush Electrical in England and in 1909 began buying motors and parts from England and building its own trams. Several cars, both single and double-truck, also came from Trajano de Medeiros. Rio Light rejected the General Electric trolley pole and adopted the Siemens bow collector that had been introduced by the Germans.
Trajano de Medeiros & Cia began as a small iron foundry in 1899 that repaired the rolling stock of the Central of Brazil Railroad. Within a decade its plant in Rio de Janeiro was repairing equipment for railroads all over Brazil and built trams for Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and other cities. Its records and order books, unfortunately, have been lost.
With his General Electric franchise Guinle opened electric tramway systems in seven cities: Salvador in 1905, Juiz de Fora in 1906, Petrópolis in 1912, Guaratinguetá in 1913, Maceió in 1914, Piraju in 1915 and Campos in 1916. The Campos trams seem to have come from Trajano de Medeiros, but cars for all the other systems were built by J. G. Brill in Philadelphia. Most of the tram systems which GE installed in Brazil were financed by Brazilians and owned by local corporations or by the municipalities in which they operated.
The Guinle-Light feud took a dramatic turn in 1906 when Mitchell, Pearson and Farquhar bought the German tramway system in Salvador. The Siemens lines that opened in 1897 ran along the docks in the lower city, whereas Guinle's General Electric system ran in the residential area on top of the hill. Guinle wanted to unite the two networks, but saw his plans thwarted once again. The Americans registered the Bahia Tramway, Light & Power Company in Portland, Maine, and ordered 18 passenger cars - with Siemens bow collectors! - from United Electric in Preston, England. When they tried to buy the General Electric system in 1909 the Salvador newspapers, controlled by the Guinle family, launched a smear campaign against "the giant octopus from the North." There were riots in the streets and large-scale destruction of tramway equipment. Brazilians had taken their first stand against yankee imperialism. Farquhar sold Bahia Tramway to the city of Salvador in 1913. Mitchell returned to the United States. Pearson drowned on the Lusitania.
The Canadian companies in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo thrived: Rio Light had 213 electric passenger cars in operation in 1910, 394 in 1911 and 448 in 1912. In 1912 the Rio and São Paulo companies were merged as Brazilian Traction, Light & Power, which became the largest overseas corporation in Canada. A new subsidiary, São Paulo Electric, opened a meter-gauge electric tramway in Sorocaba, 75 km west of the capital, in 1915.
Westinghouse Electric International finally appointed an agent in Brazil: Alberto Byington, manager of the tramway company in Campinas. São Paulo and Rio Light ended their boycott of North American equipment and began buying controllers and brakes from Westinghouse. Byington electrified the Rio Grande tramway in 1911 and Campinas tramway in 1912 and built electric tram systems in Sorocaba in 1915, in Piracicaba in 1916 and in Votorantim in 1922. Cars for all these systems were furnished by J. G. Brill.
The next important group of tramway builders to arrive in Brazil were the English. British corporations had built some of the early animal and steam tramways in Brazil and controlled gas, water and other utilities in several cities. But the English were latecomers to electric railways: Brazil already had 11 electric systems operating in seven cities in 1907 when the J. G. White Company of London ran the first British trolley in Belém. Thereafter the English installed some of Brazil's largest and finest tram systems: in Porto Alegre in 1908, Santos in 1909, Fortaleza in 1913, Recife in 1914 and Pelotas in 1915. In 1913 an English mining company built a 9 km electric railway between Nova Lima and Raposos in Minas Gerais state that may be considered Brazil's first electric interurban line.
With the exception of Porto Alegre, all of the English-built systems were also English-owned and the trams that ran on most of them were built by United Electric in Preston, England. The Pelotas cars came from Brush in Loughborough, England, and the Santos trams were built by Hurst Nelson in Motherwell, Scotland. In addition to the systems which they built, the English also acquired two electric tramway systems already in operation, in Manaus in 1909 and in Niterói in 1911. At the beginning of World War I they owned eight tramway systems in Brazil, more than any other foreign group.
