The Tramways of
Hidalgo del Parral
This small city in Chihuahua state is named for the revolutionist Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, but is often called simply Parral, which is also the name of the river that runs through it [see map]. Parral is 301 km (by rail) south of Chihuahua (city), at the end of a 90 km branch of the Mexican Central Railway. It has been a mining center since the 17th century and was the place where Francisco ("Pancho") Villa was assassinated (in his automobile) in 1923. Population was 12,000 in 1900, is about 100,000 today.
The steam railroad arrived in 1898 and the city's first electric power plant was activated in 1901. Parral never had a horse tram line. In May 1907 a group of local businessmen founded the Ferrocarril Urbano de Hidalgo del Parral and ordered eleven trams from the Danville Car Company in Danville, Illinois, USA: four 20-foot passenger motor cars, two 7-window passenger trail cars, a 24-foot motorized gondola and four gondola trailers. The photo below was taken in 1907 at the factory in Illinois [Electric Railway Review, Chicago, 18/1/1908, p. 100]:
The date of the electric tramway inauguration is unknown, but the 21 January 1908 issue of Modern Mexico magazine [see BIBLIOGRAPHY below] reported that construction was "practically completed and the cars will be running by the first of February". The 28 January issue stated that the trams had arrived in Ciudad Juárez. The display of flags in the undated, poorly cropped photograph below, taken in front of Parral's Casa Municipal, may have been for the inauguration [col. Rubén Rocha Chávez]:
In any case, both the Porras and Chávez texts cited below state that the tramway opened in 1908, before the tramway system in Chihuahua, which opened on 4 October 1908. There were two lines: from the railroad station to Plaza Guillermo Baca in the center of town, and thence to La Garita and Benito Juárez [see map]. The photograph below shows a car on Calle Mercaderes, which was later renamed Av. Maclovio Herrera [col. Rubén Rocha Chávez]:
The system seems to have run only a short time - perhaps as little as nine months, not more than two years. Modern Mexico of 20 October 1908 reported that a converter breakdown on 18 October shut the streetcar system down: " . . . A serious accident which happened to the large rotary converter of the local electric streetcar company Sunday night has completely crippled the car service and no cars have left the barn this week . . . telegrams were dispatched to the [Westinghouse] factory in Pittsburgh for the necessary repair parts." If it never reopened, that means the system ran less than nine months and shut on 11 October 1908. During the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) Hidalgo del Parral's trolley wire was melted down to make coins.
BIBLIOGRAPHY (in order of publication)
"Danville Cars for Mexico" in Electric Railway Review (Chicago), 18 January 1908, p. 100. Description of new trams, two photos.
"New Cars for Parral, Mexico" in Electric Railway Journal (New York), 1 February 1908, p. 184. Description of trams, three photos.
Modern Mexico (Mexico City). Short articles about the Parral tram system in 21 January 1908, p. 13; 28 January 1908, p. 11; and 20 October 1908, p. 14.
Guillermo Porras. Hidalgo del Parral: Reseña Histórica. Chihuahua, 1946. A paragraph on p. 51 confirms the inauguration of the electric tram system in 1908.
Rubén Rocha Chávez. Tres Siglos de Historia. Chihuahua, 1979. This history of the city shows two tram photos and briefly describes the system on pp. 218, 300 and 307. The two photos, from the author's collection, are reproduced on this webpage.
The author would also like to thank Eulalio Fernández Espino in Hidalgo del Parral for the information that he kindly provided about the tramways of his city.
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Copyright © 2003 Allen Morrison - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED