The Porto Steam Trams

Steam tram with locomotive Henschel no.5 at Cadouços ca.1902. Photo Aurélio da Paz dos Reis.

In Porto, like in most cities before electric trams were introduced, horse trams provided the urban public transport, although in Porto more often mules were used. Steam trams were used in many cities too, most on busy suburban routes. Porto was one of the cities in Europe using steam locomotives for trams. This page is about the steam trams of Porto that operated in the city for 36 years.

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Changing the rule of the road from left to right

Question:

I know that Portugal shifted from driving left to right in 1928. I could imagine, that the trams had only left doors when shifting. How did Portugal cope with this? Did the trams continue in the left side for some time, or was it properly planned as in Sweden, where public transportation introduced double sided door vehicles starting 10 years before cut over i 1967.

Porto tram no.277 built in 1926; 9 May 2009

Answer:

In 1928 all trams in Portugal were fully symmetrical: double-end with entrances / exits at both sides. So for the trams there wasn’t anything to change. The first unidirectional trams in Porto were put in service in 1946, the first in Lisboa in 1951. Sintra, Coimbra and Braga never had single-end trams with entrances at one side only.

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Trams on the steep slopes of Lisbon

Question:

I have just visted Lisbon and did a tourist tram ride. I have spent the last couple of days trying to find details of how the trams manage the very steep hills as the slopes are much steeper than I would expect. Can you signpost any internet sights for me.

Lisbon tram no.560 at the top of the steep Calçada de São Francisco; 19 July 2008

Answer:

I’m not sure about information on the internet about this. That the small Lisbon tramcars can tackle the hills is because of a combination of things:

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Coimbra trams

Tram no.12
Tram no.12 in Rua Dr. Augusto Rocha, October 1968.

Coimbra was one of the five places in Portugal that had an electric tram system. The city is situated about 200 km north of Lisboa and 120 km south of Porto and dates from the Roman period. The oldest part of the city “Alta” or “Almedina” occupies an irregularly-shaped hill overlooking the Rio Mondego. Already in the Middle Ages the “Baixa” (lower town) was built along the river. Here the principal shops and other commercial activities are located. The Alta and the Baixa are separated by the main shopping street. This street has two names, Rua Ferreira Borges for the southern part and Rua Visconde da Luz for the slightly wider northern part, but they are in line with each other and in practice make one street.

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Braga trams

Braga tram no.4 with trailer no.4
Braga tram no.4 with trailer no.4 in 1962 on the Avenida Central.

Braga was one of the five places in Portugal that had an electric tram system. This very old city, with its roots in the pre-historic period, is situated about 55 km north-east from Porto. Apart from the many monuments in the city itself, one of the most important destinations for visitors is the Santuário do Bom Jesus do Monte, a pilgrimage church situated on a hill about 5 km east of the city. The railway from Porto to Braga had opened on 21 May 1875 with the station at the west of the city. Soon a mule tramline was opened to connect the city with the Santuário do Bom Jesus. The mule trams were replaced by electric trams in 1914.

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Sintra trams

Sintra tram no.1 at Colares, 7 May 2013.

In 1904 an 11.7 km long metre gauge electric tramline was opened from Sintra (station) to Praia das Maças (Applebeach). An 1.0 km long urban line connected the station in Sintra-Estefânia with Sintra-Vila. Some freight transport existed, mainly between Banzão and the railway station. In the small Banzão depot is still a weigh bridge and the only track of the depot gives also access to the warehouse of a winery. At the railway station was a siding to make transfer of goods easy.

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