The Tramways of
Vitória + Vila Velha
Espírito Santo state


Allen Morrison


Espírito Santo, the small coastal state between Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, had electric tramways in three cities: Vitória, Vila Velha and Cachoeiro de Itapemirim. The first two are on opposite sides of Vitória Bay [see map]. Vila Velha ("Old Town") do Espírito Santo, founded in 1535, is one of the oldest cities in Brazil. Vila Nova ("New Town"), founded in 1551, was later renamed Vitória and made state capital.

Everything started later in Espírito Santo than in neighboring states and it was not until 23 March 1905 that a franchise was awarded to build an animal tramway in Vitória (which would be the only animal tramway in the state). The Empreza Ferro-Carril do Suá purchased three mulecars second-hand from Niterói and inaugurated a line from downtown to Forte São João on 11 July 1907. A steam locomotive pulled cars from São João to Morro do Suá [see map]. Siemens-Schuckert of Berlin installed the city's street lights in 1909 and the following year a local citizen named Antônio José Duarte formed a company to build an electric tramway. Duarte ordered nine motorized passenger cars, two freight cars and a funeral car from Waggonfabrik Falkenried in Hamburg, Germany. 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.

In 1911 Siemens-Schuckert began construction of another electric tramway across the bay. The Companhia Bonds de Villa Velha ordered two 10-bench cars from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia on 2 August 1911 and opened its electric line between Vila Velha and the ferry terminal at Paul on 12 April 1912 [see map]. A successor company, Viação Eléctrica da Cidade de Espírito Santo, purchased two 12-bench cars and a gondola from Brill five months later. The 8 km Vila Velha 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.

Track gauge of both the Vitória and Vila Velha tramway systems was meter, but there was no track connection between them. The cars on both systems carried Siemens-style bow collectors.

Financial problems plagued the Vitória undertaking and another bank, Banco Hipotecário e Agrícola, took over its tramway in 1912. B. H. A. do E. do E. S. ordered two 12-bench motor cars and two 8-bench trailers from Brill and several 9-bench trailers from Les Ateliers Métallurgiques in Nivelles, Belgium. Electrification of the Vitória tramway 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 [see map]. In the 1920s Tramways Eléctricos de Victoria traded some of its 6-bench Falkenried cars to the Vila Velha company in exchange for its 12-bench Brills, and a new company, Serviços Reunidos de Victoria, purchased ironwork and trucks from Brill and built new cars in its shops.

On 27 May 1927 the street railways in Vitória and Vila Velha became the first in Brazil to be acquired by the U.S. conglomerate, Electric Bond & Share. The new Companhia Central Brasileira de Força Elétrica built a second depot in Vitória at Praia Comprida [see map] and ordered Brill chasses for three more 12-bench cars in 1928. Despite the additional equipment, CCBFE closed the cathedral spur in 1940 and took up the rails along Avenida Florentino Avidos in 1942 – eliminating the downtown loop. After the Second War it 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 tramway in Recife, Pernambuco state, which also used meter gauge, and built 13-bench car 51 and two 14-bench cars, 52 and 53. The IBGE report for 1957 shows 14 passenger motor cars, a baggage car and a line car in Vitória; four passenger motor cars, two trailers and a work car in Vila Velha.

Both cities were growing rapidly and CCBFE was interested primarily in electric power and not its tram routes, which were largely single track. It cut the Vila Velha line back to Jaburuna in 1959 and closed the Praia do Canto line in Vitória on 23 April 1963. The last tram service in Vitória, from Santo Antônio to Jucutuquara, ended on 23 May 1963 [see map].

After closure of the Vitória system, CCBFE transferred cars 45, 48 and 50 to the Vila Velha line. Others were placed in parks and playgrounds around the state. On 29 December 1965 CCBFE sold the Vila Velha tramway to the Prefeitura Municipal de Vila Velha, which operated the line for two more years. The last tram in Espírito Santo state ran from Paul to Aribiri depot on Friday night 15 December 1967. Car 42, which had been preserved in Vitória, was exhibited on that city's main square, Praça Costa Pereira [see map], during the month of July 1983.

See pictures


(in order of publication)

Untitled news items. Brazil-Ferro-Carril, Rio de Janeiro, 3/1911, p. 20; 15/6/1913, p. 232. Vila Velha tramway.

Vitória. Comissão do Cadastro Territorial de Vitória. Planta Cadastral da Zona Urbana da Cidade de Vitória. Vitória, 1933. Street map shows original tram routes in central area. Scale 1:2,000.

Espírito Santo. Departamento de Estatística Geral. Sinopse Estatística do Estado. Vitória, 1937. "Ferro-Carris, 1912-36," p. 76. Tram statistics for 24-year period.

Município de Espírito Santo. Vitória, 1938. Map of municipality of Vila Velha shows tram route.

Assis, F. Eugenio de. "O Bonde." A Tribuna (Vitória), 1943/7/23, 5. Tramway history, with reference to war-time problems.

Companhia Central Brasileira de Força Elétrica. Sistema de Bondes - Vitória. Vitória, 20/9/1945. Official track map of both the Vitória and Vila Velha systems.

Roteiro Turístico da Cidade de Vitória. Vitória, 1951. Itinerary of tram routes in Vitória and Vila Velha.

"Central Desafia o Governo Deixando a Cidade sem bonde." A Gazeta (Vitória), 25/5/1963, p. 1. Tramway abandonment.

Holzmeister, José Luiz. "O último dos Bondinhos..." A Gazeta (Vitória), 1967/3/30, 2. Tribute to tramway across the bay.

Espírito Santo Centrais Elétricas S.A. História da Energia Elétrica no Espírito Santo. Vitória, 1968. Tram pictures and history.

Novaes, Maria Stella de. História do Espírito Santo. Vitória, 1971. Vitória tram data: pp. 354, 358-359, 362, 380-1. Inauguration of Vila Velha tramway, p. 384.

"A Saudade dos Bondes" in A Gazeta (Vitória), 11/5/1975, p. 2. General article on trams and tribute to the Vila Velha line.

"Não é Miragem: O Bonde Voltou" in A Tribuna (Vitória), 7/7/1983, p. ? Large article on tram restoration and display of car 42 on Praça Costa Pereira.

"De Volta à Vitória Antiga num Bonde Chamado Saudade" in A Gazeta (Vitória), 26/1/1986, 4-5. Two pages of tram nostalgia, photos.

Allen Morrison. The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York, 1989. History, photos and map of the Vitória and Vila Velha systems, pp. 66-72. The text (only) of the Espírito Santo chapter is online.

Prefeitura de Vitória. Os bondes na Vitória antiga. Undated webpage with 12 photos of Vitória trams and tram rails.


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This site was placed online on
26 December 2006

Copyright © 2005-2105 Allen Morrison