Recife / Timbaúba / Goiana / Limoeiro / Carpina / Caruaru / Pesqueira / Arcoverde / Afogados da Ingazeira / Triunfo / Palmares / Garanhuns




The state of Pernambuco was so prosperous in sugar production in the early 17th century that it was invaded by the Netherlands. The Portuguese drove the Dutch out in 1654 and the northeast coast of Brazil remained a world supplier of sugar, cacao and cotton through the 18th century. In the 19th century coffee and other industries began to draw population to the southern states. Pernambuco's capital city, Recife, has been called "the Venice of Brazil" for its central area is built on a series of islands and peninsulas. Population was 200,000 in 1910 and is about a million today.

Recife was the second city in Brazil, after Rio de Janeiro, to operate steam trams, and may have been the first in the world to operate steam locomotives built specifically to run on the street. Two locomotives of this design were constructed in 1866 by Manning Wardle & Co. of Leeds for the British-built Brazilian Street Railway, which was known in Recife as the Estrada de Ferro de Caxangá. Five similar units were supplied in the next four years; the passenger cars were built by George Starbuck in Birkenhead [J. H. Price, "The Story of G. F. Milnes," Modern Tramway (London), 1964/7, 239]. The first street-running steam line, between the port and Apipucos, opened on 5 January 1867. Gauge was 1219 mm (4 ft) and the railway was extended to Dois Irmãos that year and to Caxangá on 24 June 1870. A branch to Arraial (Casa Amarela) opened on 24 December 1871. Another steam tramway, the 1400 mm gauge Trilhos Urbanos do Recife a Olinda e Beberibe, which was built with Brazilian capital, inaugurated a line to the historic village of Olinda on 20 June 1870, and a route to Beberibe in July. Trilhos Urbanos also had locomotives built by Manning Wardle in Leeds, but most of its passenger cars came from John Stephenson in New York. A more direct route to Caxangá was constructed in 1885 and the tracks beyond Dois Irmãos were removed. The steam tramways of Recife, which approximately duplicated the electric tram routes shown on the map, ran through World War I.

The Pernambuco Street Railway, later called the Ferro-Carril de Pernambuco, opened an animal-powered line to Madalena on 22 September 1871. The first cars were closed like the local buses and the public called them ônibus. When the company installed electric lights the passengers renamed the trams electroburros. Gauge was wide, operation was left-hand, and extra mules were stationed at waterside to help pull cars over the arched bridges. In 1882 the Ferro-Carril had 50 trams and 400 mules.

Considering its pioneer spirit it seems odd that Recife was the last major capital in Brazil to install an electric tramway. Twenty-one cities, including a half-dozen smaller capitals in the northeast, already had this improvement by 1912, when locomotion in Pernambuco was still provided by 27 locomotives and 900 mules. The Pernambuco Tramways & Power Company was registered in London on 24 January 1913 and the contract for construction of an electric tramway was awarded to J. G. White of England. Tests began in November 1913 and the first electric tram line in Recife, from Recife island across Santo Antônio peninsula to Boa Vista, was officially opened on 13 May 1914. Gauge was meter, the cars carried trolley poles and the manufacturer of the first hundred electric trams - 70 9-bench motor cars and 30 trailers - was J. G. Brill of Philadelphia (o.n. 19082, 19166 and 19174). Twenty-five 14-bench double-truck cars came from United Electric of Preston, England.

The steam tramway to Olinda was electrified on 12 October 1914 and electric traction reached Várzea in 1915. Steam tramways to Dois Irmãos and Arraial were replaced by electric lines in 1917 and the last steam tram in Recife ran to Beberibe in 1922. Several of the double-truck electric cars were rebuilt as deluxe closed models for a new line to Boa Viagem beach that was inaugurated on 25 October 1924. A route was also planned to Jaboatão, 8 km west of Tegipió, but was not constructed. By the late 1920s Pernambuco Tramways was operating 130 motor cars and 110 trailers on 141 km of route, the third-largest streetcar system in Brazil.

Electric Bond & Share Company bought the Recife tramway in 1928 - but kept the British name. The U.S. firm transfered 20 two-axle cars to meter-gauge tramway systems in Maceió and Natal, which it acquired in 1930, and began rebuilding 4-axle open cars into streamlined closed cars which the public dubbed "zépelins." In 1940 Pernambuco Tramways began bringing 4-axle center-door trailers from the United States, including at least one specimen from New York State Railways in Syracuse. The roster for 1943 shows 26 double-truck aluminum cars, 20 streamlined wood cars, 7 single-truck closed cars, 61 single-truck open cars, 49 double-truck open cars, 93 trailers and 34 trams for cargo.

