Oporto Trams & Trolleybuses
21 June 2015
Tram no. 205 near Castelo do Queijo
Compiled by John Laidlar
Above: Left, Starbuck trailer no.9, now at the Crich tramway museum in England. Right, Interior of tram 218 (2015).
Oporto (Porto) is Portugal's second city. On 15 May, 1872, the Companhia Carril Americano do Porto a Foz e Matosinhos (CCAPFM) opened a mule-drawn tram line, to 1.435 metre gauge, from Infante on the city's river front downstream to Matosinhos. This later became route 1 of the subsequent STCP system, part of which still operates today. However, Oporto's tram system has fared worse over the years than that of Lisbon in that it has been reduced to a couple of short routes which are as much of museum status as working tramways for the use of the local population. However, the last few years have seen the arrival of the impressive Metro system which has catapulted the city's railed transport system into the 21st century.
By March 1873, the original mule-tram route had been extended into the city centre at the Rua da Restauração and at the other end, of its route had reached Leça da Palmeira. Also in 1873, another tram company, Companhia Carris de Ferro do Porto (CCFP) was established and from 12 August 1874 it ran a standard gauge route from Carmo in the city centre to Foz (which is on the way to Matosinhos) via Boavista. This company soon had five routes operating with destinations which included the main Oporto railway station at Campanhã. The CCFP used 10 Starbuck mule-hauled vehicles purchased from Birkenhead, in England. One of these was a double deck vehicle.
From June 1878 both CCAPFM and CCFP were able to use steam power, using seven locomotives (mostly Henschels) on joint services to Boavista from where mule haulage took over. Finally, in January 1893, CCAPFM and CCFP merged, with the latter's name being used for the combined operation. The first electric service started on 12 September 1895 from Carmo to the Rua do Ouro via Massarelos and this was the first electric system in Iberia. The route was then extended from Massarelos to Infante and employed Cologne-built four-wheel vehicles by Herbrand. Mule haulage ceased in 1904 but steam operation lasted till November 1914.
A new tramway company was set up in competition in 1907 and this was called the Companhia de Viação do Porto (CVP) but it was taken over by CCFP a year later. A 75-year concession was granted by the city council to the CCFP in 1906 and routes grew as a result of this arrangement, including services across the Ponte D. Luís to Vila Nova de Gaia. In 1912-13 a reserved track was created to Castelo do Queijo from Boavista to replace the steam tramway. Non-passenger trams also operated carrying coal and sardines, as well as freight to the port of Leixões.
The original Herbrand electric fleet was initially increased in 1903 by conversion of redundant mule cars using Brill 21E and German trucks. But, from 1905, new purpose-built electric cars were imported from Brill in the USA. From the 1920s the CCFP company itself built its own cars at Boavista using imported materials from Brill in the USA.
The Oporto city council exercised an option to take over the tramway operations from 1946 and the operator since than has been known as the S.T.C.P. (Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto), whose web site is an excellent resource for the visitor. In the 1950s the tram fleet stood at 193 motor vehicles and 24 trailers and the network extended over almost 250km. But from 1959 the network was reduced following the development of bus and trolley bus services. Motor buses had been operated since April 1948 when Daimler single deckers were introduced. And also in 1948 it was decided to introduce trolley buses.
Single-deck trolley bus
In 1958-59, 20 new BUT trolleybuses, with Metrovick motors, were acquired. These were 32-seater single deckers built in Portugal by UTIC. Further tram routes were converted to trolleybus in the 1960s and six more trolleybuses were bought.
Double-treck trolley bus
A further curb to tram operations was the inauguration of a lifting bridge over the river at Leixões which meant that the trams from Oporto had to terminate at Matosinhos. The link from Matosinhos to Leça was subsequently operated by double deck AEC buses which were later replaced by Leyland Atlanteans. The STCP bus livery, which like that of thst trams, had been ochre was altered in 1960 to turquoise and later orange and cream. In 1967-68 the acquisition of 50 double-decker and 25 single-decker Lancia/CGE trolleybuses dealt a further blow to tramway operations. By 1978 only routes 1,3,18 and 19 remained in tram operation and, by 1992, only 33 trams survived of which just 19 were in daily use. By 2004 usually only three or four trams were normally in use at any one time on the truncated routes (see below).
Above: A rather worn tram, no.196, leaves Boavista depot in late May, 1981.
Derived from 249 with 40 seats on German trucks (under Brill licence), these cars were 11.73m long, 2.43m wide and weighed 17.4 tonnes.
Right: Belgian car no. 284, seen at Matosinhos in 1993.
Bogie cars built in 1929 by Ateliers de Construction de Familleureux of Belgium, these stylish vehicles weighed 16 tomnes and were 11.65m long and 2.47m wide.
The city's only surviving tram routes both start here; the tram stop is about 100 metres east of the STCP building. Because of Metro construction works both routes were very truncated in summer 2001. For details see this site's Oporto tram museum page.
The operational fleet in early 2005 comprised eight trams:
Info below courtesy of Mike Russell.
On 16 December 2005, trams returned to Carmo again after an absence of many years when cars 104, 203 and 143, re-inaugurated this former city terminus for route 18, which had been terminating for some years at Viriato on its short route from Massarelos. The local council has also now set about re-opening the line from Carmo to Praça (da Liberdade) in the heart of the city and from there up the hill to Batalha to the upper station of the restored Guindais funicular. This work is set to be completed in 2006, hopefully in time for the annual tram parade, set for 6 May 2006. After this it is hoped to create a circular route around the city going beyond Batalha via Dom Pedro V and back to Carmo. In the interim there will be two-way tram traffic from Carmo via Rua dos Clérigos, Praça and the Rua do 31 de Janeiro to Batalha. STCP also has plans to reinstate services along the coast from Castelo do Queijo to Foz by initially operating westwards from the present Cantereira terminus via Foz and the Avenida do Brasil to Castelo do Queijo. This should be operative in 2007.
New magnetic track brake equipment is being fitted to the operating fleet to ensure there are no runaways on the extended network which has steep inclines on it. There are also plans to realign the track and ease the curves in Rua da Restauração, so that bogie cars can run up the steep hill via Viriato to Carmo. Traffic is growing and to cope, the remaining stored bogie cars are all to be overhauled and returned to service. These include a number of carros belgas.