Belo Horizonte / Carvalho Brito / Pedro Leopoldo / Nova Lima / Teófilo Otoni / Ouro Preto / Ubá / Cataguases / Guarará / Mar de Espanha / Além Paraíba / Juiz de Fora / Lavras / Bom Sucesso / Caxambu / São Lourenço / Campanha / Sacramento
Minas Gerais ("General Mines") is Brazil's fourth largest state - larger than France - and is one of six that does not front on the Atlantic Ocean. With few navigable rivers industrial development in Minas Gerais was slow, but when railroads arrived in the 19th century gold, diamonds and iron made it one of Brazil's richest states. By the early 20th century Minas Gerais was Brazil's most populous state and today Belo Horizonte is Brazil's largest inland capital after São Paulo. Minas Gerais had 18 tram systems, more than any other state in Brazil. Eight - maybe nine of these - were electric.
There were two major electric systems: in Belo Horizonte, the capital, and in Juiz de Fora. The other six electric tramways were basically one-line operations between the railroad station and the town: Sacramento, Nova Lima, Lavras, Além Paraíba, Bom Sucesso and Carvalho Brito. These ranged in length from 14 km (Sacramento) to 0.4 km (Carvalho Brito). The Bom Sucesso and Carvalho Brito lines each had only one car. There are conflicting reports as to whether the tramway in Campanha was operated by electricity or other means. Horsecars exclusively ran in Pedro Leopoldo, Teófilo Otoni, Ouro Preto, Ubá, Cataguases, Guarará, Mar de Espanha, São Lourenço and Caxambu.
Belo Horizonte ("Beautiful Horizon") is situated in a bowl, surrounded by mountains, about 450 km north of Rio de Janeiro. It is one of Brazil's newest cities, founded only in 1890, and is Brazil's first planned city, predating Brasília. A steam tramway, the Ramal Férreo Urbano, opened with Baldwin locomotives on 7 September 1895 and in 1898 had six routes and 27 km of track. Two hotels, the Romaneli and the Lima, inaugurated a joint horsecar service on 16 February 1899 to bring guests from the railroad station. On 2 September 1902, only a decade after its founding, Belo Horizonte became the fifth city in Brazil - after Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Manaus and São Paulo - to have an electric tramway.
The installation was by General Electric, under the supervision of Júlio Brandão, a local industrialist, and the first six electric cars were built by the Jackson & Sharp Co. of Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A. - this company's only order for Brazil: four 8-bench models in 1902 (o.n. 2301-4) and two l0-bench models in 1904 (2480-1). Eduardo Guinle, who became GE's principal agent in Brazil in 1903, took over management of the Ferro-Carril de Bello Horizonte soon after and ordered two 8-bench cars from Brill (o.n. 13751). Fifteen more l0-bench passenger cars came from Brill (o.n. 18307) after ownership passed to the Companhia de Eletricidade e Viação Urbana de Minas Gerais on 21 March 1912. During this period the city acquired a group of double-truck open cars, which seem to have originated in two undated shipments from the St. Louis Car Co. (o.n. 780-1). Trajano de Medeiros, the tramway builder in Rio de Janeiro, sent 18 arch-roof 9-bench cars in 1928. Gauge was meter.
The city ran its first bus in 1922 and Electric Bond & Share, the U.S. corporation, took over all utilities, including the tramway, in 1929. Ebasco's subsidiary, the Companhia Força e Luz de Minas Gerais, opened a new tram route to Horto railroad yards in 1938 and began building double-truck cars in its shops in 1940, including large streamlined closed models that looked like PCCs. The IBGE report for 1946 shows 87 passenger motor cars and three freight vehicles on 73 km of track: the single-truck 10-bench cars were numbered 1-75, the double-truck 12-bench cars in the 100 series, the 14-bench cars in the 200s and the 12-window double-truck closed cars 80-99. The Belo Horizonte tramway rarely ran trailers. Four cars were sold in 1952 to the Sorocabana Railroad for use on its Campinas-Cabras interurban line.
