The Tramways of
São Paulo state


Allen Morrison

100 km west of São Paulo, the city of Sorocaba was the headquarters of the meter-gauge Sorocabana Railway, which is today part of Ferrovias Bandeirantes S.A. or FERROBAN. It was also, once, the home of two other meter-gauge electric lines: a local tramway system and a separate 14 km interurban railway that ran from Sorocaba south to the industrial area around Votorantim [see map]. The city's population was 20,000 in 1910 and is 500,000 today.

Like nearby Piracicaba, Sorocaba never had horsecars. The local electric tramway was built and operated by the São Paulo Electric Company, organized in Toronto in 1910 to develop electric power in the western part of São Paulo state. SPEC became part of Brazilian Traction, Light & Power, the Canadian conglomerate, in 1912, and opened a hydroelectric plant at Itupararanga, 15 km south of Sorocaba, in 1914 [see map]. On the eve of World War I it also signed a contract with the municipal government to build a streetcar system. SPEC ordered three 20 ft "nearside" cars from J. G. Brill in Philadelphia and acquired three single-truck open cars from the tramway system in São Paulo. The closed cars, 1, 2 and 3, and the regauged open cars, strangely numbered 50, 52 and 54, inaugurated the meter-gauge Sorocaba municipal tramway on 30 December 1915.

The closed cars were single-end – had doors on only one side – and required a turning loop or "Y" to reverse. The Sorocabana Railway would not allow SPEC to cross its tracks and build lines on the north side of town, so the system remained small. Plans for a 22 km extension south to Salto de Pirapora never materialized [see map]. Trackage reached its maximum extent of 7 km in 1928 and the same six trams were still serving the little system after World War II. São Paulo Electric donated the tramway to the city on 14 July 1951.

The Prefeitura Municipal built a new depot on Rua Pedro Jacob [see map] and the trams were reconstructed by the Sorocabana Railway in 1954. The trestle over the Sorocaba River was replaced by a new bridge in 1957, but the tramway closed on 28 February 1959. After abandonment, closed car 3 was sold to the Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim [see below]. There were several proposals for a trolleybus system during the following years, but all came to naught.

See pictures of
Sorocaba urban trams




The giant Votorantim Corporation operates a variety of enterprises – textile mills, paper factories, cement quarries – in the industrial area along the Sorocaba River and around the town of Votorantim, 7 km south of Sorocaba. On 1 January 1893 it opened a 600 mm gauge steam railroad to connect them, from Paula Souza station in Sorocaba to Votorantim and Santa Helena [see map], near the place where São Paulo Electric built its power plant in 1914. Steam-powered trains carried supplies and workers to the factories. The general public rode between the villages that grew up around them.

Westinghouse electrified the line in the 1920s and changed its gauge to meter, permitting interchange with the Sorocabana Railway. Three 13-bench double-truck open passenger motor cars and two 13-bench trailers came from J. G. Brill and the first 7 km of the new electric line, between Paula Souza and Votorantim, was inaugurated in the presence of São Paulo Governor Washington Luiz on 4 February 1922 (and not in 1923, as is sometimes reported).

The origin of the equipment is mysterious. Photographs in the Brill archives corresponding to orders 21138 and 21139, dated 4 June 1920, show two 13-bench trams lettered "S. A. FABRICA VOTORANTIM" [see pictures]. But entries in the Brill order books corresponding to these photographs identify the purchaser as "Byington & Co., Companhia Cantareira e Viação Fluminense," which was the tramway operator in Niterói. Byington was the Brazilian agent for Westinghouse and apparently transferred the order from Niterói.

The remaining 7 km of the line, to the cement factory and hydroelectric plant near Santa Helena, was regauged, electrified and reopened in 1923, and the railway was later extended to Itupararanga [see map]. The Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim and the Sorocaba tramway intersected at grade near the bridge in Sorocaba.

EFEV rolling stock endured numerous alterations after the Depression. The company motorized the Brill trail cars and constructed new trailers at one of its factories. The open cars were rebuilt closed and clerestories were removed. In 1959 the motor cars were rebuilt with flat ends and larger vestibules, a 4-wheel car was acquired from the Sorocaba urban tramway, and the bow collectors on all vehicles were replaced by strange round wands.

EFEV discontinued rail service for the public in 1966 and for its employees in 1977. Electric freight operation continued until 1986, when the railway was de-electrified. Track at the northern end of the line has recently been relocated and a new connection made with FERROBAN (the former Sorocabana Railway) at Paula Souza [see map].

See pictures of
Votorantim suburban trams




In addition to the persons whose names appear on the photographs, the author is indebted to the following for assistance in preparing this page: Adolfo Frioli, Antonio Gorni, Antonio Gavioli, Stênio Gimenez, Ralph Giesbrecht, Wanderley Duck, Paulo Fontes and Nicholas Burman.


