Santa Teresa Tram

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Santa Teresa tram of Rio de Janeiro in 2006

The Santa Teresa Tram (Portuguese: Bonde de Santa Teresa, IPA: [bõˈdʒi dʒi ˈsɐ̃tɐ teˈɾezɐ]) is a historic tram line in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, connecting the city centre with the primarily residential, inner-city neighbourhood of Santa Teresa, in the hills immediately southwest of downtown. It is currently maintained mainly as a tourist attraction, and is nowadays considered a heritage tramway system, having been designated a national historic monument in 1988.[1] The line has a very unusual gauge: 1,100 mm (3 ft 7 516 in). The main line is 6.0 kilometres (3.7 mi) long.[2]

Having run continuously since its opening in 1877, it is one of the oldest street railway lines in the world[1] and, having been electrically powered since 1896, it is the oldest electric railway in all of Latin America.[3] It is also the only remaining metropolitan tram system in Brazil. The only other original tram systems in the country to have survived past 1971 are the Campos do Jordão interurban tram/light rail line and the Itatinga line (near Bertioga), a rural and non-public tram line,[4] which both continue to operate today.[3] All other cities closed their systems by 1971 (Santos being the last), but since that time, three towns, Belém, Campinas & Santos, have reinstated trams as heritage services.

All service on the line has been suspended since 2011, as a result of a serious accident on the line,[5] but a new fleet of 14 tramcars has been ordered,[6] the line is being rebuilt, and reopening is projected for 2015.[7]


Santa Teresa tram over the aqueduct arches

The Santa Teresa tram route rises from downtown Rio de Janeiro and follows a circuit of Santa Teresa hill, offering a high-level view of the city. It passes over the 45-metre (148 ft) high Carioca Aqueduct, a former aqueduct constructed in the 18th century[1] and beneath which standard-gauge electric trams used to run.[8] Except for the aqueduct, the route is shared by motor vehicles.

Before the 1960s, Rio de Janeiro trams served the entire downtown area and all near suburbs, but since 1967 only the Santa Teresa line remained. Lastly, it offered two regular services.

Regular services[edit]

Route 1 runs from near Largo da Carioca (in the central area, at 22°54′37″S 43°10′43″W / 22.910188°S 43.178732°W / -22.910188; -43.178732 (Terminal de Bonde de Santa Teresa)) to Morro Dois Irmãos ("Two Brothers hill", at 22°56′07″S 43°12′04″W / 22.935141°S 43.20109°W / -22.935141; -43.20109 (Dois Irmãos)) and is 6.0 kilometres (3.7 mi) long.

Route 2 runs from the same departure terminal to Largo das Neves (22°54′59″S 43°11′30″W / 22.916279°S 43.191709°W / -22.916279; -43.191709 (Largo das Neves)). Its length — about two-thirds of which is shared with route 1 — is 3.7 kilometres (2.3 mi).[2]

Silvestre service[edit]

Starting in 1999 a few trips on route 1, on Saturdays only, had continued beyond Morro Dois Irmãos, to Estaçao Silvestre (22°56′44″S 43°12′18″W / 22.945629°S 43.204911°W / -22.945629; -43.204911 (Estaçao Silvestre)), a route section previously closed in 1966.[9] However, operation of these trips became sporadic and is thought to have ceased by 2005 or 2006; the section of tramway between Dois Irmãos and Silvestre was closed definitively in 2008, after the theft of most of the overhead trolley wire.[10]


Rio de Janeiro tram map, 2009. (The map is out-of-date for the Silvestre section, closed in 2008 or earlier.)

If horse-drawn tramways are included, trams have operated in Rio de Janeiro continuously since 1859. There are only four cities in the world in which trams have run longer: New Orleans (since 1835), Boston (1856), Mexico City and Philadelphia (both 1858).[11]

Rio de Janeiro's first tramway was a 7-kilometre (4.3 mi) horsecar line on which service was inaugurated on 30 January 1859 (testing began in 1858).[1] Constructed by Thomas Cochrane and operated by the Companhia de Carris de Ferro da Cidade a Tijuca, the service ran between the city centre and Tijuca. In 1862 steam trams replaced the horsecars, making the Tijuca line the first steam-powered tramway in South America, but the higher speed and poor condition of the track led to many derailments and the line was closed in 1866.[1] It was reopened in 1870, by a different company.

