The Tramways of
San Luis Potosí
BY
Allen Morrison

The 400-year-old capital of San Luis Potosí state is famous for its jardines - beautifully planted plazas - and extraordinary number of baroque churches, surpassed only by those in Guadalajara and Mexico City. Tramway operation began in 1882. The Mexican government recorded 11.8 km of 914 mm (3 ft) gauge street railway in San Luis in 1889, and 28.8 km in 1907. Compañía Limitada de Tranvías de San Luis Potosí placed numerous car orders with J. G. Brill between 1889 and 1907. The postcard below shows a horsetram at the Sanctuary of Guadalupe on Av. Juárez [see map] in the early 1900s [col. AM]:

 

CLTSLP reorganized in Great Britain in 1911 and ordered 20 electric trams - 15 closed cars and 5 open - from English Electric Co. on 9 November 1912. For reasons unknown, construction of the cars was subcontracted to American Car Co. in St. Louis, USA, and the vehicles were equipped with bow collectors from Siemens & Halske in Germany. (Siemens electrified the tramway in Pachuca during the same period.) Even stranger, the new rails in San Luis Potosí were laid to meter gauge, which was unique in North America. The electric tramway was tested on 10 January and formally inaugurated on 16 February 1914. The view below of Av. Carranza [see map] shows the familiar arches of German overhead construction and a Siemens bow collector on the tram [col. Archivo Histórico del Estado de S.L.P.]:

Here is an open car on Av. Carranza, the thoroughfare that led west to Tequisquiapan and Morales [see map] [col. Archivo Histórico del Estado de S.L.P.]:

 

The name of the narrow street below is not known, but this picture clearly shows the narrow gauge track [col. Archivo Histórico del Estado de S.L.P.]:

 

Car number 10 is collecting passengers at Jardín de Juan de Dios, which is located on Calle Obregón near Arriaga [see map] [col. AM]:

Horsecars continued to be used as trailers behind the electric cars [col. Archivo Histórico del Estado de S.L.P.]:

 

The tram in this wonderful postcard view, dated 24 March 1928, is pulling two open trailers. For unknown reasons, postcards showing electric trams in San Luis Potosí are extremely rare [col. Roberto Ruelas-Gómez]:

Location of the two cars below is uncertain, but a former resident guesses the tram station in front of Tequisquiapan church [see map] [col. AM]:

The terminus of the Guadalupe line [see map] [col. Juan Viladroza]:

Very little information could be found about the development of the tramway system in San Luis Potosí. The Mexican government stopped publishing detailed tramway data in 1907 and tramway surveys published in the USA never mention this city at all. According to the Archivo Histórico del Estado de San Luis Potosí, the Compañía Limitada de Tranvías was liquidated on 5 October 1931 and the city's last tram ran on 7 April 1932.

In 2000 Luis Antonio Castro Prieto, a former employee of the San Luis Potosí tramway company, published his memories in a booklet called Aquel San Luis de los Años Veinte (That San Luis of the 1920s). A chapter entitled "Los Tranvías de mi Ciudad", pp. 35-38, provides several interesting anecdotes, lists the routes and confirms the closing date. He mentions that the Compañía Limitada de Tranvías deteriorated after the death of its Danish director, Oscar Eriksen, in 1931. Following bankruptcy, the employees tried without success to form a cooperative to keep the tramway in operation.

In San Luis Potosí state there was also a gasoline-powered tramway in Ciudad de Valles and there were animal-powered tramways in Cerritos, Guerrero, Jesus María, Matehuala, Santa María del Río and Villa de Reyes. The mule-drawn railway that transported workers around the mining region of Real de Catorce was later electrified.

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I wish to express my appreciation to Padre Rafael Montejano y Aquiñaga, author and historian at the Archivo Histórico del Estado de San Luis Potosí and the Universidad Autónoma de San Luis Potosí, for the extremely rare photographs reproduced on this page. I wish to express my thanks also to Roberto Ruelas-Gómez and his father for the postcard view, pages from the Castro Prieto book, and other valuable information that they provided. Statistics on tramcar orders were kindly supplied by Harold E. Cox of Pennsylvania and the late J. H. Price of Peterborough, England.  

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