8th Region

385 km south of Santiago
pop. 1895, 7,051; 1930, 8,860; 1982, 26,449
an tw 1894-1928; 750 or 1050 mm; 2.5 km; 5 pt, 1 ft

The horse tramway of the Compañía Carros Urbanos de San Carlos ran from the railroad station to the Plaza and beyond, via Avenida Arturo Prat and Calles Venegas, Balmaceda, Serrano and Navotavo. The Sinopsis reports 108,000 passengers carried in 1902, 35,000 in 1906, 115,000 in 1907, and 21,600 in 1909 . . . The Anuario says that the line is Italian-owned and carried 35,000 passengers in 1918, 90,000 in 1919, and 60,000 in 1920 . . .

405 km south of Santiago
pop. 1875, 19,044; 1921, 42,250; 1986, 126,531
an tw 1877-1940s; 1435 mm; 8 km; 20 pt
el tw 1921-1936; 1435 mm; 5 km; 8 pm

Chillán [pronounced "chee-YAHN"] is a large city, about the same size as Talca, in Chile's rich agricultural district. The original town, now called Chillán Viejo, was the birthplace of the nation's liberator, Bernardo O'Higgins. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1833 and the present city constructed 3 km north. The new Chillán was struck by another quake in 1939 that killed 10,000, about a quarter, of its residents. Chillán's horse tramway outlived its electric tramway.

The first steam train reached Chillán in 1872 - from Concepción. The central section of the Longitudinal Railroad was not completed until 1886.

The first franchise for a street railway was assigned in May 1877, and animal traction may have begun in that year. But it was not until 16 July 1884 that city records list the Ferrocarril Urbano de Chillán, the name that appears on a double-deck car built by the John Stephenson Co. in New York. [See plate #73 in John H. White, Jr., Horsecars, Cable Cars and Omnibuses (New York, 1974).] In succeeding years Chillán's horse-car system operated under several owners and names, including Compañía Movilizadora de Carros Urbanos, Compañía Urbana de Chillán, Ferrocarril Urbano de Sangre de Chillán, and finally Ferrocarril de Chillán a Quinta Agrícola. Its main line served the agriculture school on the north edge of town. The Síntesis reports 1500, the Anuario says 1420, and Long (1930) records 1435 mm gauge. The latter adds that of the 20 horsecars running in 1927 nine are double-deckers.

Independent of the horsecar system, the Compañía General de Electricidad Industrial, which operated electric trams in several Chilean cities, opened an electric line in Chillán in 1921. The first route ran along Avenida Collín; CGEI later acquired and electrified the horsecar line to Chillán Viejo.

Like CGEI's electric lines in Rancagua and Talca, the Chillán system allegedly used equipment second-hand from Santiago. However, the 6-window double-deck car in the photo below is unlike any seen in Santiago, or in any other city in Chile.

Chillán's electric tramway system closed in 1936. The horsecar company was still operating 12 cars on 4 kilometers of track at the time of the earthquake in 1939, and tram lines are still shown on street maps published in the 1940s.

450 km south of Santiago
pop. 1920, 2,057; 1982, 2,728
an tw 1909-1920s?; 1000 mm; 5 km; 5 pt, 10 ft

Pemuco is a town on the meter-gauge railroad that branched off the Longitudinal line at General Cruz - and was planned as another route over the Andes. Its tramway is noted only in the 1916 and 1917 editions of the Anuario, which say that its owner was J. Prieto H. 5,200 passengers were carried in each of those years.

560 km southwest of Santiago (by railroad; 515 km by highway); capital of 8th Region
pop. 1885, 24,180; 1907, 55,350; 1984, 213,818, metropolitan area 600,000
an tw 1886-1910; 1435 mm; 16 km; 45 pt
el tw 1908-41; 1435 mm; 37 km; 51 pm, 4 pt, 3 fm, 17 ft

Concepción is Chile's third-largest city and had its third-largest tramway network (although Iquique seems to have had tracks on more streets). It had the only electric tramway system in Chile that, until its last years, used only North American equipment and cars.

Concepción is near the southern end of Chile's long string of tram systems, but the city is actually at the geographical center of the nation. It is a large commercial town crisscrossed with railroad lines that twist around hills and bays. The neighboring city of Talcahuano competes with Valparaíso as Chile's busiest port.

A branch of the Longitudinal Railroad reached Concepción in 1872, although the first train ran only to Chillán (via San Rosendo). The entire route to Santiago wasn't completed until 1886. In that year the Ferrocarril Urbano de Concepción inaugurated a horse tramway with double-deck cars built by John Stephenson in New York.

The development of electric tramways in Concepción and Talcahuano was largely a product of the American-owned W. R. Grace & Company, parent of the steamship line that served Concepción and other ports along South America's west coast.

Grace acquired the General Electric franchise for Chile in 1902. Its Chilean manager, Federico Wightman, founded the Compañía Eléctrica de Concepción in 1905 and secured a franchise to build an electric tramway between Concepción and Talcahuano on 20 April 1906. Grace was also involved that year with construction of an interurban tramway between Santiago and San Bernardo. In December 1906 CEC ordered seven 8-wheel electric trams from John Stephenson in New York (o.n. 1160-4), and on 2 April 1907 twelve 4-wheel electric trams from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia (o.n. 15937). All 19 cars were built by Brill, of which Stephenson was then a subsidiary.

After several tests and formal inspections in June, on Saturday afternoon, U.S. Independence Day 4 July 1908, the large double-truck cars inaugurated the 15 km electric line between Plaza Independencia in Concepción and the railroad station in Talcahuano. The smaller single-truck cars began service soon after on local lines in both towns. In Talcahuano local trams ran along Av. Colón to Arenal and the stockyards (Matadero) near Las Salinas.

Between 1910 and 1914 J. G. Brill sent Concepción 21 more cars: a double-truck second-class trailer (o.n. 18936) and 20 single-truck double-deck motor trams (o.n. 17505, 18703 and 19342). CEC rebuilt its original 4-wheel single-deck cars as double-deckers. At the beginning of the First War its fleet consisted of 41 electric trams, all built by Brill and numbered with even numerals: nine 8-wheel single- deck cars #2-18 and thirty-two 4-wheel double-deckers #20-82. This constituted one of the world's largest fleets of U.S.-built double-deck streetcars. [U.S. manufacturers constructed an estimated 450 double-deck electric trams, but only about 50 ran in U.S. cities. The other 400 were exported to England, France, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. About 150 American double-deckers ran in Paris, at least 80 in Buenos Aires. Brill supplied 10 double-deckers to the CET&L in Santiago in 1905. St. Louis built five for the Ferrocarril Eléctrico de Santiago a San Bernardo in 1907. (All other double-deckers in the capital came from Germany.)] The origin of the ninth 8-wheeler is unknown.

The Concepción tramway returned to Chilean ownership during the War, when at least one electric car, #23, seems to have been constructed from a former horsecar. The author cannot explain the twin trolley poles shown in the illustration, which is dated 1917.

The Long survey of 1927 reports 38 double-deck cars and 8 double-truck single-deckers, 4 of them trailers, and adds that "a great deal of new rolling stock is being built using imported Belgian and German trucks." Huidobro Díaz records 51 passenger cars in 1938. About 10 million passengers were carried each year.

Concepción was struck by one of Chile's worst earthquakes on 24 January 1939. The city was severely damaged and the tramway remained out of service for several weeks. It finally reopened, but closed permanently after a strike on 21 November 1941. Some of its cars were later sold to the Ferrocarril Eléctrico Santiago Oeste in the capital.

15 km north of Concepción
pop. 1895, 10,431; 1907, 15,561; 1985, 217,660
an tw 1898-1929; 1000 mm; 3 km; 15 pt
el tw 1908-1941; 1435 mm; 4 km

As noted in the previous chapter, in addition to the intercity tram line from Concepción that was inaugurated on 4 July 1908, Talcahuano also had two local electric tram services, from the port area to Las Salinas, and via Calle Bilbao to the railroad station at Arenal. In later years passenger trains from Concepción terminated at Arenal; today Arenal marks the end of the electrification of that branch of the Longitudinal Railroad.

But Chile's second-largest port also had an earlier tramway history.

Proposals for horsecar lines along Av. Colón began with arrival of the steam railroad in 1872. None of them was built, but in March 1889 Luis Mathieu, a local resident, made substantial progress on a franchise to install a narrow gauge electric tramway along the same route. If constructed, this would have been the first electric tramway not only in Chile but in all South America. Luis failed, as did his brother Beltrán, in a renewed effort in 1892.

The first tramway in Talcahuano ran only on the west side of the steam railroad. The Empresa San Vicente inaugurated a horsecar line between the Talcahuano railroad station and San Vicente in 1898. The tramway required two years to construct, due to frequent landslides along Av. Latorre, which still occur today.

The ESV added a branch in 1910 along Av. España, so that its passengers could transfer to and from the electric trams and Concepción trains at Arenal. The little horsecar system carried 155,000 passengers in 1907, 241,000 in 1918, and 397,000 in 1920. Operation continued until 1928.

25 km south of Concepción
pop. 1907, 5,258; 1982, 67,290
an tw 1910s-1922; 1000 or 1200 mm; 1 km; 2 ft

Coronel is a seaport and mining center on the railroad that runs southwest from Concepción to Curanilahue, crossing the Biobío River on Chile's longest and second-most-photographed railroad bridge. Coronel Bay was the scene in 1914 of a battle between the German and English navies.

The Ferrocarril Urbano de Coronel is noted in the "Tranvías" section of every edition of the Anuario, but seems to have carried only freight, no passengers. No other information about it could be found, either in publications or during the author's visit in 1985.

35 km south of Concepción
pop. 1895, 9,568; 1982, 48,254
el mining ry 1896-; 515 mm

In 1852 this town on the Concepción-Curanilahue railroad, 8 km south of Coronel, claimed the largest copper smelting plant in the world. The coal mines that were developed to fuel it were the first in the world to be extended under the sea. A hydroelectric plant on the nearby Chivilingo River was the first in Chile. It powered the nation's first electric railway in the Lota mine.

Both the hydro plant and the electric railway were inaugurated by the Compañía Carbonífera de Lota in 1896. The four locomotives were built by Schuckert & Co. in Nürnberg, Germany. Schuckert had exhibited an electric locomotive at the Exposición de Minería y Metalurgia in Santiago in 1894.

The Lota railway seems to have been the first electric railway operation in Chile, preceding the Santiago tramway by four years. The mine is owned today by the Compañía Lota y Coronel.

660 km south of Santiago
pop. 1907, 2,687; 1982, 17,890
el tw 1914-?; 600 mm; 1.2 km; 2 locos, 22 pt

Every edition of the Anuario lists Lebu in its "Tranvías" table. But this city, at the end of a railroad branch from Renaico, did not have a tramway in the conventional sense. The Compañía Carbonífera Victoria operated a private electric railway for workers from the Lebu railroad station to the mines at the south end of town. A railway still operates within the mines today, but both the crosstown line and the railroad it served are gone. During his visit in 1985 the author was unable to find photographs of any of its 22 passenger cars.