Vitória / Vila Velha / Cachoeiro de Itapemirim




After the string of tram systems along the northeast coast of Brazil, there was a great void south of Salvador. As one moved from the northern to the central states, no streetcars could be found for 1,200 km. Espírito Santo, the small coastal state between Bahia and Rio de Janeiro, had electric tramways in three cities: Vitória, its capital, Vila Velha, and Cachoeiro de Itapemirim. The first two were on opposite sides of Vitória Bay and the third was among the best-hidden trolley systems in the nation.

Vitória, originally called Vila Nova ("New Town") do Espírito Santo, is a sort of miniature Rio de Janeiro. The city lies on an island on the coast and both the oceanfront and bayshore, which looks like a river, are ringed with small mountains. There are flat areas near the beach, but the central business district is squeezed into a cove 5 km inland and the government buildings and cathedral perch atop a knoll. The terrain is jagged and the two tram systems that operated around the bay were among the most picturesque in Brazil.

Everything started later in Espírito Santo than in the neighboring states of Bahia, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro, and it was not until 23 March 1905 that a franchise was awarded to build an animal tramway in Vitória. (Which was the only animal tramway in the state.) The Empreza Ferro-Carril do Suá bought three mulecars second-hand from Niterói and inaugurated a line from downtown to Forte São João on 11 July 1907. A steam tramway was built soon after from São João to the Morro do Suá. Siemens-Schuckert of Berlin inaugurated electric street lights in the city on 25 September 1909, and in 1910 Antônio José Duarte formed a company to build an electric tramway. Duarte ordered 12 trams from Waggonfabrik Falkenried of Hamburg: nine 6-bench passenger cars, two freight cars and a motorized funeral trolley. His company went bankrupt and it was the Banco do Estado do Espírito Santo that inaugurated the electric line on 21 July 1911: the initials "B. do E. do E. S." appeared on the front of the cars. Another bank, the Banco Hipotecário e Agrícola, took over the enterprise in 1912 and ordered two 12-bench motor cars (o.n. 18366) and two 8-bench trailers (18578) from J. G. Brill of Philadelphia: the initials "B. H. A. do E. do E. S." appeared on the trams thereafter. Les Ateliers Métallurgiques in Nivelles, Belgium, sent 7-bench trailers. Gauge was meter and motor cars carried Siemens-style bow collectors.

Electrification was completed by 1913. The Cidade Alta route went both ways around the hill: cars climbed the spur to the cathedral, then backed down to the junction to continue the loop. The funeral car went from the cathedral to the cemetery at the end of the Santo Antônio line.

During the 1920s the Tramways Electricos de Victoria traded some of its 6-bench Falkenried cars to the Vila Velha company across the bay, in exchange for its 12-bench Brills. A new company, the Serviços Reunidos de Victoria, purchased ironwork for three 12-bench trams from Brill in 1925 (o.n. 22175) and the Victoria street railway became the first in Brazil to be acquired by the American corporation, Electric Bond & Share, on 27 May 1927. The new Companhia Central Brasileira de Força Elétrica built a second depot at Praia Comprida, extended the beach line to Praia do Canto and ordered chasses for three more Brill 12-bench cars in 1928 (o.n. 22725). The cathedral spur was closed in 1940 but in 1941 construction began on a new line across the bridge to the Leopoldina Railway station on the mainland. The connection was never completed: tracks on the bridge, which remain today, were reserved for diesel freight trains. Rails on Avenida Florentino Avidos were removed in 1942, eliminating the downtown loop.

After the Second War CCBFE discontinued the use of trailers and rebuilt its passenger cars into uniform 12-bench models, which it numbered 40-50. It also acquired trucks and chasses from the abandoned Recife tramway, which also used meter gauge, and built 13-bench car 51 and two 14-bench cars, 52 and 53. In 1957, when the Vitória roster consisted of 14 passenger motor cars, a baggage car and a line car, tramway management returned to the Brazilians.

The city was growing rapidly, especially in the beach district, and the new owners were not interested in rebuilding the tram routes, which were largely single track. The Praia do Canto line closed on 23 April 1963 and the last tram service in Vitória, from Jucutuquara to Santo Antônio, disappeared a month later, on 23 May 1963. After closure several cars were sent back to the Vila Velha line across the bay. Others were placed in parks and playgrounds around Espírito Santo state. Tram 42 was exhibited on Praça Costa Pereira, Vitória's main square, during the month of July 1983.



Vila Velha

The principal town on the mainland, across the bay from Vitória, was the original settlement in the state and was called Vila Velha ("Old Town") do Espírito Santo. It was renamed Espírito Santo, then became part of Vitória, but today it is called Vila Velha and is an independent municipality. To reach it from the capital Siemens-Schuckert began construction in 1911 of an electric tramway south from the ferryboat terminal at Paul. The Companhia Bonds de Villa Velha ordered two 10-bench cars from J. G. Brill on 2 August 1911 (o.n. 17916) and inauguration took place on 12 April 1912. A successor company, Viação Electrica da Cidade de Espírito Santo, ordered two 12-bench motor cars (18531) and a gondola (18533) from Brill on 11 September 1912. As in Vitória, gauge was meter and the cars carried bow collectors.

The 8 km Vila Velha tram line ran mostly on private right-of-way and dirt roads. In Vila Velha it came onto paved streets, made two right-angle turns and terminated at the foot of the hilltop shrine of Nossa Senhora da Penha; there was a private extension to a military base at Piritininga. The Companhia Central Brasileira de Força Elétrica, a subsidiary of the U.S. corporation Electric Bond & Share, acquired the Vila Velha tramway along with the Vitória tramway in 1927, and for almost 40 years the neighboring systems were operated by the same company without a rail connection. The IBGE report for 1958 shows four passenger motor cars, two trailers and one work car. The line was cut back to Jaburuna in 1959 and acquired four trams second-hand from the Vitória tramway when it closed in 1963: work car 24 and passenger cars 45, 48 and 50. CCBFE sold the tramway to the Prefeitura Municipal de Vila Velha on 29 December 1965 and the last trolley in Espírito Santo state ran on 15 December 1967.



Cachoeiro de Itapemirim

The third electric tramway in Espírito Santo state operated in the small town of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim, 130 km southwest of Vitória. It was one of the shortest electric lines in Brazil, 3 km, had one of the shortest lives, less than 14 years, and was so obscure that it was not mentioned in any of the tramway surveys published by the Brazilian government.

The population of Cachoeiro de Itapemirim was only 3,000 in 1900, but because it is near a large hydroelectric plant the town was the first in the state to have electricity, in 1903, six years before Vitória. The Companhia de Serviços Reunidos de Itapemirim, organized by one of the directors of the Companhia Cantareira e Viação Fluminense of Niterói, inaugurated a meter-gauge trolley line in Cachoeiro on Christmas Day 1924. The three passenger cars, motorized gondola and baggage trailer were similar to vehicles that opened the tramway the following year in Além Paraíba and, like them, are believed to have been built by Trajano de Medeiros in Rio de Janeiro. The original service ran from a textile mill at Guandu to the Municipal Bridge. It was extended to Baiminas in 1927. Operation passed to the Prefeitura Municipal and the cars were rebuilt without clerestories in 1933. There was a plan to extend the trolley route across the bridge to the east side of town, but the bridge was too flimsy. Residents complained that the electric cars interfered with radio reception and the tramway closed on 4 June 1938.

The Usina Paineiras sugar plantation on the Itapemirim Railroad, 27 km south of Cachoeiro, had a private electric railway that used German locomotives with bow collectors.