The Lisboa cable trams

Cable tram no.4 of the Estrela line. The photo was taken in 1913 on the last day the line was in operation.

Lisboa is built on hills. Mule or horse trams could only go up the steep gradients with the use of extra animals. As the animals were the largest cost of the whole tram operations, it was a too costly affair to have many or long steep inclines within the network. In 1873 in San Francisco a system was introduced employing a cable running continuously in a conduit below the track, which could be picked up or released by a gripper with metal jaws suspended from the car and passing through a slot in the road. Many such systems were built in America and other countries. Also in Lisboa three cable tramlines were constructed, all with a gauge of 900 mm.

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The funiculars of Lisboa

Elevador da Bica, 1994

The Lisboa funiculars, in Portugal called ascensor or elevador, are part of the urban public transport system. All three were first operated by the NCAML, the same company that also operated the Estrela and Graça cable tramlines. The funiculars are now operated by the CCFL. As the funiculars are in public streets, the cable is in a conduit slot. The original installations were delivered by Maschinenfabrik Esslingen.

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Trams on the steep slopes of Lisbon


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


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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