Ebasco was forced out on 1 January 1959 and the new municipal operator, the Departamento de Bondes e Onibus, ran the last streetcar in Belo Horizonte on 30 June 1963 [letter from Metrobel, present transit operator, 27 May 1981]. To compensate for closing the system, Mayor Jorge Carone proposed to build a tourist tramway along the lakeshore in Pampulha, but nothing was done. Cars 55 and 69 were sold to the tramway in Lavras, where they operated until 1967. Car 75 is on static display today at the Museu Histórico Abílio Barreto on Rua Bernardo Mascarenhas. It is said that one of the cars sold in 1952 to the EFS is still running today on the tourist tramway in Campinas, but the rumor could not be substantiated.
Belo Horizonte acquired four trolleybuses from Twin Coach of Kent, Ohio, in 1951 - the last units built by this firm - and inaugurated Brazil's second trackless system (after São Paulo) on 30 May 1953. Fifty more trolleybuses were acquired in 1959 from Marmon-Herrington of Indianapolis, Indiana - also the last vehicles built by this company - and 20 second-hand Massari units from São Paulo. Trolleybuses replaced trams on nine routes on the south and east sides of the city. The Marmons and Twins were sold to Recife in 1966 and trolleybus operation ceased on 22 January 1969. In March 1986 Belo Horizonte announced plans to build a new trolleybus system on the north side of the city.
The city has two suburban railroad services: electric trains run west on the broad-gauge (1600 mm) main line to Betim, and diesel trains run east on meter-gauge track to Sabará, then south to Raposos and Rio Acima. The section between Betim and Horto has recently been rebuilt as part of a 1600 mm gauge rapid transit line; new French trains began partial service on 6 March 1985.
Fifteen kilometers east of Belo Horizonte, 10 km east of the end of the Horto trolley line, there was a short electric freight tramway between the Central of Brazil railroad station at Carvalho Brito - called Marzagão until 1953 - and a textile mill operated by the Companhia de Fição e Tecidos de Minas Gerais. Length was only 400 m (1/4 mile) and the single car with trolley pole, acquired second-hand from the Belo Horizonte system, was used to transport cotton. Manoel Thomas de Carvalho Brito, owner of the cotton mill, was also director of the Companhia de Eletricidade e Viação Urbana de Minas Gerais. The meter-gauge line operated only from 1918 until 1924, when the tram's function was taken over by a system of pneumatic tubes.
At General Carneiro, a few kilometers beyond Carvalho Brito, the Central of Brazil's meter-gauge railroad divides: one line continues east and southward toward Rio de Janeiro; the other turns north toward Bahia. At Pedro Leopoldo, 71 km north of Belo Horizonte on the Bahia line - which, incidentally, is the unique railroad connection between southern Brazil and the cities along its north coast - there was another tramway between the railroad station and a textile mill. This one carried passengers and was longer, 1.2 km, but was mule-powered and was operated by the Companhia Industrial de Belo Horizonte. The line ran from 1907 until 1930.
On the meter-gauge railroad to Rio de Janeiro, about 40 km southeast of Belo Horizonte, a more ambitious tramway began at the railroad station at Raposos. The Estrada de Ferro Morro Velho was built by the St. John del Rei Mining Company, an English enterprise, to transport workers and materials from the railroad station to the Morro Velho gold mines near Nova Lima. Construction began 30 March 1911 and service was inaugurated 3 April 1913: small mine-type locomotives with trolley poles pulled open coaches on a winding 9-km route along Ribeirão Agua Suja (Dirty Water Creek). The families of the employees and residents of the two towns also rode the cars, but three times a month passengers were banned, the right-of-way was lined with militia, and the railway transported gold ingots to the Central of Brazil Railroad station for export to Rio de Janeiro and abroad. A 1921 government report shows four GE locomotives, ten passenger trailers and 14 assorted work vehicles [Minas Gerais, Serviço de Estatística Geral, Annuario Estatístico de Minas Gerais, 1921 (Belo Horizonte, 1921), v. 3, p. 568]. Gauge was 660 mm (2 ft 2 in).