Ebasco's interest in Recife diminished after the War and the tram system declined rapidly. Streetcars were eliminated from both Recife island and Santo Antônio by 1951, and the last tram in the city ran from Boa Vista to Madalena - where the first horsecar ran 80 years earlier - in March 1954. Trucks and other parts were transfered to Ebasco's meter-gauge tramways in Vitória, Belo Horizonte and Campinas.

When the system closed, local politicians accused Pernambuco Tramways of breaking its contract and started legal action. Tram service was restored: a single 4-wheel open car ran once a day from Boa Visa to Fundão until 1960! Tram 104 was later preserved in a riverfront park on Rua da Aurora and transfered to the Museu do Homem do Nordeste in 1985. The trolley era in Recife lasted only 45 years. Steam trams had run for 55 years.

The new Companhia de Transportes Urbanos inaugurated a trolleybus system on 15 June 1960 and about a hundred vehicles were operating on nine routes in 1980. Most of the trolleybuses were built by the Marmon-Herrington Company of Indianapolis; 50 of these were acquired second-hand from Belo Horizonte in 1965. New routes, using exclusive trolleybus lanes, opened in 1982.

Recife has diesel-powered suburban railroad service, from Central Station 20 km west to Jaboatão, and from Cinco Pontas Station 30 km south to Cabo. The Jaboatão line was recently regauged to 1600 mm and electrified: new metro-type MU trains with pantographs began running as far as Edgar Werneck, 6.5 km from the city, on 9 March 1985.




Stiel's Brasil, p. 480, describes a tramway inaugurated by Pinto Alves & Cia on 10 October 1915, using horsecars second-hand from Recife. The Sociedade Algodeira do Nordeste Brasileiro operated the line until the 1930s. Timbaúba is 85 km northwest of Recife, 20 km south of Itabaiana, a small town in Paraíba state which also had a tramway using Recife equipment.




A brochure issued by the Brazilian government at the Vienna Exposition of 1873 mentions a tramway project in this town, 65 km north of Recife [See General Bibliography, Part 7]. No information on its operation could be found.




Surveys published by the Pernambuco government mention trams here in 1908 and 1930. The horsecars in Limoeiro became a tourist attraction and ran until 1952, longer than most of the electric trams in Recife. A photograph that was recently discovered shows a cross-bench gasoline tram pulling a trailer in Limoeiro; date unknown. Limoeiro is on a branch of the Great Western of Brazil Railway, 70 km northwest of the capital.




Wilson Carneiro da Cunha, an historian in Recife, says that trams ran in this town, an important railroad junction 50 km northwest of the capital.




The Recife historian (see Carpina, above) says that trams existed in this town, at km 139 on the Great Western of Brazil's line to Salgueiro.




Stiel's Brasil, p. 235, describes the tramway that operated here from the First World War until the 1930s. Pesqueira is 230 km west of Recife on GWB's Salgueiro line.




The Recife historian (see Carpina, above) talks of trams here, at km 280 on the Salgueiro railroad.



Afogados da Ingazeira

Stiel's Brasil, p. 1, describes the tramway operated by the Ferro Carril Boa Viagem between 1895 and the First World War. Afogados is 400 km west of Recife on GWB's Salgueiro line.




The Recife historian (see Carpina, above) mentions a mule tramway in this town near the Paraíba border, 470 km west of Recife. The line connected Triunfo with the Great Western of Brazil Railway at Calumbi.




The Recife tram historian (see Carpina) speaks of a mulecar line in this town, 125 km south of Recife, on the Great Western of Brazil's main line to Maceió. Palmares was the scene of the Black Utopia described in the recent Brazilian motion picture, Quilombo.




Garanhuns is 250 km southwest of Recife, the terminus of a branch of GWB's main line to Maceió. When the railroad closed in 1968, Mayor Souto Dourado installed a diesel motor on a discarded 9-bench Recife tram. The car tested successfully for several weeks along a 3 km section of the railroad track between Garanhuns and the village of Paquereira. But on the day of inauguration so many residents boarded the car that the motor burned out and it never ran. The tram was later displayed on the town square.