Os Bondes de / The Tramways of
Estado do Pará

Allen Morrison

In 1927 a group of 14 anthropologists, zoologists, ornithologists and other naturalists associated with Pitt Rivers Museum in Liverpool (England) booked round-trip passage from that city to Manaus (Brazil) on Booth Line’s 7,000-ton s.s. Hildebrand. The 18,000 km / 12,000 mi journey via Porto, Lisboa, Madeira, Belém and up the Amazon to Manaus, then back, lasted 45 days. The museum curator Henry Balfour kept a diary of the excursion and a passenger named David Vladimir Gutman took about 500 photographs. The latter are preserved today by his great-grandson, Dave Logan, who kindly allowed reproduction of nine of them on this page. Mr. Gutman took the picture below of the Hildebrand:

The ship left Liverpool on July 12, arrived in Porto July 15, Lisboa July 16 and Madeira July 18. Crossing the Atlantic required eight days. The ship crossed the Equator and finally arrived in Belém, near the mouth of the Amazon, on July 27. It spent three nights in Belém (the British call it Pará), then traveled four days up the Amazon to Manaus (formerly written Manáos), where it arrived on August 2. There were plenty of exotic animals and birds to see along the way. The red line on the map shows the ship's 1,600 kilometer / 1,000 mile course on the river [Bing Maps]:

Although trams were plentiful in every port that the ship visited, it was not until the Hildebrand reached Manaus that D. V. Gutman started photographing them. Or was it the trees on this street in Manaus that got his attention? The trams are traveling left-hand, English style. Their operator, Manáos Tramways & Light Co., was an English enterprise. Track gauge was one meter [D. V. Gutman]:

His second picture shows the Flores tram line that went north of Manaus into the jungle. Neither of these scenes is mentioned in Balfour's diary – although on August 5 he wrote that he and four other ship passengers, including one named Gutteridge, "took a motor-car and went out along the new road past Flores through the jungle." Did he mean to write Gutman? [D. V. Gutman]:

Manaus was as far as a large ship could go on the Amazon River and was the midpoint of the excursion. The English group began its trip home. The Hildebrand left Manaus on August 6 and docked again in Belém on August 9. Balfour wrote that after lunch that day he "went to the offices of the Pará Electric Tramways Co. (another English enterprise) and saw J. Mansell, who had come out in the Hildebrand with us." It was no doubt through Mansell that the group learned of the tramway on Mosqueiro Island 25 km / 15 mi north of Belém. Mansell probably thought that a ride on the Mosqueiro trams would provide a pleasant diversion for the English group on its last day in Brazil:

On August 10 Balfour wrote: "I went at 9 a.m. with others in a large river steamer down the Pará Estuary to Mosqueiro, a small sea-side resort... We landed on a pier and transferred to two exceedingly primitive trams, each drawn by two mules, and went along a vilely laid track through jungle to Chapéu Virado, a smaller village picturesquely situated along a shore" [D. V. Gutman]:

It was possibly the first ride on a horsetram for some of the visitors, since Liverpool ran its last one in 1898. The origin of the Mosqueiro trams is uncertain, but the tramway company in nearby Belém operated similar vehicles and probably sent surplus to Mosqueiro [D. V. Gutman]:

Belém's horsecars had been built in the 1870s and 1880s by John Stephenson Co. in New York, and in the 1890s by J. G. Brill Co. in Philadelphia. The photograph below, taken at its factory in New York, shows a car that John Stephenson built for Belém in the 1880s (bond or bonde is the uniquely Brazilian word for tram) [col. Museum of the City of New York]:

The new company, Empreza de Bonds do Mosqueiro, inaugurated its animal-powered tramway line, from Mosqueiro port to Chapéu Virado, on 10 January 1904. The line was later extended to Carananduba, a total distance of about 10 km. Balfour continues: "Some of us bathed, while I had a stroll along the coast...We returned to Mosqueiro the same way in the trams." Here is another nicely posed view of the English group. This tram is signed "RESERVADO" (reserved). It seems that the group changed vehicles several times during the day [D. V. Gutman]:

This forward shot shows some of the houses in the island's residential section. Today this is a broad thoroughfare called Av. 16 de Novembro [see end of this page]. Track gauge of the Mosqueiro tramway is unknown, but if it acquired vehicles from Belém it was probably the same: 750 mm / 29.5 in [D. V. Gutman]:

Closeup of the preceding view [D. V. Gutman]:

Balfour: "At a siding our tram’s front wheels jolted right off the lines and let us down with a crash. Giving us a good shake up." The photo might show the station at Chapéu Virado. The woman appears ready to return to Belém [D. V. Gutman]: 

"The car was eventually lifted back onto the lines and we passed on, but stopped to see how the other tram would fare and whether it would follow suit..." [D. V. Gutman]:

"It did – first the front wheels and then the back jumped off the track and crashed onto the sleepers. It, too, was lifted back onto the track and we managed to get to Mosqueiro with only one more accident, to the vilely-driven second tram. The mules, while pulling wide in trying to round a sharp curve, fouled an iron post, smashing the traces and detaching the mules. We walked from there to the pier!" [D. V. Gutman]:

Henry Balfour does not report final thoughts on the Mosqueiro adventure. The Hildebrand left Belém the next day, August 11, and arrived back in Liverpool on August 26.


The view below of another excursion – date and photographer unknown – is the best illustration of a Mosqueiro tram that the author could find in Brazil. Fleet number "8" was not seen in Gutman's photographs – although, of course, the number was obscured in many views. It was probably eight such vehicles, numbered 1-8, that opened the tram line in 1904 [col. AM]:

However, on 19 June 1912, Empreza de Bonds do Mosqueiro ordered two 2-bench trams, order number 18405, from J. G. Brill Co. in Philadelphia. One of them was numbered "9". Such vehicles were probably used on special occasions or as inspection cars by the management [col. AM]:

And on 16 September 1913, EMB ordered this platform car from Philadelphia, Brill order 19121, which was mysteriously numbered "3". Such a purchase was usually an economy measure: the company saved money by completing construction itself. But the chassis here bears little resemblance to the chassis of the "3" photographed by D. V. Gutman in 1927 [col. AM]:

Animal power at sea level near the Equator was cruel and impractical and in 1931, four years after the English excursion, Mosqueiro replaced its mules with a wood-burning steam locomotive. Its origin is uncertain, but "Pata Choca", as it was called, looks like a product of Société Decauville in France. The passenger cars appear to be the earlier horsecars. Judging by the women's clothing, the photograph below was taken in 1932 or 1933 [col. Luiz Anciães]:

The railway continued operation into the 1940s. The ultimate fate of the locomotive and the tram cars is unknown.

The photograph below shows the portal that stands today in the middle of the island, where highway PA-391 from Belém divides – straight ahead for Carananduba, turn left for Chapéu Virado:

This Google "Street View" shows how the tram route looks today. No trace of the former tramway, nor of any of the structures that once lined it, can be found on Av. 16 de Novembro today. Population has moved farther north on the island.

In addition to Henry Balfour and David Vladimir Gutman, the author wishes to express his gratitude to Graeme Pilkington of England for providing the information and supplying the pictures of the 1927 excursion. The author is also, of course, indebted to Dave Logan for preserving his great-grandfather's wonderful photographs and granting permission to reproduce them. D. V. Gutman was killed, shortly after the excursion, when he was hit by a tram in Liverpool. Henry Balfour died in 1939.

Here is the original transcription of the Diaries of Henry Balfour [ignore the title "South Africa"]

Also see Mosqueiro: a história de um arquipélago singular no estuário Amazônico by Eduardo Brandão

and The Tramways of Belém by Allen Morrison


If you have comments, criticism or suggestions,
please send an email to Allen Morrison

This page was first uploaded on
10 September 2017

Copyright © 2017-2117 Allen Morrison
Todos os Direitos Reservados
All Rights Reserved