The EF Morro Velho is often considered Brazil's first electric railroad. It could also be considered its first interurban tramway.
The population of Nova Lima grew to 11,000 by 1920. Going to Belo Horizonte by way of Raposos was a roundabout route: Nova Lima is actually only a short distance from the capital's southern suburbs and new highways in the 1950s changed transportation patterns. The locomotives continued their work in the mines, but interurban passenger service became less and less frequent and was taken over by the Prefeitura de Nova Lima on 1 January 1965. Rail transport ended altogether about 1970: the tracks between Nova Lima and Raposos were removed and the right-of-way today is a dirt road used by trucks. Buses now run directly north to Belo Horizonte and there is a new paved road on the south side of Dirty Water Creek. In 1984 the Morro Velho mine celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Teófilo Otoni was another gold-rush town in the northeastern corner of the state, about 400 km from Belo Horizonte. The Ferro-Carril de Teófilo Otoni operated two horsecars on a 3 km tramway from the railroad station to the town between September 1918 and May 1938.
Ouro Preto, about 100 km southeast of Belo Horizonte, is Brazil's famous Baroque city and its most popular inland tourist attraction. During the gold-rush days of the late 18th century Ouro Preto's population surpassed New York's; today it is about 30,000. The Central of Brazil steam railroad reached Ouro Preto on 22 December 1887 and less than a year later, on 1 December 1888, the Companhia Ferro Carril Ouro Pretana inaugurated a mulecar system. Three routes ran to Alto da Cruz, the Largo do Rosário and Saramenha Cemetery. Perhaps because of the city's extremely rugged terrain the tramway lasted only three years, until about 1891.
Ubá is a small city (1980 population: 50,000) on the Leopoldina Railway about 100 km northeast of Juiz de Fora. A 2 km tram line, with four cars and 22 mules, was operated between 1895 and 1922 by Galdino, Afonso & Companhia.
About 50 km southeast of Ubá on another branch of the Leopoldina Railway, the smaller town of Cataguases (1980 population: 40,000) had an off-and-on horsecar system. Service was inaugurated by the Carris Urbanos de Cataguases on 25 November 1910, but quit in 1914. The 4 km tramway was reinstated on 10 August 1915 by the Sociedade Carril Cataguases, but closed for good on 24 March 1918. A proposal for electrification in 1911 came to naught.
About 35 km directly east of Juiz de Fora, a small mule tramway operated from the Leopoldina Railway station at Bicas to the town of Guarará. Distance was 4 km: the two passenger cars and single freight car ran from 1895 until the end of 1923.
Mar de Espanha
The 1889 edition of the Almanak Laemmert mentions a tramway between this town 25 km south of Guarará and the São Pedro do Pequeri station of the Leopoldina Railway. Length was 12 km and operator was the Companhia Ferro Carril Mar de Hespanha, but nothing more could be learned about it.
Além Paraíba ("Beyond the Paraíba") is on the north shore of the Paraíba do Sul River, 175 km upstream from Campos, some 100 km east of Juiz de Fora. 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 20,000 today.
Além Paraíba grew up at the junction of two 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 built its first line, of meter gauge, to the interior city of Leopoldina in 1873. The Empreza Ferro Carril Além Parahyba, founded in 1891, inaugurated a 4 km mule tramway between Porto Novo and Saúde in 1895. For much of its route the animal line shared the main street with the railroad tracks. In 1921, when the city's population reached 5,000, the tramway had 12 passenger cars and 60 mules and carried 150,000 passengers.
