The Tramways of

Allen Morrison

This website has four parts.
Go to
Part 2: 1905-1927
Part 3: 1928-1965
Part 4: 1997-


Part 1: 1864-1904

Peru has an extraordinary transport heritage. The Peruvian government was the first in South America to issue a franchise for railroad construction, in 1826. The steam railroad that opened in 1851 between Lima and Callao was the second in South America (after Guyana in 1848). The street railway which began carrying passengers in 1864 between Callao and La Punta was one of the continent's first animal-powered lines. The horsecars that entered service in Lima in 1878 had a unique design. A funicular in suburban Chorrillos was the first on the continent and may have been the only funicular anywhere to use a side-winding cable. Chorrillos was connected with Lima by three separate electric railways. Some of Lima's trams used trolley poles, others used bow collectors and still others carried pantographs. Lima inaugurated the world's first battery-powered bus service in 1905. In 1928 it opened Latin America's first trolleybus line - then rebuilt the trolleybuses as trams! A new tren eléctrico opened in its suburbs in 1990 (and has carried passengers from time to time). Lima's original tramway network closed in 1965, but five blocks of track reopened in 1997! This webpage examines some of these lines.

Lima sprawls along a plain between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, 12° south of the Equator. The old Spanish Ciudad de los Reyes (City of Kings) is 13 km from Callao, Peru's chief port [see map]. Five steam railways opened in the 19th century between Lima and its coastal suburbs and electric tramways followed parallel routes in the 20th. The Lima tramway system consisted of these suburban lines and local tram services in Lima, Callao, Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos.

Peru's first animal-powered tramway was inaugurated in 1864 between Callao and La Punta [see map]. Operator was the Junta de la Beneficencia (Welfare Board), track gauge was 1435 mm and, according to historian Alberto Regal [see BIBLIOGRAPHY, below], a Callao company named Heuner built the first three cars. Unfortunately, despite great effort, no illustrations or other information about this pioneer line could be found.

The nation's second tramway opened in Arequipa in 1874. Peru's third was the first line in Lima, which was inaugurated on 24 March 1878 by the Empresa de Tramways de Lima. The defective but rare photograph below was taken in 1877 at the factory of the John Stephenson Co. in New York, which built the cars [John Stephenson Collection, Museum of the City of New York]:

No pictures could be found of doubledeck trams running in Lima, but here is an enlargement of a token used in 1884 [col. AM]:

The Empresa apparently did not like its doubledeck cars and chose a different model for its next Stephenson order. The new trams were singledeck, had vis-à-vis (knee-to-knee) seating and were unlike any that the author has seen anywhere else [Street Railway Review, Chicago, 20/11/1903, p. 902):

The postcard view below shows one of these cars at the horsetram depot in Rimac [see map]. Note the high archway designed for the doubledeckers [col. AM]:

The first line ran from Descalzos Park in Rimac across the river to the Exposición (Exposition grounds) in Lima [see map]. The tram below is going south on the Puente de Piedra (Stone Bridge) over the Rimac River [postcard, col. AM]:

By the 1890s the Empresa de Tramways de Lima had three tram lines, 66 employees, 40 cars and 400 horses. It was reorganized in 1898 as Ferro-Carril Urbano de Lima, which issued this ticket in 1903 [col. AM]:

Horsecar lines were also built during this period in Magdalena, Miraflores, Barranco and Chorrillos [see map]. This postcard shows a Stephenson tram, apparently acquired from the Ferro-Carril Urbano, in Miraflores [col. AM]:

The suburban tram lines fed the steam railroads that connected Lima with the coast. The English-owned Lima Railways Co. (Ferrocarril Inglés) operated the 1851 line from Lima to Callao and another built in 1858 to Chorrillos. Ferrocarril Central del Perú built another railroad to Callao in 1870 and there were two separate lines to Magdalena, one of which sometimes used animal power.