The Germans sold the electric tramways that they operated in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro to North Americans, but continued to install electric power and tramways in other cities. Within a three-month period in 1911 Siemens inaugurated electric street railways in Vitória, Natal and Lavras. In 1912 it opened an electric line in Vila Velha, across the bay from Vitória. In 1913 it built a 14 km interurban line at Sacramento and in 1914 an urban tram system in João Pessoa. Equipment for most of these systems was built by Falkenried in Hamburg. In the late 1920s Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft, Germany's other large electric company, completed 15 km of an electric railway between Poços de Caldas and Machado in western Minas Gerais. But the Depression intervened and the line never operated.
A French company that had been engaged to reconstruct the port facilities at Rio Grande opened an electric tramway in that city in 1911. The French name appeared on the sides of the cars, but the line was installed by Byington & Companhia, the agent for Westinghouse, and the cars came from Brill. French capital was also involved in construction of electric tramways in Curitiba in 1913 and Piraju in 1915. The Curitiba system was installed by Brown Boveri, the Swiss firm, and its cars were built by Ateliers Métallurgiques in Nivelles, Belgium. The Société Franco-Belge, of La Croyère, Belgium, built the equipment for the electric tramway that opened in São Carlos in 1914.
The Corcovado rack railway in Rio de Janeiro, a tramway of sorts, was electrified by Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon of Zürich, Switzerland, in 1910. Since the Corcovado line uses locomotives and runs exclusively on private right-of-way, it is sometimes considered the first electric railroad in Brazil.
With the advent of World War I construction by foreigners stopped. Expansion of existing systems halted and new projects were abandoned. If it had not been for the war Brazil might have had electric tramways in a half-dozen additional cities (besides those that opened after 1918): in Florianópolis, capital of Santa Catarina state; in Cuiabá, capital of Mato Grosso state; in Uberaba, Minas Gerais state; and in Jundiaí, Moji das Cruzes and Ribeirão Preto, all in São Paulo state. Construction had already begun on some. Tracks had already been laid in Ribeirão Preto.
With 25 years of electric tramway experience the Brazilians were not prevented by the war from building electric systems of their own. In 1917 the tramway company in Campinas electrified and started running streetcars over 17 km of a former steam railroad to Arraial dos Souzas. Electrification was extended another 15 km to Cabras in 1919. The first section of a 40-km rural trolley network at Campo Grande, 30 km west of Rio de Janeiro, also opened in 1917. And in 1922 an isolated 7-km trolley line began operation on Ilha do Governador, an island in Guanabara Bay. The last two systems used equipment acquired second-hand from the Jardim Botânico company in Rio. Both were privately owned and remained independent of other tramway operations in the area.
After the war J. G. Brill in Philadelphia sent two Birney cars to Pelotas, which were the first such trams to run in the Southern Hemisphere. Tram manufacturers in Belgium sent new cars to Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Santos. New electric tram systems opened in São Luís and Cachoeiro de Itapemirim in 1924, in Além Paraíba in 1925 and in Aracaju in 1926. Interurban electric railways opened between Sorocaba and Votorantim in 1922, between Pindamonhangaba and Campos do Jordão in 1924, and between Guarujá and Itapema in 1925. The Votorantim and São Luís installations were American; the Campos do Jordão line was English; and the Guarujá and Aracaju tramways were constructed by Siemens-Schuckertwerke. It is not known who installed the lines in Cachoeiro de Itapemirim and Além Paraíba, but the trams (which were identical) were probably built by Trajano de Medeiros.
Finally, in 1930, the E. F. Oeste de Minas, a steam railroad, built Brazil's last, smallest and most remote electric tramway between the railroad station and the town of Bom Sucesso (pop., 2,000) in Minas Gerais. The single car was built in the steam railroad shops using parts acquired second-hand from the tramway in Belo Horizonte.
In the 38-year period between 1892 and 1930, 48 electric tram systems were constructed in 41 cities. In 1930, electric streetcars were running in the federal capital, in 16 of the 20 state capitals, and in 24 small cities in five southern states. São Paulo state had a half-dozen interurban tramway lines, including three of considerable length: a 47 km railway between Campos do Jordão and Pindamonhangaba, a 32 km line between Campinas and Cabras, and a 27 km tramway between Piraju and Sarutaiá.
Animal and steam tramways continued to be built during these years, mostly in the suburbs of the large cities or in small cities where electricity was not yet available. Most of the animal lines that opened, in perhaps 30 towns, were electrified soon after. Three state capitals had animal tramways that were not electrified: Florianópolis (Santa Catarina), Teresina (Piauí) and Cuiabá (Mato Grosso). In 1930 mulecars still ran in at least a dozen places. Four animal-powered lines, at Santo Amaro, Limoeiro, São Lourenço and Paranaguá, were preserved primarily for tourists.
New steam tramways were built during this period in Manaus, João Pessoa, Belo Horizonte, Niterói, São Paulo, Paranaguá and Taubaté. The Paranaguá line was converted to animal traction in 1912 (see above) and the Taubaté line closed in 1919. All the other steam lines became parts of electric systems.
Battery-powered trams ran in Niterói in the 1880s and battery-powered buses, built by Brill, ran along Avenida Rio Branco in Rio de Janeiro from 1918 until 1929. But otherwise, and in contrast to other countries in Latin America, Brazil did not use storage batteries in urban transportation. Nor were there any known examples of vehicles powered by naphtha, compressed air or electricity received from a conduit between the rails.
There were, however, several railways powered by gasoline. Diesel trams began running on the Ribeirão das Lajes line near Rio de Janeiro in 1906, on the streets of São Gonçalo (near Niterói) in 1909, in João Pessoa in 1911, Campos in 1918 and in São Bernardo do Campo in 1923. They also supplanted mule trams for a short period in Limoeiro. Small litorinas, as diesel railcars are called in Brazil, ran on several steam railroad lines and replaced steam trains entirely between Ibitirama and Vista Alegre on the Estrada de Ferro Monte Alto. They also ran on a branch of the Campinas-Cabras interurban line until 1939 and in local service along the Campos do Jordão interurban until 1956. There was an unsuccessful attempt, in 1968, to run a gasoline tram on an abandoned steam railroad in Garanhuns.
Brazil had about a dozen inclined plane railways. Steam-powered funiculars began running in Rio de Janeiro in 1877, in Salvador in 1889 and in Santos in 1902. Other funiculars were later built in these three cities and all were later electrified. A funicular in Niterói was powered hydraulically. Severa1 inclined planes still run today.
Since 1859 it is estimated that 150 animal tramways, 48 electric tramways, 21 steam tramways, eight gasoline tramways and 12 inclined plane railways were constructed in 100 Brazilian cities.
After 1930 no new systems were built. (At least not until the 1950s.) Brazil, like other countries, suffered during the Depression. But during the next 20 years many of the existing systems expanded, merged into new groups, changed management, modernized and acquired new cars. And there was increasing involvement by foreigners.
Most of Brazil's tram systems had been built by non-Brazilians. Local engineers and labor were involved, but the technology and materials generally came from abroad: American manufacturers installed perhaps 1/3 of the lines, the English built 1/4 and the Germans 1/4. Many of the systems were also owned and operated by foreigners. The English ran the early steam tramways that they built in Recife; the Americans ran the early animal tramways that they built in Rio de Janeiro; etc. Brazilians acquired control of many of the foreign-built lines and financed the first electric tramway in Rio de Janeiro in 1892, but with the arrival of the Germans and Canadians at the turn of the century and the consolidation of small systems in big cities foreign domination returned. In 1910 Canadians controlled Brazil's two largest tram systems in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In 1915 the English operated large electric systems in Recife, Santos, Niterói, Belém, Fortaleza and Manaus. And after World War I a U.S. corporation bought most of the tram systems in Latin America.
Electric Bond & Share Company - "Ebasco" - was formed in New York in 1905 to supervise a group of traction, light and power companies in the United States. In 1923 Ebasco created a subsidiary, American & Foreign Power - "Amforp" - which during the next decade acquired control of utility companies in 1,134 communities in Latin America. 333 of these communities, with a total population of six million, were in Brazil. Amforp's Brazilian division, Empresas Elétricas Brasileiras, took over electric tramway systems in 13 cities: Vitória, Vila Velha and Petrópolis in 1927; Porto Alegre, Campinas, Piracicaba, Curitiba and Recife in 1928; Belo Horizonte and Salvador (both systems) in 1929; and Pelotas, Maceió and Natal in 1930. In some cities, e.g., Niterói, Ebasco acquired the electric power company but not the electric tramway.
Ebasco essentially acquired the tram systems that were not already controlled by the British, i.e., it acquired the lines built by Siemens and General Electric. It purchased the Recife and Pelotas tramways from the English, who, in 1929, also sold the Santos tramway to the Canadian corporation, Brazilian Traction, Light & Power. In 1930 foreign tramway ownership in Brazil reached 85%: the Canadians controlled Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Santos; the English ran Niterói, Belém, Fortaleza and Manaus; and the Americans supervised almost everything else. The only tram systems still operated by Brazilians were the Jardim Botânico and Carioca networks in Rio de Janeiro and small tramways in João Pessoa, Aracaju, Juiz de Fora and Rio Grande.
The foreign corporations were, of course, multi-national: Brazilian Traction was registered in Canada, but many of its shareholders lived in the U.S.A., and there was also capital from England, France, Belgium and other countries including Brazil. The same was true of the American and English corporations.
Tram service temporarily improved, but public relations ultimately deteriorated. The conflict between the Guinles and the Canadians spread throughout Brazil and yankee imperialism became the favorite target of the Brazilian Left. Students in Piracicaba burned a tram to its wheels. Rio Light took its English name off its cars.
Ebasco was interested primarily in electric power in Brazil, not in tramways. It acquired the rail systems, sometimes reluctantly, as part of a package. In 1930, with old equipment, rising costs, labor problems and competition from government-subsidized bus lines, many electric utility companies in Brazil began to have second thoughts about street railways. In 1933 President Getúlio Vargas froze tram fares at 200 reis.
During the next 15 Years Ebasco bought 175 trams in the United States, including 20 new double-truck cars from Brill, for service in Porto Alegre, Pelotas, Curitiba, Salvador and Recife. Second-hand cars came from Baltimore, Boston, Worcester, Staten Island (New York), Syracuse, York (Pennsylvania) and Miami. In 1938 the Brazilian-owned tramway in João Pessoa acquired five cars from an unknown source in Europe. In 1940 the Brazilian tramway in Rio Grande bought five Birneys second-hand from Providence, Rhode Island, and the English tramway in Belém acquired 20 double-truck cars from Cardiff, Wales.
Except for João Pessoa, all the trams imported into Brazil during this period were closed models, contrasting with the cross-bench open cars that had been traditional in Brazilian cities for 75 years. The riders disliked them, but the companies favored closed cars because they lasted longer and it was easier to collect fares.
Trams were also transferred between systems and rebuilt. Almost every company reconstructed open cars into closed models, even small tramways in São Carlos and São Luís. Porto Alegre built seven double-truck cars out of 14 single-truck Birneys. Recife built large blimp-shaped trams which the passengers called "zépelins." Porto Alegre sent surplus Birneys to Pelotas and Curitiba. Recife sent single-truck cars to Maceió and Natal and double-truck cars to Vitória. Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador and Recife built turning loops at the ends of their lines and rebuilt double-end cars into single-end models. The open cars in Rio were screened on one side. In 1933 the Carioca company in Rio de Janeiro inaugurated a tram loop inside a downtown office building and in 1937, to ease traffic congestion, São Paulo diverted trams from the center of the city to new loops at its edge. In 1934 João Pessoa built a completely new tram route. In 1935 Santos built two 18-bench articulated open cars, a design that seems to have existed only in that city and in Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.
On the eve of World War II the Brazilian tramway industry reached its peak: approximately 4,200 electric passenger cars were running on 2,250 km of track. The Canadians operated 2,200 cars - 52% of all the trams in Brazil. The Americans had about 900 cars, the English 400, and the independent Brazilian companies ran 640. The tramways of Brazil employed 30,000 people and carried 1.5 billion passengers in 1940.
A few small systems - five of them electric - closed before the war: Piraju and Sacramento in 1937; Cachoeiro de Itapemirim in 1938; Petrópolis and Além Paraíba in 1939. A trestle in Piraju was submerged by a hydroelectric project; Petrópolis had a one-way street problem; a tram was demolished in an accident in Além Paraíba. The gasoline tramways in São Bernardo do Campo and Joaquim Egídio and the animal tramway in Paranaguá also shut during this period. Cachoeiro de Itapemirim and Além Paraíba trolleys had run only 13 years.
Tram systems did not close during World War II, but because of the international situation parts became difficult to obtain, for the foreign operators as well as for the Brazilians, and a drought increased the cost of hydroelectric power. The tram operators could not meet expenses because of government regulations: in 1945, despite inflation, Brazilian tram riders were paying a 200 reis fare that had been established in 1909! As wartime ridership increased, tram service deteriorated and there were fewer trams to ride. São Paulo, Belém and Fortaleza announced that they wanted out of the tram business.
After the war the cities of São Paulo and Sorocaba formed municipal transport boards which took over tram operations from the Canadians. In 1947 São Paulo's new Companhia Municipal de Transportes Coletivos imported 75 double-truck cars from New York and raised tram fares 250% to 500 reis. There were riots in the streets and pleas for the foreigners to return. In April 1947 the English tram system in Belém closed. Three weeks later, in May, the Fortaleza tramway shut.
Most Brazilian streetcars at mid-century were 30-50 years old and a strong motorbus industry had developed. Brazil's first trolleybus ran in São Paulo in 1949. President Vargas, re-elected in 1950, vowed to rid Brazil of foreign corporations. The foreigners, in most cases, were happy to leave.
Many of the American, Canadian and English companies kept their electric lighting and other utilities for a few more years, but sold their tram systems back to the Brazilians in the 1950s. Ebasco gave up its street railways in Curitiba and Piracicaba in 1950, Maceió and Natal in 1953, Campinas, Porto Alegre and Pelotas in 1954, Salvador in 1955, Vitória and Vila Velha in 1957 and Belo Horizonte in 1959. (Ebasco's Petrópolis tramway had closed in 1939.) The Recife tram system closed in 1954, but Ebasco kept a franchise car running - one trip a day - for the next six years. The Canadians sold their Santos tramway to a municipal authority in 1952 and the English transfered their remaining lines in Manaus and Niterói to the Brazilians in 1959. After 1959 the only tram property in Brazil still controlled by foreigners was the Light system in Rio de Janeiro.
The tramways of Brazil were Brazilian-owned and Brazilian-operated again - in some cases for the first time. And they closed rapidly: the Curitiba tramway in 1952; Aracaju, Pelotas and Natal in 1955; Maceió and Guarujá in 1956; Guaratinguetá in 1957; João Pessoa - despite valiant efforts - in 1958; and Sorocaba in 1959. In 1956, upon abandonment, Guarujá sold its trams to Campos do Jordão and in 1958 the Companhia Docas de Santos built new trams for a private industrial railway that it electrified at Itatinga.
On 1 January 1960 electric trams still ran in 20 cities. But on 31 December 1960 the Cia Ferro-Carril do Jardim Botânico in Rio de Janeiro, which had originated the tram industry in Brazil in the 1860s, passed out of existence. The famous tram routes in the Zona Sul, along Botafogo Bay and Copacabana Beach to Ipanema and the Botanical Garden, became the property of the city. The last trams ran in Salvador in 1961, in Manaus and São Carlos in 1962, and in Vitória and Belo Horizonte in 1963. The last tram in Rio's Zona Sul pulled into the depot on 21 May 1963.
In 1962 Brazil's longest-running animal tramway closed in Santo Amaro, near Salvador. This was surely one of the last horsecar lines in commercial operation in the world.
On 1 January 1964 Rio's remaining tram routes - in the Zona Norte, Santa Teresa, Campo Grande and on Ilha do Governador - became the property of the municipal Companhia de Transportes Coletivos. The tramway across the bay in Niterói closed in July.
Since the first trolleybus line in São Paulo in 1949, trackless systems had opened in nine cities: Belo Horizonte and Niterói in 1953, Campos in 1957, Araraquara and Salvador in 1959, Recife in 1960, Rio de Janeiro in 1962 and Santos and Porto Alegre in 1963. In 1967 a line opened in Fortaleza - 20 years after the demise of its trams.
1965 was the 400th anniversary of the founding of the city of Rio de Janeiro and the CTC announced that it would rid the city of trams except for the Santa Teresa and Alto da Boa Vista routes, which it would turn into tourist operations. New silver and blue cars with upholstered seats - the first closed trams in Rio in 100 years and precisely what the tourists did not want - went into service on both lines in January 1965. In January 1966 a hurricane knocked out all tram and trolleybus lines in the city. Parts of the Alto da Boa Vista and Santa Teresa lines were rebuilt but, incredibly, were put out of service by another hurricane in January 1967. The Alto da Boa Vista line, the first electric railway in South America, closed permanently on 21 December 1967.
Most of Brazil's remaining tram systems closed during the second half of the 1960s, a period when many were ridden and photographed by tram enthusiasts from North America and Europe. The latter seem not to have known about Campos and Lavras, which were not only still operating but received new equipment from Niterói and Belo Horizonte. The Campos tramway closed in 1964, Ilha do Governador in 1965, São Luís in 1966, Rio Grande, Campo Grande, Lavras and Vila Velha in 1967, São Paulo and Campinas in 1968, Juiz de Fora and Piracicaba in 1969. Trams continued to run in Porto Alegre and Nova Lima until 1970 and in Santos, on the last major tram system in Brazil, until 28 February 1971.
Trams had run in Santos almost 100 years. They had run 106 years in Porto Alegre. In 1971 streetcars were still running on the Santa Teresa lines in Rio de Janeiro, on interurban lines at Votorantim and Campos do Jordão, and, unknown to tram enthusiasts for several more years, on the private tramway at the Itatinga hydroelectric plant near Bertioga.
Most of the trolleybus systems were short-lived: Campos and Niterói closed in 1967, Salvador in 1968, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre in 1969, Rio de Janeiro in 1971 and Fortaleza in 1972. Trolleybuses had run only nine years in Rio, only six years in Porto Alegre and only five years in Fortaleza. Trackless systems remained in operation in São Paulo, Santos, Araraquara and Recife.
The early 1970s was the period of Brazil's "economic miracle." Gasoline was inexpensive and official tram sentiment was at low ebb. But forced to travel on hot, smoke-spewing buses, the public became nostalgic about the breezy old trams and citizens' groups gathered and placed them in parks all over the country. Several of these, complete with trucks and controllers, can still be seen today in São Carlos, Juiz de Fora, Porto Alegre, Curitiba and Sorocaba. Trams have been restored and are displayed in museums in São Paulo, Belo Horizonte and Recife. Thirteen Brazilian trams are preserved in the United States: in 1964 the CMTC in São Paulo sent an open car to Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio, and in 1965 the CTC in Rio de Janeiro shipped 12 cars to American tram museums. Americans can ride Brazilian trolleys without going to Brazil.
Perhaps the most extraordinary act of self-preservation in Brazil - and one of the most remarkable projects of its kind anywhere - was the construction of a completely new tram route around a lake in Campinas. Four restored cars went back into operation in that city in 1972 and still run there today. Similar tourist tramways have been announced in Belo Horizonte and São Paulo, but have not materialized.
The Santa Teresa lines were threatened by the removal of Santo Antônio hill. But the residents of Santa Teresa petitioned the CTC to keep the trams going and Petrobrás, Brazil's national oil company, which owned the land, preserved a sliver of the hill and built a new terminal for the cars in front of its new office building in 1975.
The Campos do Jordão line threatened to close several times during the late 1970s because a new highway took away its auto-train business. But the railway was acquired by the Secretaria de Esportes e Turismo and its future now seems secure.
Even more incredible than the Campinas line was the construction in 1978 of a new tramway near São Luís. Maranhão State University salvaged an old Brill car from the São Luís city system and installed track and wire across an open field 15 km south of the city. Unfortunately the line was closed by sewer construction in 1983. It may reopen.
The Votorantim passenger cars were removed from service in 1977 and freight operation was dieselized in 1986. The Itatinga line still runs open electric passenger cars from a boat dock to the hydro power plant, although the area is a government reservation and difficult for visitors to enter.
Trolleybus expansion continues in São Paulo, Araraquara and Recife; new systems opened in Ribeirão Preto in 1982 and in Rio Claro in 1986. Rapid transit lines have opened in the last decade in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre, Recife and Belo Horizonte.
The latest miracle took place in 1984 when the mayor of Santos dug up 1.8 km of track along Embaré Beach and put a preserved tram back into operation. The Santos tourist line lasted until October 1986.
In the late 1980s electric
passenger trams still run in Rio de Janeiro, Campos do Jordão,
Itatinga and Campinas. The Corcovado rack railway in Rio, which was
rebuilt with new Swiss cars in 1979, could be considered a fifth
line. In 1986 the electric tramway in Rio's Santa Teresa district
celebrated its 90th birthday. Including horsecars, trams have run in
Rio de Janeiro for 130 years. In only four cities in the world, New
Orleans (154 years), Boston (133 years), Philadelphia and Mexico City
(each 131 years), have trams run longer.
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