6th Region

80 km south of Santiago
pop. 1920, 2,460; 1982, 14,756
an tw 1920-1934?; 1620 mm; 4 km; 1 pt, 2 ft

Chile's 6th Region had the largest concentration of tramways outside the capital.

The Tranvías Comunidad Molino La Compañía operated a horse tramway between Graneros railroad station, 5 km north of Rancagua, to a mill at a place called La Compañía. The line carried 2,000 passengers in 1920 and 14,400 in 1921; thereafter, unfortunately, the Anuario lumps all data for O'Higgins province. A 1934 map of the area shows a railroad between Graneros and La Compañía, which suggests that the line was still running at that time.

85 km south of Santiago; capital of 6th Region
pop. 1907, 10,380; 1930, 23,339; 1986, 157,000
an tw 1905-18
el tw 1918-1930; 1435 mm; 1.5 km; 4 pm (s&dd)

Going south from Santiago the next place that had an electric tramway was the city of Rancagua. Rancagua is remembered by most Chileans as the site of a battle in 1814 in which the revolutionists under General Bernardo O'Higgins were defeated by the Spaniards.

Rancagua is presently the headquarters of El Teniente copper mine, the second-largest in Chile, which accounts for its dramatic population increase in the last 75 years. Until 1974 Rancagua and the mining area at Sewell, 72 km east, were connected by a private 762 mm gauge railway that was electrified at the mining end.

The steam railroad from Santiago reached Rancagua in 1859. But it wasn't until July 1905 that the Empresa Ossa opened a horsecar line between the railroad station and the center of town. The Ferrocarril Rancagua al Teniente was inaugurated in 1910 and another private steam railroad opened to Doñihue in 1916.

Following the example of tramways in Villa Alegre, Talca and nearby Rengo, a group of local businessmen formed the Compañía Tranvías Eléctricos de Rancagua in 1917 and purchased four electric trams second-hand from the CET&L in Santiago. CTER rebuilt the horsecar line and unofficially began electric tram service between the railroad station and Plaza Los Héroes on 8 July 1918. The line was extended a half kilometer and formally inaugurated all the way to the Alameda, today called Av. Bernardo O'Higgins, on 16 November 1919. Rolling stock is said to have consisted of both single- and double-deck cars painted red.

Chile's giant Compañía General de Electricidad Industrial acquired the Rancagua tramway in 1920 and announced plans for an extension 9 km east to the town of Machali. But the line was never built. CGEI ended Rancagua tram service in 1930.

The author expended great effort trying to locate photographs showing the trams of Rancagua. Nothing was found - except the photo of the mining line - not even mediocre illustrations. Indeed, the editor of Rancagua's newspaper El Rancagüino showed the author articles that he had written about his town's trams, for which he wanted but could never find pictures. The Museo Histórico Nacional in Santiago confirms that Rancagua illustrations are rare. Collectors of picture postcards say that they have never seen an old postcard of Rancagua.

105 km south of Santiago
stm tw 1920s; 14 km; 750 mm; 2 locos, 2 pt, 2 ft

The steam-powered Ferrocarril de Rosario a Guacarhue, in the comuna of Pichiguao, is noted only in the "Tranvías" section of the 1920 Anuario. Rosario railroad station is 5 km north of Rengo; Guacarhue is a village directly west. No other informaton about it could be found and it may never be known which tramway characteristics earned this line a place on the government's tramway list, rather than on its list of steam railroads.

110 km south of Santiago, 25 km south of Rancagua
pop. 1875, 3,896; 1920, 6,049; 1982, 21,147
an tw 1872-1918; 1219 mm; 4.5 km
el tw 1918-1923; 1560 mm; 4.5 km; 4 pm
gas tw 1923-1927; 1650 mm; 4.5 km

The little town of Rengo - still little today - had an unusual tramway history that, perhaps better than that of any other city in Chile, illustrates the elusive nature of the subject of this book.

Rengo seems to have been one of the first towns in Chile to have a horse tramway, only 14 years after Santiago and 33 years before nearby and much larger Rancagua. Its electric line, on the other hand, was the shortest-lived and one of the first to close.

The Longitudinal Railroad reached Rengo in 1862 and a horsecar service is said to have begun between the station and the Plaza a decade later, in 1872. Trams were turned on turntables at both ends of the line. In its reports between 1890 and 1907 the Sinopsis records Rengo tramway gauge as 1650 mm ("l,65 m"). But the 1915, 1916 and 1917 editions of the Anuario report the gauge of the same line as, respectively, 1200, 1470 and 1100 mm. Since the town is small and had only one tram route it seems unlikely that more than one figure can be correct.

One thing for visitors to see in Rengo today is a section of horsecar track that has survived, incredibly, in the remains of a concrete trestle near La Curva. Track gauge is 1219 mm and one rail is engraved "RHYMNEY 1870." Rhymney is a district in Wales.

On 18 April 1917 the Compañía Eléctrica Caupolicán secured a franchise to electrify the line, which was transfered the following 22 September to a local citizen, Antonio Ferrer Tortella. The latter's new Compañía Tranvías Eléctricos de Rengo, in a joint venture with Compañía Tranvías Eléctricos de Temuco, imported four 4-wheel passenger trams second-hand from the Anglo-Argentine Tramway Co. in Buenos Aires, Argentina. These had been built early in the century by St. Louis Car Co. in the U.S.A.

Tortella inaugurated the Rengo electric tramway on 14 March 1918. The Anuario reports gauge of the electric line as 1560 mm (different from all the horsecar gauges mentioned above), which, if correct, meant reconstruction of the Argentine standard-gauge trucks. Later that year CTER, like many of the electric utilities in southern Chile, was acquired by the Compañía General de Electricidad Industrial. Rengo's electric trams carried 130,567 passengers during their first year of operation.

Service on the line became erratic in 1920 and CGEI tried to sell the line back to private investors in 1921 and 1922. When part of the route was damaged by a flood in 1923, power was cut and the electric cars were allegedly sold to the tramway company in Talca. Local residents say that the tramway was rebuilt and used gasoline-powered vehicles until about 1927, when it is last reported in the Anuario (as one of three tramways in O'Higgins province).

One resident recalls that at a trade fare in October 1945 an old Rengo tram was returned from Talca for display. No photos or postcards could be found showing any of Rengo's streetcars.

175 km southwest of Santiago
pop. 1920, 1,662; 1930, 1,807; 1982, 19,238
an tw 1915-1928?; 750 mm; 3.5 km; 3 pt, 3 ft

The Ferrocarril Urbano de Paniahue a Santa Cruz connected the town of Santa Cruz with Paniahue station of the San Fernando-Pichilemu railroad. In 1926 its horsecars carried 36,375 passengers and 2,094 tons of freight. The line was owned by Valdivieso & Errázuriz, whose offices were in San Bernardo, Metropolitan Region. The Anuario last reports the line in 1928, but the WSFR still lists it in its 1933 edition, which reports data (often erroneously) for the early 1930s.

Instead of the company above, the 1915 and 1916 editions of the Anuario report a Ferrocarril Urbano de Paniahue a Nilahue, with similar specifications and in the same comuna of Palmilla. No place called Nilahue could be located, and the two tramways are believed to be the same.