A local industrialist, Adão Pereira de Araújo, purchased the tramway on 13 January 1923 and began electrification. The origin of the three 40-passenger open cars is uncertain, but they seem identical to the vehicles that opened the nearby Cachoeiro de Itapemirim tramway in 1924, which are of the type built during this period by Trajano de Medeiros in Rio de Janeiro. Além Paraíba's electric tramway, which is not mentioned in any of the government surveys published in Brazil or the United States, was inaugurated, amid great festivity, on 15 November 1925. Gauge was meter, length was 4 km and, like the mule tramway, the electric tramway shared the main street with the steam railroad. The owner's initials, "APA," appeared on the sides of the cars.
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. Trolley 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, causing (additional) fatalities. The event was traumatic for the small town and the line never reopened.
Juiz de Fora
Juiz de Fora, the second-largest city in Minas Gerais, lies 260 km south of Belo Horizonte, about half-way between that city and Rio de Janeiro. The city's name means "Judge from Outside": the original settlement was allegedly near the farm of a visiting magistrate. Population was 30,000 in 1910 and is 220,000 today.
Juiz de Fora was the first city in Minas Gerais state to have a tramway, an animal line inaugurated by the Ferro Carril Bonds de Juiz de Fôra on 15 March 1881. Juiz de Fora was also the site of the first hydroelectric plant in South America, inaugurated at Cachoeira dos Marmelos, 15 km south of the city, on 7 September 1889. Because of this, textile mills flourished and in the 1890s Juiz de Fora was known as "the Manchester of Brazil."
In 1904 Eduardo Guinle, GE's new agent in Brazil, secured the contract for construction of an electric tramway and ordered four 8-bench electric cars from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia (o.n. 14410). The trolley system was inaugurated by the Companhia Mineira de Eletricidade on 6 June 1906. Seven more 8-bench cars were acquired from Brill between 1906 and 1912 (o.n. 15511, 15787, 17320, 18148, 20579-80) and CME began building its own cars, including 13-bench double-truck models, in 1920. In 1923 a new bridge was constructed across the Paraibuna River and new tram routes opened on the east side of town. The IBGE report for 1946 shows 30 motor cars and nine trailers on 17 km of track. Gauge was meter.
The Juiz de Fora tram system was one of the largest in Brazil not to be purchased by North Americans, and was one of the last to close. The railway was municipalized on 26 June 1954 and the Departamento Autônomo de Bondes da Prefeitura Municipal ran the last car on 14 April 1969 [date on bronze plaque at Mariano Procópio Museum, 1981]. Many of the trams were preserved in parks throughout the city; car 9 was exhibited at Mariano Procópio Museum. In 1985 the mayor gathered several cars for display in a new transport museum in Lajinha Park southwest of the city, near the Juiz de Fora airport.
Lavras are excavations and Lavras is a rich mining town in the mountains 230 km southwest of Belo Horizonte. Population was 25,000 in 1910 and is 40,000 today. Unlike São João del Rei, Tiradentes and other nearby cities that are rich in 18th century history and architecture, Lavras is a modern city which grew up in the 19th century at the junction of two railroads: the Rede de Viação Sul Mineira, which runs southwest from Lavras toward São Paulo, and the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas, which connects Barra Mansa (Rio de Janeiro state) with Belo Horizonte. The 762 mm gauge EFOM line through São João del Rei still operates steam locomotives today and attracts railroad enthusiasts from around the world.
The city lies on a ridge sloping upward from the railroad station, near Red Creek ("Ribeirão Vermelho"), in the valley. To take its passengers into town the EFOM hired Siemens-Schuckert in 1910 to build an electric tramway. Two single-truck 11-bench cars - the only 4-wheel 11-bench cars in Brazil - came from Falkenried in Hamburg and the line was dedicated on 21 October 1911. An elaborate granite tram waiting station was constructed at Praça Augusto Silva in the center of town and Lavras became known throughout rural Minas Gerais as the "cidade do bonde." Gauge was meter, the route was 3 km long and the cars carried Siemens bow collectors.
In 1931 the RVSM and EFOM were merged into the Rede Mineira de Viação (which later became the Viação Férrea Centro Oeste) and the "EFOM" on the front of the cars was changed to "RMV." The city took over the tramway in 1940, demolished the tram waiting station and changed the initials to "PML": Prefeitura Municipal de Lavras. Rolling stock deteriorated. When the Belo Horizonte tram system closed in 1963 the capital's mayor, Jorge Carone Filho, donated two l0-bench cars to Lavras. DBO 55 and 69 became PML 3 and 4 and were placed in service on the occasion of the city's 95th anniversary, 20 July 1963.
The Belo Horizonte cars didn't work out and it was the original Falkenried trams 1 and 2 which terminated railway service in the city on 8 November 1967 [letter from Mayor Maurício Pádua de Souza, 13 June 1980]. Overhead wire was removed and one car was repainted and placed on display on the tram tracks in front of the railroad station, where it remained until the city's centenary celebration in July 1968.
The Lavras tram system operated the same electric cars for 56 years and was one of the last tram systems to operate in Brazil. Yet, as far as the author knows, the line was unknown to most of the transport enthusiasts who visited from North America and Europe.
Bom Sucesso is a very small town on the Estrada de Ferro Oeste de Minas, 50 km northeast of Lavras, 200 km southwest of Belo Horizonte. It was not accessible by paved automobile road until recently and was the smallest town in Brazil, perhaps in all Latin America, to have an urban electric tramway. Population was only about 2,000 when the tramway opened in 1930, only 4,000 when it closed in 1950, and is about 5,000 today.
Like nearby Lavras, Bom Sucesso sits on a hill. And, as in Lavras, the electric tramway was built by the EFOM to bring passengers from the railroad station in the valley. The Bom Sucesso line was also 3 km long and had meter gauge, but otherwise was quite different: it climbed the hill on winding private right-of-way, crossed the Pirapetinga River on its own trestle, was built 20 years after Lavras and had only one car, constructed in the EFOM shops in Divinópolis. The line opened on 21 September 1930, to the accompaniment of a regimental band from São João del Rei. It was the last electric tramway to be built in Brazil (until after World War II).
The homemade car was heavy and took too much power. Mayor Aurélio Ferreira Guimarães, who assumed office in 1948, initiated a street-paving program and removed the tracks. The tram reportedly remained at the barn until the late 1960s when Mayor José Mansur Filho sold it for scrap. Local historian Venâncio Castanheira Filho laments that Bom Sucesso, like Lavras, could have had a lighter tram second-hand from the capital. Today, trains on the Lavras-Divinópolis line still stop at the Bom Sucesso railroad station in the valley and trolley track is still intact on the right-of-way section east of the bridge.
Caxambu and São Lourenço are popular mineral spas in the Serra da Mantiqueira, the same mountain range that surrounds Campos do Jordão across the nearby border in São Paulo state. Caxambu (1980 population: 16,000) is about 400 km southwest of Belo Horizonte and equidistant, about 300 km, from both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The Empresa de Aguas de Caxambu operated a 750 mm gauge horsecar line from the railroad station to the Hotel das Fontes from 1911 until 1925. The water company also ran a gasoline-powered freight railway from the station via another route to its bottling factory. This line continued until about 1955.
São Lourenço is another prosperous spa (1980 population: 23,000) 40 km south of Caxambu, about 100 km south of Lavras on the Rede de Viação Sul Mineira line to Cruzeiro. São Lourenço mineral water is sold throughout Brazil. The Empresa de Aguas de São Lourenço operated a 2.3 km horse tramway from the railroad station to the spring between 1905 and 1932. In the 1920s there were three passenger cars, eight freight cars and ten horses. Hotel guests liked to pose on the miniscule trams.