A franchise was awarded in 1891 for the construction of a horse tramway alongside the Lima Railways steam line from Lima to Chorrillos. It was built in 1904, but ran only a year [see Part 2]. A more sensible project developed in 1903 when local capitalists organized the Tranvía Eléctrico de Lima y Chorrillos and secured a contract to build a completely new tramway - electrically powered - several blocks west. TELC ordered ten 8-wheel electric trams from John Stephenson Co. in New York and laid streetcar tracks along what is Paseo de la República today [see map]. The photograph below, taken at Stephenson's factory in New Jersey, shows Peru's first electric tram car. The word "Chorrillos" was, unfortunately, misspelled [Street Railway Journal, New York, 19/9/1903, p. 588]:

TELC built a carbarn in Miraflores and a terminal for its electric line in a corner of the Exposition grounds [see map]. In this 1904 postcard view the building is still under construction, but a tram can be seen beyond the platform on the left. That platform was for the steam trains of the Ferrocarril Inglés (Lima Railways), which stopped here. The rails on the right were for horsecars of the Ferro-Carril Urbano. TELC's track is out of sight [col. AM]:

Peru's first electric railway, from Exposición south to Barranco, was formally inaugurated on 17 February 1904. Electric trams reached Chorrillos on 31 March [see map]. The drawing below, reproduced on an Esso calendar of 1956 [!], inaccurately shows a crossbench open tram, but the artist caught the spirit of the event [International Petroleum Company of Peru, col. Víctor Quispe]:

A medallion was struck to commemorate the "INAUGURATION OF THE FIRST ELECTRIC TRAMWAY IN PERU / T.E.L.C. 17 FEBRUARY 1904" [col. AM]:

The postcard below shows how a TELC tram really looked. A "window box" has been added on the platform. "Chorrillos" is still misspelled. The conductor is reversing the trolley poles so that the car can go the other way. Location is the other side of the terminal shown above [col. AM]:

This postcard shows a TELC tram at the primitive station in Miraflores. The track in the lower right corner belonged to the steam-powered Lima Railways Co. (Ferrocarril Inglés) [see map] [col. AM]:

The next postcard shows a TELC tram at the other end of the line in Chorrillos [see map]. The track on the left belonged to a horsecar line. The station for Lima Railways steam trains was in the next block [col. AM]:

Concurrent with construction of the TELC tramway, another company, Ferro Carril Eléctrico de Lima y Callao, built a second electric line on the other side of town. FCELC ordered similar trams from J. G. Brill Co. in Philadelphia (which purchased John Stephenson Co. in 1905) and opened a 13 km route from Lima to Callao on 27 July 1904 [see map]. The line began on the west side of Plaza San Martín, at the end of Av. Nicolás de Piérola. The sign in front of the tram in this postcard view says "SALE ESTE CARRO" (This Car Next) [col. AM]:

The new line paralleled, but was separate from, the two steam railroads that ran to Callao already. The postcard below shows a tram passing the FCELC carbarn and workshops at La Legua [col. AM]:

This postcard shows car 10 at Plaza Grau, the center of activity and end of the interurban line in Callao [see map]. The large building on the left is the station for Lima Railways steam trains. The photograph was taken in 1904 [col. AM]:

The horsecar line alongside the Lima Railways steam line to Chorrillos also opened in 1904, and was later electrified [see Part 2]. Both Lima Railways routes, to Chorrillos and Callao, were also later electrified [see Part 3]. 

The author is grateful to Lima resident Elio Galessio for information about his city and the railways and tramways that ran there. He is also indebted to Harold E. Cox of Wilkes-Barre for information about tram car orders.


BIBLIOGRAPHY (in order of publication)

Juan de Arona [Pedro Paz Soldán y Unanue]. La Línea de Chorrillos: Descripción de los Tres Principales Balnearios Marítimos que Rodean a Lima. Lima, 1894. Information about the Barranco funicular and the Barranco-Chorrillos horsecar line, pp. 29-30 and 38-39; description of the Chorrillos-Villa horsecar line, pp. 66-67.

