INTRODUCTION: The veteran trams of Rio de Janeiro have become as much a part of the bustling Brazilian city as Sugar Loaf mountain.
INTRODUCTION: The veteran trams of Rio de Janeiro have become as much a part of the bustling Brazilian city as Sugar Loaf mountain. The trams are popular with the locals and with the tourists -- providing a constant reminder of a transportation era that has now passed.
SYNOPSIS: Under the shadow of the spectacularly modern Metropolitan Cathedral is an overgrown and ancient terminus. It's here that the trams of Rio begin and end their day's work.
The tram was introduced to Rio in 1959 by Thomas Cochrane--an English doctor. Trams pulled by horses and mules were soon replaced by steam driven vehicles. Just before 1900 these gave way to electric trams.
The tram network mushroomed. In its heyday, Rio boasted a fleet of 800 trams, nearly all built in the U.S. between 1903 and 1915. Most of these relics have since been scrapped or shipped to transportation museums. But a fleet of 12 is still going strong.
From Sugar Loaf to the hilly district of Santa Teresa, the trams -- or "bondes" as they're known locally -- provide a daily service for about 11,000 people.
C.T.C. -- the Brazilian Government owned transport company -- has plans to add a two mile extension to the existing tram line and put another three trams into service. There are long term plans to replace the old cars with new rolling stock, but most of the appeal of the "bondes" with their distinctive livery, open sides and concertina blinds would be lost.
Rio de Janeiro is the only city in the world that still runs such old trams, but according to the locals this is not a sign of underdevelopment or backwardness. They claim it's a quaint and much needed reminder of times when travelling times wasn't so important.