In the last 130 years passenger-carrying street railways ran in an estimated 700 cities in Latin America. Almost all have disappeared today. Information about them is difficult to obtain. Compared to the volume of literature that has been published about the tramways of North America, Asia and Europe, not much about them has been written. In an effort to fill this void the author spent two decades collecting Latin American tramway data on four continents, including throughout Latin America. This is the second volume of a series that presents the findings of that research. [The Tramways of Brazil: a 130-Year Survey was published in 1989. Part 3 of that book contains a lengthy discussion of the special problems associated with Latin American research.]
Chile is an extraordinary place: exotic location, unusual shape, friendly people, stable government, amazing diversity of culture, climate and terrain. It also has an extraordinary tramway history - which is all the more special since it is so little known.
Chile ranks eighth in Latin America in land area and seventh in population, but was third, after Mexico and Brazil, in number of tramway systems. It was the second country in Latin America, the first in South America, one of the first places in the world, to have a horsedrawn passenger railway on a street. Only the United States, France and Mexico had streetcars before Chile. Four trams preserved there today are among the oldest railway cars in existence in the world.
Trams ran in at least 65 cities in Chile, in more places per capita than in any other Latin American country. Many of the tram systems were small, but there were also long lines, both horsedrawn and electric, between towns and across the Atacama Desert. There were steam trams, gasoline trams, battery trams, and one of the world's first electric railways that used a center rack rail. Most of Chile's tram cars were double-deckers; it had the largest collection of these outside the United Kingdom. It had more German trams than any country except Germany, the only double-deck electric trams built in Germany, the only double-deck electric trams built in Belgium, more double-deck trams built in the United States than ran in the United States, and the only trams from the U.S. that also ran in Argentina. Its tramways used 23 track gauges. Its trams were turned on turntables. Most of its tram conductors were women.
The GENERAL HISTORY
provides an outline of tramway development in Chile as a whole. The
DESCRIPTIONS OF EACH SYSTEM present individual histories, with
illustrations and maps, of the tramways in each of the 65 cities. The
INDEX MAPS show their location. The BIBLIOGRAPHY lists
the publications where the information was found. The book ends with
an alphabetical INDEX.
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