Santiago M. Basurco. Plano del Callao. [Callao], 1900. Callao street map at scale 1:10,000 shows routes of the two steam railroads and also the animal tramway of the Beneficencia.

"El Tranvía Eléctrico" in Actualidades (Lima) #56 of 29/2/1904 [pages unnumbered]. Four pages on the inauguration of the Chorrillos line. Nice photographs.

"First Electric Railway in Peru" in Street Railway Journal (New York), 4/6/1904, pp. 851-852. Description of the Chorrillos line and its trams. Five photographs.

"Tracción Eléctrica" in Actualidades (Lima) #75 of 7/8/1904 [pages unnumbered]. Two pages on the inauguration of the Callao line. Three excellent photographs.

F. Fajardo. Plano del Callao en relación con los Años 1855, 1870 y 1905. [Callao], n.d. [1905]. Callao street map shows the two steam railroads and also the interurban and local lines of the new "Tranvía Eléctrico".

Empresas Eléctricas Asociadas. Plano General de los Ferrocarriles Eléctricos de Lima, Callao y Chorrillos. Lima, n.d. [1906]. Map at scale 1:50,000 shows all tram lines in the area, including (despite title) steam and animal-powered.

Camilo Vallejos Z. Plano Topográfico de Lima, Callao y sus Alrededores. Lima, 1907. Map at scale 1:80,000 shows "ferrocarriles a vapor y eléctricos".

"The Electric Tramway System of Lima, Peru" in Street Railway Journal (New York), 4/5/1907, pp. 792-795. History and description of the electric lines and the formation of Empresas Eléctricas Asociadas. Eight photograph, a map and a diagram of the track layout in the carbarn.

Ricardo Tizón i Bueno. Plano de Lima, 1908. Lima, n.d. [1908]. Superb map at scale 1:10,000 shows tram lines in central area, identified by letter. Only map found that shows and identifies the new CNTE electric line [see Part 2].

Concejo Provincial. Plano Oficial de la Ciudad de Lima en 1921. Lima, 1921. Street map of the central area shows track detail of the tram routes.

Santiago Antúnez de Mayolo. La Génesis de los Servicios Eléctricos de Lima. Lima, 1929. Excellent survey of the development of electricity and electric transport in Lima. Four photographs.

Lascano & López. Plano de Lima, Callao y Balnearios. From its Guía Lascano. Lima, n.d. [about 1929]. Large map of entire city shows tramway and railway lines in detail.

Alberto Regal. Historia de los Ferrocarriles de Lima. Lima, 1965. A monumental work. History and description of all the railways and tramways in the Lima area, including the Callao local lines (chapter V); Lima local lines (IX); Lima-Chorrillos lines (X); Lima-Callao line (XI); Lima-Magdalena lines (VIII). Numerous photographs and wonderful maps.

Municipalidad de Lima Metropolitana. Planos de Lima, 1613-1983. Lima, 1983. Folio of 30 maps, many showing tram routes.

Juan Carlos Arroyo Ferreyros. "El Tranvía" in Concertando (Lima), 9-10/1994, pp. 7-10. Good historical survey. Data mostly from Regal, above. Four photos, seven charts.

Trevor H. Stephenson. Peruvian Trams and Railways: An Illustrated History. London, 1995. Lima railways and tramways, pp. 23-57. Brief text, unidentified illustrations, maps copied (without credit) from the Regal work noted above.

César Jiménez. Historias de los tranvías en Lima. [1998] Nice historical survey of tramway development. Text, 12 photographs, diagrams of the urban lines, enlargeable map of the suburban network.

Go to
Part 2: 1905-1927
Part 3: 1928-1965
Part 4: 1997-


The first pages of this website
were uploaded on

30 December 2003

Please send
comments, corrections & suggestions
Allen Morrison


Ver versión en español


Visit my homepage about
Electric Transport in Latin America

Copyright © 2004-2104 Allen Morrison - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED