A New, Improved Tramcar Made Its Debut in Brazil

July 2, 1883

In southeast Brazil’s state of Rio de Janeiro, the tramway system Companhia Carris Urbanos received government authorization to operate a new kind of tramcar. (At the time, the present-day Federative Republic of Brazil was part of the Empire of Brazil.)

The battery-powered tram car adopted for use by the Companhia Carris Urbanos was designed by Carlos Basto, a Portuguese citizen who had settled in Brazil. Basto was granted patent number 16 in the Empire of Brazil a little over four months earlier; in addition, he had been granted patent number 771 in his native Portugal the previous year. In a similar application that he filed with the U.S. Patent Office towards the end of 1883, Basto stated that his car “differs considerably from those heretofore used on tramways.”

A key feature of Basto’s car was its versatility in traveling on wide-ranging types of terrain along the same route. Basto noted in his U.S. patent application, “Certain portions of my invention are applicable to tramway-lines now in common use where the grades are not of such steepness as to render the tractions by means of the natural adherence due to the weight of the cars and their contents difficult or impossible, while certain other portions of the invention are particularly applicable to lines having steep grades, and constitute a peculiar system of tracks and of cars.” Basto, incidentally, was granted U.S. patent number 319,947 for his design in 1885.

The Companhia Carris Urbanos officially placed Basto’s tram car into service within three months after being allowed to do so. The car quickly proved its worth. It consistently traveled both backward and forward at six miles (10 kilometers) per hour, even on grades as steep as six percent. One of this car’s most renowned passengers was Emperor Dom Pedro II. The 57-year-old monarch of the Empire of Brazil took a ride in this innovative form of transit in March 1884.

Additional information on the use of Carlo Basto’s tramcar by the Companhia Carris Urbanos is available at http://www.tramz.com/br/ni/ni.html.

For more information on Basto’s tramcar design, please check out Carlos Basto – U.S. Patent .

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