This was one of the two 600 mm gauge commuter railroads in the world. It was originally conceived and built in 1893 as a service railroad for the construction of a water works and dam at Cantareira, a small suburb north of São Paulo city. This railroad also transported the workmen of these works. Soon arised the idea of Sunday trains for the general people, as the Cantareira forest are a pleasant place for rest. Once the public passenger trains began, the region received its first inhabitants, making feasible a regular public passenger service. So it was created the Tramway Cantareira, using steam locos and under São Paulo state administration. It hauled almost exclusively passangers, as there was no significant freight demand for this railroad. In 1915 a branch from Areal to Guarulhos was built, also to serve a construction of a water works and subsequentely to haul passengers.
In 1942 the control of this railroad was transfered to E.F. Sorocabana, which professional management was able to reduce its huge deficits. The re-gauge of the lines of Tramway Cantareira to 1,0 meter began in 1947 and ended in 1958. Some of the steam engines were replaced by diesel-electric 66 t G.E. locomotives in this same year. In 1954 the line was extended from Guarulhos station to the Brazilian Air Force base at Cumbica.
However the spectacular progress of automotive industry in Brazil from the late fifties on was a increasing toll for its railroads. This was particularly critical for the Tramway Cantareira, as its line has poor technical standards (often sharing public streets and avenues) and old rolling stock. Accidents with cars, buses and trucks become very frequent. Besides that, public bus service increasingly was offering better speed, frequency and quality of transportation. Finally, in 1964, the bridge over the Tietê river was dismantled for the straightening of the river course and no replacement bridge was built. This forced passengers to detrain about three miles for São Paulo downtown and to change to buses. So many customers abandoned the railroad, as it was more comfortable to take a bus direct to São Paulo center. Heavy rain during the beginning of 1965 damaged severely the railroad. As public authorities decided not to repair this damages, the railroad came into agony and would dead melancholically in May of this same year.
Between 1968 and 1975 the initial section of the Tramway Cantareira was rebuilt as an elevated line of São Paulo Metro, reaching Santana. This line was further extended in the 1990's to Tucuruvi, again like a rebuilding of that railroad. In fact, it would be more opportune - and probably much more cheaper - to São Paulo people that the Tramway Cantareira would be revamped instead of completely dismantled in 1965.
This info about Tramway Cantareira was mainly extracted from the out-of-print book Brazilian Steam Album - Plus & Minus Two Footers, by Charles S. Small.
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Last Update: 01 September 2001
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© Antonio Augusto Gorni