The Tramways of
São Carlos
São Paulo state


Allen Morrison

The city of São Carlos is 250 km northwest of São Paulo, on the Paulista Railroad's 1600 mm gauge main line to Araraquara. Population was 30,000 in 1910, is about 150,000 today. The geometric street pattern shown on maps is deceptive: the town is built on the side of a hill and slants, sometimes steeply, toward the rivers and railroad line in the valley [see map].

Electricity arrived in 1890 and a short horsecar line opened in 1895, but was closed the next year by a yellow fever epidemic. The Companhia Paulista de Eletricidade signed a contract on 16 June 1912 to build an electric tramway and ordered six 7-bench passenger cars and four motorized freight cars from the Société Franco-Belge in La Croyère, Belgium. Track gauge was meter and the 15 km electric tramway began revenue service on 27 December 1914.

The three tram routes in São Carlos were identified by route numbers: 1 - Cemitério/Estação, 2 - Ginásio/Santa Casa, 3 - Vila Nery/Estação [see map]. There was an unusual practice on the west end of Route 2. At a grade crossing with the electrified Paulista Railroad, the trolley wire stopped. The conductor lowered the bow collector, connected a cable between the end of the wire and the bow of the tram, and walked the car across the railroad tracks. On the other side, where the trolley wire resumed, the bow collector was replaced and the tram continued on its way.

In the 1930s CPE rebuilt two freight cars into passenger cars and constructed a closed car out of a 9-bench open car which it purchased from the abandoned tramway in Piraju. The IBGE report for 1945 shows nine passenger cars – which bore odd numbers from 1 to 17 – two trailers and two freight cars. São Carlos had perhaps the only tramway in Brazil where the same cars were operated by the same company throughout their existence. The Companhia Paulista de Eletricidade – which had signed the contract exactly 50 years earlier to the day – ran the last tram in São Carlos on 16 June 1962.

Open tram 7 was preserved by the local Rotary Club and was pictured on a state lottery ticket in 1978. It was nicely displayed for many years in a shelter at the Piscina Municipal across from Praça dos Voluntários near the town center [see map]. But in 2010 it was transferred to the little praça at Vila Nery, where route 3 cars had terminated years before. In 2006 another São Carlos tram, number 3, was found – in magnificent condition – on a farm near Santa Eudóxia! One wonders how many São Carlos residents have wanted to preserve those wonderful memories of the past . . .

See illustrations



The author is indebted to former São Carlos resident Antônio Gorni and his son, Antonio Gorni, for the extraordinary information that they provided about the trams of that city – and their assistance in identifying the places where the pictures on this website were taken. [The father's name is Brazilian and gets an accent mark; the son's name is Italian, so does not . . .] The author would also like to express his gratitude to another São Carlos resident, Carlos Eduardo Guimarães, for his help in determining the location of the tramway depot – on Rua Padre Teixeira near Rua Campos Sales.


BIBLIOGRAPHY (in order of publication)

Brasil. Instituto Brasileira de Geografia e Estatística. Anuário Estatístico do Brasil. Meios de Transporte: Ferro Carris, 1912-1958. Surveys from the early years note only state capitals, but data for the São Carlos tramway are presented between 1942 and 1951: 9 passenger motor cars, 2 passenger trail cars, 1 freight motor car, 1 freight trailer, 12 km of track, 87 employees, 1,970,000 passengers carried in 1942, 4,061,000 carried in 1951.

São Paulo (state). Repartição de Estatística. Anuário Estatístico de São Paulo, 1913-1921. São Paulo, 1915-1926. The "Viação Urbana" section in vol. 2 each year presents basic tramway data. The 1921 edition notes 8 passenger cars and 9 freight cars in São Carlos.

United States. Bureau of Foreign & Domestic Commerce. World Survey of Foreign Railways. Washington, 1933. "São Carlos Tramways (Companhia Paulista de Electricidade)" entry, p. 191, notes 8 passenger motor cars, 4 passenger trail cars, 2 freight motor cars and 2 freight trail cars on 15 km of meter gauge track.

Octavio C. Damiano. Notícia Histórica sôbre os Bondes de São Carlos. São Carlos, 4 de Novembro de 1954 (Aniversário da Cidade). Despite the title and publication date, the 24-page text is concerned exclusively with the foundation of the company and the inauguration of the tramway in 1914. There is no discussion of tramway development after that date.

Enciclopédia dos Municípios Brasileiros. 36 vols., Rio de Janeiro, 1957. São Carlos chapter on p. 168 in vol. XXX briefly describes the tramway, notes three routes.

Raymond DeGroote, Jr. "São Carlos, Brazil: Companhia Paulista de Eletricidade, Track Observed April 18, 1963." Unpublished map shows track detail in central part of the city.

Brasil. Instituto Brasileira de Geografia e Estatística. "São Carlos" topographic map, 1971, shows streets, railways, rivers, elevations and general contour of the city.

Waldemar Corrêa Stiel. História dos Transportes Coletivos em São Paulo. São Paulo, 1978. The São Carlos chapter, pp. 297-300, describes tramway development and includes two photos of closed car number 9. Itineraries of São Carlos tram routes, p. 229.

Waldemar Corrêa Stiel. História do Transporte Urbano no Brasil. Brasília, 1984. São Carlos chapter, pp. 428-432. A brief historical summary includes two Franco-Belge illustrations of the freight models and a partial view of "Carne Verde" car number 19 in operation in São Carlos.

Allen Morrison. The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York, 1989. My São Carlos chapter, pp. 154-157, consists of the text at the top of this webpage, a map and seven pictures of the São Carlos tramway system. A photograph on p. 158 in the Piraju chapter that follows shows Piraju open tram 9, which allegedly was rebuilt and became closed tram 9 in São Carlos.


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