A new horse-drawn tram was built in 1868 by Charles B. Greenough, and a service running from Rua do Ouvidor to Largo do Machado commenced on 9 October, extended to Botafogo six weeks later. By January 1871, the line had reached Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden, 10 km from the city centre.

Another horse-drawn tram, constructed by Albert H. Hager and run by the Rio de Janeiro Street Railway, opened on 25 November 1869. The first route ran to the palace grounds at Quinta da Boa Vista, with routes to Caju and São Cristóvão following later.

In 1870 the Rio de Janeiro Street Railway (soon to be renamed the Companhia de São Cristóvão) reopened the route of Cochrane's pioneer tramway to Tijuca. A new horse-drawn tram, constructed by João Batista Viana Drummond and run by the Companhia Ferro-Carril da Vila Isabel, opened in 1873. Further routes were opened to the Vila Isabel zoo, Engenho Novo, Méier, and the suburbs along the Dom Pedro II Railroad on the northwest side of town. The Ferro-Carril de Jacarepaguá company opened a new line in 1875, running from the Dom Pedro II Railroad's Cascadura station to Taquara and Freguesia.

In name only, the Santa Teresa tramway's first horse-drawn line, operated by Empreza de Carris de Ferro de Santa Theresa, opened in the same year of 1875, but served only the flat terrain within the city centre, not actually serving any of the Santa Teresa neighbourhood (or any part of the line that survives today); it was 820 mm (2.69 ft) gauge. The same company built both a funicular (513 m long) to take passengers from the city centre up to Santa Teresa hill, and a separate hilltop tram line which started at the top of the funicular. The hilltop Santa Teresa tramway, the predecessor of the current line, opened on 13 March 1877, with a gauge of 914 mm (3.0 ft).[1][12] It ran from the funicular station east to Curvelo and west to Largo do França. This main Santa Teresa line was extended from Largo do França to Silvestre in 1890. The operating company's name changed in 1885, 1887 and 1891, but kept the name Companhia Ferro-Carril Carioca from 1891 until 1960.[3]

Meanwhile, steam trams were reintroduced to Rio in 1882, this time on the Tijuca line, operated by the São Cristóvão tramway company.

A tram crossing the Carioca Aqueduct

1892 saw the arrival of the first electric tram, on the Botanical Garden route. This was the first electrified street railway in all of Latin America, aside from a tram line that was extended in 1890 from Laredo, Texas, into Nuevo Laredo, Mexico (barely onto Latin American soil).[4] It was quickly followed by other electric tram lines in Rio, including a Rua do Catete service in 1894 and two new lines in Flamengo in 1896.

In 1896 electric trams replaced the horsecars on the Santa Teresa line, and the line was extended across the then-abandoned aqueduct between Santa Teresa and Santo Antonio hills (the Carioca Aqueduct), with the city terminus uniquely being built on the second floor of the company's office building on Largo da Carioca. During this rebuilding, the line's gauge was changed from 914 mm (3 ft) to 1,100 mm (3 ft 7 516 in), which it retains to the present day.[1] The Santa Teresa system's electrification was completed in 1897.

By 1897 the Carioca railway had been completely electrified, making it the first totally electric tram system in South America. Electrification expanded rapidly over the next few decades, and by 1928 the last horse-drawn trams had been withdrawn from service.

From around the 1950s, the Rio de Janeiro tram system went into decline, with many lines being closed, and by the end of the decade most of the tram routes of the former São Cristóvão system had gone.

Closures continued through the 1960s, with the closure of the Alto da Boa Vista route in 1967, leaving only the Santa Teresa tram still running. The Silvestre Line had been cut back to Dois Irmãos in 1966;[2] the section beyond was abandoned following storm damage.[9]

The Santa Teresa tram moved to its new modern terminal in 1975, in the gardens of the Petrobrás oil company, located on the roof of the company's parking garage. This was the Santa Teresa line's sixth successive city-centre terminus; it remains the system's terminal today.[1] The system is currently operated by the Companhia Estadual de Engenharia de Transportes e Logística.[3]

Depots and terminals[edit]

Rio de Janeiro's trams are often overcrowded

During the heyday of the Rio de Janeiro tram system, there were a number depots and terminals.

Depots at Cascadura, Penha, Méier, Alto da Boa Vista, Usina, Triagem, 28 de Setembro, Vila Isabel, São Cristóvão, Bonjardim, Rua Larga, Santo Antonio (neighbourhood), Largo do Machado, Largo dos Leoes, and Cosme Velho are all now closed, and the only depot still operating is Santa Teresa itself.