In 1895 the Rede de Viação Sul Mineira opened a branch from Freitas, near São Lourenço on its main line south from Lavras, to the gold mine town of Campanha. The steam railroad was extended another 30 km west to São Gonçalo do Sapucaí in 1930. Before construction of the extension, transportation between Campanha and São Gonçalo do Sapucaí was provided by an interurban tramway whose motive power has variously been described as animal, steam, gasoline and electric.
In 1911 the Companhia Sapucahy inaugurated a tramway from the railroad station in Campanha down Rua do Bonde (today, Rua Marquês do Herval) to the adjacent village of Palmela, on the road to São Gonçalo do Sapucaí. The trams were pulled alternately by mules and locomotives and the line was extended to Santa Luzia and taken over by the Conquista & Xicão Gold Mines, Limited, an Anglo-French company, in 1912. Some documents state that electric trams began running the entire 30 km route from Campanha to São Gonçalo do Sapucaí on 14 July 1913. Other documents and the mayors of both cities claim that the line never had electric trams, that service was provided by gasoline railcars. Both mayors say the line closed during World War I, but the Almanak Laemmert notes electric trams running in 1926. The World Survey of Foreign Railways doesn't specify motive power but lists a "São Gonçalo Tramway Company (Minas Gerais)" in both its 1933 and 1937 editions.
The complete story of Campanha's tramway has yet to be told.
Sacramento is one of the remotest tramway cities in Brazil: in a far western corner of Minas Gerais, 500 km from Belo Horizonte, about halfway between São Paulo and the new federal capital of Brasília. It is also one of the smallest: 3,000 inhabitants in 1910, only 5,000 today. Much larger towns in the area - Uberaba, Uberlândia, Ribeirão Preto - planned tramway systems but did not succeed in building even a mulecar line. Sacramento had an electric tramway constructed by German engineers.
The city is on a hill 14 km from the railroad line in the valley. The situation is similar to that in Lavras and Bom Sucesso, only the distance is greater. The Companhia Mogiana Estrada de Ferro reached Conquista, in the Grande River valley, on 23 April 1889, and in 1910 the city of Sacramento hired Bromberg, Hacker & Cia of São Paulo, an agent for Siemens-Schuckert, to build an electric railway from Conquista to Sacramento. A power plant was erected at Cajuru Falls, track and overhead wire were installed on a winding path along Borá Creek, and a tramway depot was constructed at the end of Rua Joaquim Murtinho in Sacramento. The tramway did not enter the town or run on city streets. In 1912 the lower end of the route was altered: instead of going to Conquista, tracks were laid directly south to a new "Sacramento" station constructed by the CMEF at Cipó. Two 6-bench passenger cars, carrying odd bow collectors (see photo), and two freight trailers were imported from an unknown builder in Germany. Trial runs began in September 1913 and the Empreza Electrica Municipal inaugurated revenue service on its 14 km meter-gauge tramway, between Sacramento and Cipó, on 15 November 1913.
On 4 June 1915 a powerhouse fire destroyed the transformer and for two weeks the cars were pulled up the hill by oxen [Stiel, Brasil, p. 378]. The Estrada de Ferro Electrica Municipal de Sacramento, as it was renamed, did an important freight business, not only for Sacramento but for the neighboring city of Araxá, and the two freight trailers were soon motorized. The company also supplied electricity to several other towns. Power requirements increased; when the tram climbed the hill, house lights dimmed. Freight business decreased; in 1924 the EF Oeste de Minas reached Araxá and a new highway opened to Uberaba. Mayor José Ribeiro de Oliveira closed the tramway in October 1937, sold the equipment to São Paulo and with the money built an automobile road along the tramway right-of-way.
The Mogiana Railroad closed in 1975 and today its right-of-way and much of the river valley have been inundated by a dam. All traces of the tramway have also disappeared, except for the tram station in Sacramento: after sitting unused for a half century, it was restored and reopened as a museum on 7 September 1986. The new park next to the building is called Praça José Zago Filho.
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