The Tramways of
Santos • São Paulo state • Brazil
by Allen Morrison

1 Aerial photo, History
Photos of mule trams
3 Photos of early electrics
4 Photos from the 1930s
5 Photos from the 1960s
6 Photos from 1985


Aerial view of Santos, looking south, about 1935. Trams ran on most streets in the commercial area in the foreground, on the arteries leading to the beaches in the distance, and along the beaches from Ponta da Praia to São Vicente. There was also a tram line from Praça Mauá to São Vicente via the west side of Monte Serrat – the right side of this picture. [postcard, col. AM]



Sixty kilometers south of São Paulo, Santos is one of the oldest cities in South America (1534) and the busiest port in Brazil. Half of the country's exports, including much of the world's coffee, pass through this town, which occupies the eastern half of São Vicente Island, in a marshy area between the mountains and the sea. The port area on the north side of the island and the beach communities on the south were connected by a streetcar system for almost 100 years. There was also a tram line on Santo Amaro island across the bay. The population of the metropolitan area (including São Vicente) was about 100,000 in 1910, is 1.6 million today.

Two separate muletram systems developed in the 19th century. The Companhia Melhoramentos da Cidade de Santos opened an 800 mm gauge tramway from the railroad station to the beach on 8 October 1871; this was a year before the first streetcar ran in São Paulo. The town of São Vicente, on the western side of the island, inaugurated a 1350 mm gauge interurban tramway to Santos (via Matadouro) on 24 October 1875. The Carris de Ferro da Villa de São Vicente converted this 9 km line to steam traction in 1885; its peculiar 1350 mm (45 1/3 in) gauge would be adopted by the Santos electric tramway system 25 years later. In 1897 the tramways of both Santos and São Vicente – 83 passenger trams, 78 freight trams, 6 baggage cars, 6 Swiss locomotives and 573 mules – were acquired by the Companhia Viação Paulista, which also operated tramways in the city of São Paulo.

A local company, the Empresa Ferro-Carril Santista, took over in 1901 and hired James Mitchell of Rio de Janeiro for electrification. [James Mitchell built South America's first electric tramways in Rio de Janeiro in the 1890s and held the General Electric franchise for Brazil. He also became General Manager of São Paulo Tramway, Light & Power Company in 1901.] Mitchell ordered General Electric generators, Babcock & Wilcox boilers, Ide steam engines, Peckham trucks and other materials from New York, and twenty 9-bench electric trams from Trajano de Medeiros in Rio de Janeiro. But there were financial problems and the project was abandoned. The cars and trucks were transferred to São Paulo's new electric tramway in 1903. The other equipment was sold to the City of Santos Improvements Company, the English firm which provided the city's gas, water and electricity and which purchased the tramway franchise on 20 February 1904.

CSIC began construction of a new tramway system in 1907 and ordered eighteen 9-bench electric cars from Hurst Nelson & Company in Motherwell, Scotland, on 3 June 1908. The 1350 mm gauge of the São Vicente tramway was adopted and electric operation, from downtown Santos to São Vicente via José Menino, was inaugurated on 28 April 1909. The second line, to São Vicente via Matadouro, the former steam route, was inaugurated a month later. The last mulecar ran on 3 May 1912.

The City of Santos Improvements Company operated the electric tramway system in Santos for nearly a half century. Hurst Nelson supplied equipment until 1951 – Santos was its only Latin American customer: 48 passenger cars, 20 freight vehicles, 4 baggage wagons, a post office car, 2 water cars and thousands of parts. CSIC also acquired a passenger tram from St. Louis Car Company in 1908, two 9-bench cars from United Electric in 1915, and three 12-bench trams from Ateliers Métallurgiques of Belgium in 1928. In 1915 car numbers were doubled (all passenger trams thereafter had even numbers) and in 1919 the company began to build its own cars, including double-truck models. There was a brisk freight business and in 1917 it was claimed that residents of Santos enjoyed the highest tram-to-passenger ratio of any city in South America.

In 1925 bondes rápidos, making limited stops, were introduced on the beach lines. Women passengers complained, however, that males hopped on while the cars were moving and took the seats. Bondes expressos were introduced on two routes in 1926: they stopped for ladies, didn't allow men on the running boards and refused persons carrying packages. Bow collectors replaced trolley poles on all cars in the early 1930s and in 1935 the CSIC built two enormous 6-axle articulated trams, numbers 300 and 302. Each had 18 benches and sat 90 passengers.

In 1929, 75% of the stock of the CSIC was acquired by Brazilian Traction, Light & Power Company, the Canadian enterprise that also controlled tramways in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Sorocaba. CSIC built its last tram in 1942 and the IBGE report for 1945 shows 139 passenger motor cars, 80 passenger trailers and 53 freight cars on 86 km of track.

On 1 January 1952 the Canadians relinquished operation to the Serviço Municipal de Transportes Coletivos. SMTC began to rebuild open cars as closed vehicles in 1954; it was calculated that the fares saved in two months would pay for reconstruction. A trolleybus system began operation on 12 August 1963 and there were still some open trams in service when the last streetcar ran in Santos on 28 February 1971 – 99 years and four months after tram service in the city had begun. It was the last closure of a major tram system in Brazil.

Single-truck cars 40 and 46 were preserved at Vila Matias depot and an unnumbered double-truck Santos tram was put on display on the Rua das Flores pedestrian mall in Curitiba, state of Paraná. On 15 March 1975 the name of the trolleybus operator was changed to Companhia Santista de Transportes Coletivos.

Magically, the Santos tramway story does not end there. In 1984 Mayor Paulo Gomes Barbosa dug up 900 m of double track on Avenida Bartolomeu de Gusmão along Embaré Beach [see aerial photo above], restrung wire and, on 10 June of that year, placed restored car 46 back into service. The CSTC ran Brazil's second tourist tramway (after Campinas) for two years. Unfortunately the line was far removed from Vila Matias depot, maintenance became a problem, and the service ended in October 1986.

Fourteen years later, Santos built another tourist tramway in the old commercial part of town, connecting Praça Mauá with the railroad station and various historic points. Restored open car 32 began operation on a 1.7 km loop on 23 September 2000. A trailer was added in October and closed car 40 joined the fleet in 2002. Santos imported three old trams from Porto, Portugal, in 2005 and two from Torino, Italy, in 2006. The line was recently extended 3.3 km and now forms a large double-8 circuit 5 km long.

(in order of publication)

"Equipment for Brazilian Electric Road" in Electrical World and Engineer (New York), 11/10/1902, p. 595. Description of the James Mitchell plan for an electric tramway in Santos.

H. M. Sayers. "Tramway Experiences in Brazil" in The Electrician (London), 24/7/1914, pp. 642-645. Construction of the Santos electric tramway; emphasis on labor problems. An expanded version of this article, with photographs, appeared in Tramway & Railway World (London), 13/8/1914, pp. 118-123.

José Castiglione. Planta. Santos, nd (1937?). Large map shows both Santos and Guarujá tramways in detail. Scale 1:15,000 & 1:5,000.

J. H. Price. Hurst Nelson Tramcars. Hartley (England), 1977. Description of equipment for Santos, pp. 18, 19 and 43.

Waldemar Corrêa Stiel. História dos Transportes Coletivos em São Paulo. São Paulo, 1978. Santos tram routes, pp. 223-228; description and 25 photographs of system, pp. 249-288.

Waldemar Corrêa Stiel. História do Transporte Urbano no Brasil. Brasília, 1984. Santos chapter, pp. 410-421, describes tramway history. Eleven photographs.

"Os bondes. Ou a história da cidade sobre trilhos" in A Tribuna (Santos), 11/3/1984. Full-page illustrated article about the city's tramway history.

"Cidade espera a volta do bonde" in A Tribuna (Santos), 30/4/1984. Full-page article about the reconstruction of tram car 46.

"Turismo otimista com o retorno dos bondes" in A Tribuna (Santos), 7/5/1984. Full-page article about the tourist tramway under construction.

"Treze anos depois, bonde volta à Praia do Embaré" in A Tribuna (Santos), 10/6/1984. Full-page article with description and large photographs of restored tram 46.

"A Viagem inaugural" in A Tribuna (Santos), 11/6/1984. Full-page articles with pictures of the inauguration.

"Apesar do abandono, bonde vende turismo de Santos  no exterior" in A Tribuna (Santos), 8/9/1985. Online reproduction of full-page article about my 1985 visit.

"Em algum lugar do passado . . ." in Carga (São Paulo), 10/1988, pp. 46-50. Good description of transport development in Santos. Six photographs.

Allen Morrison. The Tramways of Brazil: A 130-Year Survey. New York, 1989. Histories of Santos and São Vicente systems, pp. 134-139, include 10 photographs and a map.

The Scottish Trams of Santos: webpage shows cars 46 (in 1999), 84 (in 1994), 32 (in 2000) and 40 (in 2002).

"Bonde Turístico é inaugurado no Centro Histórico" in Diário oficial de Santos (Santos), 26/9/2000, p. 3. Official account of the inauguration of the city's second tourist tram line.

Carlos Pimentel Mendes. O Bonde: extremely elaborate website, with history and hundreds of old and new photographs of Santos trams. Click "[Trilhos...]" at the bottom of the page.



The Tramways of Guarujá

See my index of

If you have comments, criticism or suggestions,
please e-mail me! Leio e escrevo português.

This site was placed online on
19 June 2006

Copyright © 2006-2106 Allen Morri

As fotos coloridas desta página são protegidas pela Lei do Direito Autoral (Lei N° 9.610 de 19 de Fevereiro de 1998) e não podem ser reproduzidas sem a expressa autorização do autor.