Most termini are also now closed, including Freguesia (Jacarepaguá), Taquara, Madureira, Irajá, Cavalcante, Inahauma, Caxambi, Piedade, Quintino Bocaiúva, Caju, Andarai, Santa Alexandrina, Estrela, Praia Vermelha, Leme, Gávea and Silvestre. Lastly, three termini have still been served, near Largo da Carioca, at Dois Irmãos and Largo de Neves, and of these Largo da Carioca is the only one with a terminal (building).

One historic mule tram depot, at Vila Guaraní, is preserved.


Heavily loaded tram running along cobblestone-paved section of Rua Joaquim Murtinho in 2009

The tram's fleet is outdated, with only five regular cars, which are almost a century old, ready for service. The cars are open-sided with wooden cross-benches, leading to street children often hopping on and off for free rides. Electricity to the cars is still provided from overhead trolley poles, and all cars are bi-directional. The cars were built locally by the tramway companies, but several key components were supplied by foreign manufacturers: traction motors from English Electric, controllers from General Electric and trucks by the Peckham Manufacturing Company (Kingston, New York).[1]

The cars and tracks are not in good repair, so the ride is slow and bumpy, though the carriages are regularly repainted in keeping with the tram's heritage image. The ride is good for sightseeing, but besides tourists, there were few regular paying passengers, and so the tramway was increasingly running at a loss.

Accident, suspension and current situation[edit]

Six people were killed and at least 50 injured when a tram derailed in late August 2011.[13] All service has been suspended since the accident.[5]

November 2013 saw the start of a 110 Mio Reais project for the procurement of new rolling stock and the renovation of the tram line.[14] 14 new two-axle trams have been ordered from a Brazilian manufacturer named T'Trans (based in Três Rios).[6] Delivery was originally projected to begin in November 2013,[6] but was delayed, and the first car was in fact not delivered until August 2014.[7] Reopening of the line is planned to take place in stages, starting with the section between Largo da Carioca and Largo do Curvelo, followed by the section up to Praça Odylo Costa and lastly by the section to Estaçao Silvestre. At the end of May 2014, it was predicted that service on the first stretch would be revived in August 2014,[15] but this has been delayed, and only one new tramcar had been delivered by 1 October 2014, and was making test runs. Reopening is now projected for 2015.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Morrison, Allen (1989). The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York: Bonde Press. pp. 17, 90–113. ISBN 0-9622348-1-8. 
  2. ^ a b c Claydon, G. B.; and Mather, G. (August 1977). "South American Tramways Today / Part 2: Rio de Janeiro". Modern Tramway and Light Rapid Transit magazine (UK), pp. 271–279. Ian Allan Publishing. ISSN 0309-8222.
  3. ^ a b c d Morrison, Allen (1 November 2010). "The Tramways of Latin America in 2011". Retrieved 2011-02-20.
  4. ^ a b Morrison, Allen (1996). Latin America by Streetcar: A Pictorial Survey of Urban Rail Transport South of the U.S.A. New York: Bonde Press. pp. 3–5. ISBN 0-9622348-3-4. 
  5. ^ a b "Five die in Rio de Janeiro tram derailment". BBC News. 27 August 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Tramways & Urban Transit magazine, May 2013, p. 195. LRTA Publishing (UK).
  7. ^ a b c "Bondinho de Santa Teresa passa por testes" [Testing of the Santa Teresa tramway is a saga without end]. O Dia (in Portuguese) (Rio de Janeiro). 29 September 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-01. 
  8. ^ The Aqueduct. Allen Morrison. 1998. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  9. ^ a b Morrison, Allen (1999). "Silvestre charter, 1996". Retrieved 15 November 2010. ,
  10. ^ Tramways & Urban Transit magazine, July 2008, p. 271. LRTA Publishing (UK).
  11. ^ Morrison, Allen (1989). The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey, p. 23. Bonde Press. ISBN 0-9622348-1-8.
  12. ^ The Santa Teresa Tramway. Allen Morrison. 1998. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
  13. ^ "Bondes de Santa Teresa voltam a funcionar em junho de 2014". 8 November 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "Santa Teresa terá bondes de volta em 2014, diz governo". Editora Abril S.A. 8 November 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  15. ^ "Novo bonde de Santa Teresa entra em fase de testes na fábrica". Empresa Brasil de Comuicaçao. 28 May 2014. Retrieved 14 June 2014. 

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