October 9, 1884
In the present-day Federative Republic of Brazil, the Corcovado Rack Railway made its debut in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, Rio de Janeiro was the capital of the Empire of Brazil. Emperor Dom Pedro II officially inaugurated the railway, which transports passengers between the neighborhood of Cosme Velho and the summit of the 2,326-foot (710-meter) Corcovado mountain.
As a rack railway, this transit service is equipped to operate on significantly steep grades. The specific rack system used for the service had been developed by the 19th-century Swiss engineer Niklaus Riggenbach. This system involves the use of a fixed ladder consisting of steel plates or channels that are linked by rods.
During the Corcovado Rack Railway’s first 26 years of service, the trains running on the line were powered by steam. This changed in 1910 when it became the first railway to be electrified in Brazil. The Railway is one of the few in the world that still relies on both three-phase electric power – a method of alternating current electric power generation, transmission, and distribution –and two overhead wires for traction.
Since its first several years of existence, the Corcovado Rack Railway has been heavily used as the key means for people to reach the top of Corcovado mountain for a bird’s-eye view of Rio de Janeiro and its beaches. By the early 1930s, ridership on the railway increased even more with the completion of the Art Deco statue known as Christ the Redeemer at the mountain’s summit. This internationally renowned 98-foot (30-meter)-tall statue has become a leading cultural symbol of Rio de Janeiro and one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Many people use the Railway just to get a closer look at the statue.
With a line length of 2.4 miles (3.8 kilometers), the Corcovado Rack Railway operates on a daily basis with a total of four trains. Each of these trains consists of two cars. More than 600,000 people use the railway each year to get to the summit of the mountain. Some of the more famous passengers over the years have included theoretical physicist Albert Einstein; aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont; Pope John Paul II; and Diana, Princess of Wales.
For more information on the Corcovado Rack Railway, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corcovado_Rack_Railway.