The Tramways of

Allen Morrison


This chapter is divided into five parts.
Go to
Part 1: Introduction, Urban Lines
Part 2: Intercity Lines
Part 3: Plantation Railways
Part 4: The Last 50 Years



Part 5: Bibliography

(in order of publication)


"Railroading in Yucatan" in Engineering News (NY), 6/9/1890, p. 217. Interesting early description of the peninsula's railroads and tramways.

México. Secretaría de Fomento/Comunicaciones y Obras Públicas. Anuario Estadístico, 1893-1907. Mexico City, 1894-1912. Invaluable, yearly inventories of railways and tramways of all sorts. Detailed tramway data ended, unfortunately, in 1907.

Arthur Koppel. Ferrocarriles portátiles y fijos para minas, construcciones, agricultura e industrias. Berlin, 1897. Photographs of equipment for plantation railways.

"Fourteen-Foot Car for Mexico" in Street Railway Review (Chicago), 15/12/1897, p. 866. Description and photo of Jackson & Sharp tram shown in Part 3.

U. A. Moriconi. Album Yucateco. Bergamo (Italy), 1901. Chapter on "La Agencia Comercial, S.A." on pp. 41-43 describes the company's dock railways in Progreso.

"The Old and the New" in Street Railway Journal (NY), 6/9/1902, p. 337. Photo of the car that John Stephenson built for the Kanachén plantation.

"An Automobile Streetcar" in Scientific American (NY), 24/1/1903, pp. 57-58. Detailed article with 7 illustrations of the steam-powered tram that Stephenson built for Mérida. A similar article, but with only 5 illustrations, appeared in Street Railway Journal (NY), 10/1/1903, pp. 85-87.

"An Odd Car for Yucatan" in Street Railway Journal (NY), 5/1/1907, p. 36. Description and photo of a tiny 3-window car that J. G. Brill built for Mérida.

Rafael de Zayas Enríquez. El Estado de Yucatán. New York, 1908. Brief statistical summaries of railroad, urban tramway, private tramway and hacienda lines, pp. 273-274.

Alfonso E. López. El Verdadero Yucatán. Yucatán [sic], 1910. Wonderful opinionated text, with fascinating comments on tramways on pp. 104, 117, 118, 133, 134, 168-171. Highly recommended.

Henry A. Case. Views on and of Yucatán. Mérida, 1911. Short but interesting tramway observations, pp. 12, 37, 38.

Great Britain. Naval Staff. Intelligence Department. A Handbook of Mexico. [London], 1919. An extraordinary book. Detailed history and description, with emphasis on transportation. The 100-page "Railways" section, pp. 410-509, describes not only the rail routes but the gauge and weight of their rails and ties, rolling stock, bridges, altitude, etc., and all the adjacent tramway routes. Excerpt reproduced in Part 3.

W. Rodney Long. "Railways of Mexico" in U.S. Bureau of Foreign & Domestic Commerce: Trade Promotion Series no. 16. Washington, 1925. The section on United Railways of Yucatán on pp. 211-218 provides good background information and data on the Progreso tramway.

"Mexican Street Cars Are Powered With Automobile Motors" in Street Railway Journal (NY), 19/11/1927, pp. 933-935. Feature article on Mérida's gasoline trams. Four photos, six diagrams. Excellent.

"Transportation in Yucatán" in Transportation (NY), 5/1931, pp. 33-34. Urban and rural tramways. The second Kanachén photo shown in Part 3.

México. Secretaría de Agricultura y Fomento. "Mérida" map. Mexico City, 1931. Street map showing tram lines - even though the system closed in 1930.

México. Secretaría de Agricultura y Fomento. "Yucatán" map, 1:200,000. Mexico City, 1931. Superb map showing excellent detail of railroad and tramway lines. Basis for the map on this website.

México. Dirección de Estudios Geográficos y Climatológicos. Two adjoining maps at 1:500,000 scale: "Triángulos" dated 1937, "Mérida" dated 1932. Railroad and tramway lines, but, because of smaller scale, not as detailed as 1931 map above.

Carlos A. Echánove Trujillo, ed. Enciclopedia Yucatanense. Mexico City, 1947. Text states that data are from 1936. Excellent survey of the "Sistema Tranviario" in vol. III, pp. 613-620. Good data on gauges. A list of several hundred "tranvías rurales" does not include the "vías portátiles" on plantations!

México. Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganaderia. Dirección de Geografía y Meterología. "Carta Geográfica del Estado de Yucatán", 1:200,000. Mexico City, 1956. Railroads and tramways, but fewer of them than on the maps above from the 1930s.

Earl W. Clark. "In Search of Horse Trams in Yucatan" in Modern Tramway (London), 12/1962, pp. 436-438. The first investigation by a tramway enthusiast. Mr. Clark visited Yucatán numerous times and tracked down tramways by train, taxi and automobile. He found and photographed many lines for the first time and kept extensive notes.

Robert Peschkes. "Yucatan Mule Cars" in Southern Traction, published by the Texas Division of the Electric Railroaders Association in San Antonio, USA, 10/6/1977. This German tramway historian read Mr. Clark's article above, found maps of the lines in a library in Zürich, and began his research of the subject which continues today. This 20-page booklet presents the first really objective investigation. Pictures, sketches, lists and many maps.

Harold E. Cox. Supplement to "Yucatan Mule Cars" in Southern Traction (ibid), 10/11/1977, pp. 1-3. Inventory of tramcars ordered by Yucatán railways from U.S. manufacturers. (Many of the orders are for steam railroads, not the tram lines.)

"Una Leyenda Llamada Tranvía" in México Desconocido no. 17. Mexico City [1978?]. Description of the Peschkes publication above and plea for preservation of Yucatán's tramway heritage. Pictures of the trams preserved at Hacienda San Bernardo "near Umán" (actually, it's nearer Maxcanú).

Francisco D. Montejo Baqueiro. Mérida en los años veinte. Mérida, 1981. Town history. Notes on the 1880 tramway inauguration, p. 96.

Asael T. Hansen. Mérida. Mexico City, 1984. Railroad and tramway observations, pp. 64-65.

James W. Terrell. "Got a horse and a flat car? Run your own train" in Trains (Milwaukee), 6/1984, p. 46. Superb history and update. Two excellent photographs.

Allen Wells. Yucatán's Gilded Age: Haciendas, Henequen, and International Harvester, 1860-1915. Albuquerque, 1985. Probably the definitive study in English of the henequen craze. Excellent background on the railways, especially on pp. 34, 35, 84, 92, 117, 128, 129.

Allen Wells. "All in the Family: Railroads and Henequen Monoculture in Porfirian Yucat‡n" in Hispanic American Historical Review (Durham), May 1992, pp. 159-209. The development of the peninsula's steam lines, with emphasis on economic and political factors. Good background for a study of Yucat‡n's tramways, which are mentioned briefly on pp. 178-179 and 198.

Kay and Gary Walten ("loco gringos"). Haciendas of Yucatan webpage has superb photographs of the buildings, factories and railways. The "maps" menu leads to nice aerial views.


In addition to the documents above, the following persons supplied valuable information for this report: Juan Celorio of the Museo de los Ferrocarriles de Yucatán in Mérida, Rafael Lizarraga of Mérida, Allen Wells of Bowdoin College in Maine, Harold Cox of Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, Robert Peschkes in München, Earl Clark in Cincinnati, and the late, great Gert Aberson of Amsterdam.



Go to
Part 1: Introduction, Urban Lines
Part 2: Intercity Lines
Part 3: Plantation Railways
Part 4: The Last 50 Years


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