7th Region

200 km south of Santiago
pop. 1907, 17,573; 1966, 39,392

Curicó had no tramway, as far as is known, but the city is mentioned here because it demonstrates so well the exasperating nature of the Chilean government's tramway statistics. The 1923, 1926 and 1927 editions of the Anuario report a 3.5 km animal-powered line in Curicó province. This would seem to be in its capital city of the same name, and, indeed, two histories of Curicó describe tramway projects [see BIBLIOGRAPHY]. But both books also indicate that, in spite of repeated efforts, none was built. The mysterious line is believed to be simply the aforementioned 3.5 km tramway between Paniahue and Santa Cruz, whose department of Santa Cruz belonged alternately to the provinces of Colchagua, Curicó and O'Higgins.

It is ironic that two of the best tramway descriptions that the author found in Chilean books are of lines that were not constructed. "Curicó" is an Indian word meaning dark waters.

220 km south of Santiago
pop. 1907, 4,327; 1982, 18,969
an tw 1915?-1927; 600 mm; 3.7 km; 4 pt, 4 ft

The Anuario reports that the Ferrocarril Urbano Municipal operated a horse tramway in this town between at least 1915 and 1927. The line carried 57,000 passengers in 1915 and 60,000 in 1921 (later passenger figures are lumped with those of the city of Talca . . .). Molina was not visited and no further information was found.

250 km south of Santiago; capital of 7th Region
pop. 1885, 23,432; 1907, 38,040; 1986, 137,621
an tw 1884-1916; 1435 mm; 4 km; 15 pt
el tw 1916-1933; 1435 mm; 5.5 km; 10 pm

Talca is in the center of Chile's rich agricultural zone and is the most populous city today between Santiago and Concepción. It has been destroyed several times by earthquakes and is the only large Chilean city that has numbered streets.

The Longitudinal Railroad reached Talca in 1873 - later than other capitals because the railroad's central section wasn't completed until after the segments at both ends. A local firm, MacQueda y Compañía, acquired a concession for a horse tramway in 1883 and purchased an assortment of single- and double-deck cars from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia (one of the few confirmed Brill horsecar orders for Chile). The Compañía Movilizadora de Carga i Pasajeros probably began service about 1884. The tramway franchise was transferred to Forno y Serafini in 1904 and to the new Compañía Eléctrica de Talca in 1911.

Talca's tramway was still powered by mules in 1915, when an electric tramway opened in the nearby, much smaller, town of Villa Alegre. The event embarrassed the provincial capital, which immediately began building an electric tramway of its own. CET eventually purchased eight electric trams second-hand from CET&L in Santiago - the same 4-wheel single-deck Herbrand model used by Villa Alegre. Unlike its horsecars, Talca's electric trams were all single-deckers because of low clearance on a new line that went under the railroad to the east side of town.

The electric tramway opened in 1916 and CET acquired two additional cars from Rengo when that city ended electric operation in 1923. The Talca tramway was acquired by the Compañía General de Electricidad Industrial in 1927. Both the city and its tramway were heavily damaged by an earthquake on 1 December 1928. The line resumed partial service that Christmas, but closed completely in 1933. The Sinopsis of 1933 says that Talca trams carried 1,561,000 passengers in 1928, 1,507,000 in 1929, and 1,602,000 in 1930.

300 km southwest of Santiago
pop. 1907, 8,873; 1930, 8,379; 1982, 21,436
an tw 1915?-1934; 1000 mm; 3 km; 12 pt, 2 ft

Constitución is a timber center and fishing port at the mouth of he Maule River and the end of an 88 km railroad branch from Talca - which is the only meter-gauge line in Chile that still has passenger service today. The beach at Constitución is renowned for its black sand and spectacular rock formations.

Date of inauguration of the horse tramway is unknown, but was probably soon after the railroad arrived in 1915. The Sociedad de Tranvías de Constitución, owned by the local Astaburuaga family, ran two services, from the railroad station to the docks and to the beach. Nine of its cars carried 160,000 passengers in 1930.

275 km south of Santiago
pop. 1907, 4,898; 1930, 6,281; 1982, 15,066
an tw 1906-1927; 750 mm; 4.8 km; 7 pt, 2 ft

San Javier, 25 km south of Talca, is a prosperous town in Chile's wine-growing district. The Ferrocarril Urbano operated a horse tramway between the commercial area and the railroad station for about 25 years. The line carried about 120,000 passengers in 1915 and about 230,000 in 1921. Plans for an electric railway connection with Villa Alegre, 10 kilometers south, never materialized.

285 km south of Santiago
pop. 1920, 2,138; 1930, 1,933; 1982, 4,879
el tw 1915-1926; 1000 mm; 11 km; 3 pm, 11 ft
an/gas tw 1926-1931; 1000 mm; 11 km; 2 pt, 11 ft

Many small towns planned tramways, wanted better transportation to larger towns, had grandiose schemes that if realized would have doubled the size of this book. The sleepy country hamlet of Villa Alegre ("Happy Town") not only built an electric streetcar system, but did so with its own funds and despite the obstacles set before it by the First War. The Villa Alegre tramway revolutionized the tramway industry in Chile.

The project began in 1910 when Eusebio Sotomayor, the town's mayor and leading entrepreneur, proposed a private steam railway to connect the railroad station, 6 km east, with the vineyards, bottling plants and other small industries of the Villa Alegre-San Javier district. Antonio Bellet, an engineer of the Santiago firm Raab y Bellet, secured a franchise for an electric line on 14 August 1911, and with Sotomayor, other residents and another engineer, Rafael Edwards, formed the Sociedad Ferrocarril Eléctrico de Villa Alegre. The route was surveyed by W. R. Grace & Co., Chilean agents for the General Electric Co. of New York, which had recently built rural tramways near Santiago and Concepción.

Bellet and Edwards ordered materials from abroad. AEG generators from Germany were installed at Sotomayor's farm at Trapiche. Rails from Carnegie Steel in Pennsylvania were laid on Av. Abate Molina and along the north side of the road to the railroad station. Beyond the spur to the passenger depot, the line crossed the steam tracks at grade in order to reach the freight terminal.

An order for rolling stock from Germany was blocked by the War, so FEVA purchased a passenger tram second-hand from the CET&L in Santiago: one of its 4-wheel 400 series, constructed by P. Herbrand in Köln in the early part of the century. Gauge of its AEG truck was altered from 1435 to 1000 mm and the car was painted coffee brown with gold letters. FEVA also bought a few flat cars and trailers.

Passenger tram #1 made its first journey on the line on 23 August, and, before a crowd of 1,500, most of the town's population, formally inaugurated Villa Alegre's new electric tramway on 29 August 1915.

Villa Alegre was the fifth city in Chile to have an electric tramway and the event received national recognition. Local newspapers boasted that tiny Villa Alegre had an electric railway employing the latest foreign technology, whereas the nearby provincial capital of Talca, which counted itself among the cosmopolitan centers of the nation, still had only a mulecar line. In 1916 FEVA imported another passenger car from Santiago, which it painted blue.

A 2 km branch was added in 1921 to another power plant on the farm of Miguel Bustamante at Liucura. But FEVA never built its planned extension to San Javier, 10 kilometers north. The Estadística says that in the period 1922-23 the FEVA operated three motorized passenger cars and one combination passenger/freight trailer on 11 km of track.

The golden age was short-lived. There were financial problems in the fragile corporation and mechanical problems with the aging cars. FEVA closed the tramway in October 1923 and liquidated the company. But in September 1925 the society was reorganized and tramway service resumed! Finally, on 26 November 1926, the line was sold to the firm of Avendaño y Lara which discontinued electric operation.

For the next five years the passenger and freight cars were pulled alternately by horses and gasoline tractors with flanged wheels. All rail operation ceased in 1931 and the tracks were removed. The trams remained at the depot on Avenida Abate Molina until the mid-1930s.

The AEG generators still make electricity today on the farm at Trapiche. Following the author's visit in 1985 a local resident, Jaime González Colville, published a detailed history of the line [see BIBLIOGRAPHY]. A monument commemorating the tramway was erected on the town square in 1989.

The Villa Alegre tramway did not have a long life, but it inspired construction of electric lines in five other Chilean cities which might otherwise not have been built. Talca, Rengo, Rancagua, Temuco and Chillán all constructed electric tramways using second-hand cars.

350 km south of Santiago
pop. 1907, 10,047; 1930, 9,640; 1982, 21,695
an tw 1911?-1928; 750 mm; 1.2 km; 3 pt, 1 ft

The locally-owned Ferrocarril Urbano ran from the railroad station to the Plaza via Calle Aníbal Pinto. Its three horsecars carried 53,856 passengers in 1915 and 63,500 passengers in 1920.

400 km southwest of Santiago
pop. 1907, 9,683; 1982, 25,206
an tw 1900-1915?; 600 mm; 1.5 km; 2 pt

Cauquenes is at the end of a railroad branch that ran west from Parral between 1896 and 1974. Shortly after its inauguration a local group formed the Sociedad Carros Urbanos and built a horsecar line. The Anuario reports that it carried 54,550 passengers in 1915, does not mention Cauquenes thereafter.