(in order of publication)

"S. Paulo" in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 31/8/1913, p. 381. Article about the construction of the electric tramway in Sorocaba by the São Paulo Electric Co.

"S. Paulo" in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 15/9/1913, p. 411. Description of the new electric tram routes in Sorocaba.

"Tramways" section in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 15/9/1915. Long description of an excursion on the Votorantim steam railway and visit to hydroelectric installations.

"Inauguração da Eletrificação da Via Férrea" in A Platéia (São Paulo), 2/1922. President Washington Luís attends the inauguration of the Votorantim electric railway.

Secretaria de Estado dos Negócios da Agricultura, Commercio e Obras Públicas do Estado de São Paulo. Relatório apresentado ao Dr. Washington Luís, Presidente do Estado, pelo Dr. Heitor Teixeira Penteado: Anno de 1922. São Paulo, 1922. Announcement of the inauguration of the Votorantim electric railway on 2 February.

"Vias-férreas elétricas" section in Brazil-Ferro-Carril (Rio de Janeiro), 17/5/1923, p. 562. News item notes arrival of materials for construction of the second section of the Votorantim electric line to Itupararanga.

Guia Levi (São Paulo), 4/1937. A guidebook that shows the schedule of "E. F. Votorantim" trains reproduced on this webpage.

"Ainda o problema dos transportes urbanos em Sorocaba" in A Gazeta (São Paulo), 12/8/1947. Illustrated article about the Sorocaba urban tramway and Votorantim suburban line.

Antônio Francisco Gaspar. Os Bondes Elétricos de Sorocaba. Sorocaba, 1955. An extraordinary document for a 7 km tramway with only 6 cars. 68 pages of information, although the book was published before the system closed. 19 pictures of the vehicles, power plant, company employees and local politicians. No map. The cover of the book is reproduced on the Sorocaba pictures page.

Brazil. Instituto de Geografía e Estatística. Ferrovias do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro, 1956. Chart on p. 7 states that between 1945 and 1955 the E. F. Votorantim grew from 14 to 15 km. Table on p. 173 lists the line's stations. There is a schematic diagram of the line on p. 231, which is reproduced on the map on this website.

Antônio Francisco Gaspar. "Retirada dos bondes elétricos em Sorocaba" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 20/11/1968. Long, nostalgic, resentful article about the elimination of the city's trams.

A. G. [Antônio Gaspar?] "Reminiscência. Transportes: O Bonde" in Diário de Sorocaba (Sorocaba), 12/3/1975. Another nostalgic article with a picture of the bridge.

"A volta dos velhos bondinhos à cidade não acontecerá" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 19/1/1977. The Votorantim company decides not to restore the passenger tram service that ended in mid-1966.

"1914. Curiosa, a cidade assiste à chegada do bonde" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 12/2/1978. Tramway history.

"Onibus Elétricos: Uma idéia que vem desde 58" in Diário de Sorocaba (Sorocaba), 6/7/1978. Full-page history of the city's numerous trolleybus projects.

Instituto Brasileiro de Geografía e Estatística. "Sorocaba" topographic map SF-23-Y-C-1 MI-2892/1, scale 1:50,000. Brasília, 1981. The entire Votorantim railway.

Neide Baddini Mantovani. "Bondes" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 10/11/1985. Memories and description of the Sorocaba tram system.

"Bondes de Sorocaba" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 24/8/1986. Announcement of my planned visit to Sorocaba.

Homero M. Querido. "Os Bondes: Quem conhece sua história?" in Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba), 14/9/1986. Impressive, full-page article about my visit and search for tramway information. Six large tram illustrations (three of which I supplied).

Eduardo Coelho. "Eletrificação ferroviária no Brasil: A E. F. Elétrica Votorantim" in Revista Ferroviária 8/1989, p. 89. Rio de Janeiro. Nice history of the Votorantim line. Picture of locomotive 1.

Allen Morrison. The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York, 1989. The text of my book, including the Sorocaba and Votorantim chapters, is online.

Rogério Carvalho. Bondes Elétricos in the Encyclopédia Sorocabana of Sorocaba.Com.Br. Concise history.

Cruzeiro do Sul (Sorocaba): Sorocaba 350 Anos: Uma História Ilustrada, Fascículo 11, p. 5. Excellent, brief history of the Sorocaba tramway. Six illustrations.

Antonio Gorni. Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim. Nice webpage with a map and 10 expandable photos.

Antonio Gorni. A Eletrificação nas Ferrovias Brasileiras: Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim. Detailed history of the line with links to numerous illustrations. Bibliography.


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