BATTERY POWER

Street railway vehicles powered by rechargeable batteries ran in at least 16 cities in Latin America. Battery-powered buses, on rubber tires, ran in four.

The first experiments took place in Brazil in the 1880s. A tram equipped with a home-made storage battery carried passengers in Niterói from 1883 until 1885. A tram equipped with a Julien battery (from Belgium?) transported guests at the Brazilian Railway Exposition in Rio de Janeiro in 1887.

The Hacienda de la Condesa in Mexico City operated a 1.3 km battery-powered tramway around its grounds from 1896 until about 1900.

In 1905 six battery-powered buses, built by Brill, carried passengers over a short route in Lima, Peru.

The battery tram era began in earnest in 1913 when United Railways of Havana, Cuba, placed a train of three double-truck battery-powered cars in service on the tracks of a steam railroad built in 1837 (picture above). Operation was unsatisfactory and the vehicles were transferred to an interurban line between Rincón and San Antonio in Havana Province.

Battery mania took hold in Cuba. Conventional single-truck trams powered by storage batteries began carrying passengers in Cienfuegos later in 1913, in Cárdenas in 1915 and in Matanzas in 1916. Havana experimented with battery-powered buses in 1917.

In 1915 battery-powered trams also appeared in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and in MayagŁez, Puerto Rico.

Battery-powered trams began carrying passengers in Iquique, Chile, in 1916; in Mérida, Mexico, in 1917; and in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1918. Two towns in Peru were the last to inaugurate battery tram service: Pisco in 1921 and Huacho in 1922.

Rio de Janeiro operated battery-powered buses along Avenida Rio Branco from 1918 until 1928.

The Empresa Martín Fierro in Rosario, Argentina, operated three battery-powered electrobuses, which it had built from trolleybuses, in 1982 and 1983!

Most of Latin America's battery-powered trams, and all of its battery-powered buses (except those in Rosario, above), were built by J. G. Brill Co. in Philadelphia. Cienfuegos and Cárdenas, Cuba, also had battery trams built by St. Louis Car Co. in St. Louis. The battery trams in Maracaibo, Venezuela, and Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, came from Jackson & Sharp Co. in Wilmington, Delaware. The three-car storage battery train in Havana was built by Federal Storage Battery Car Co. in Silver Lake, New Jersey.

Latin America's century of battery transport extended from 1883 until 1983.

[The illustration at the top of this page was copied from the article "Three-Car Storage Battery Train" that appeared on pages 501-503 of the 28 September 1912 edition of Electric Railway Journal published in New York.]

Research and text by
ALLEN MORRISON

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