Tram # 28

12/07/2019 09:39

The Portuguese capital has five tram lines in its public transport network, some of them equipped with old cars that have been reset to keep them fit. Among them the most classic is the one that follows the line number 28, able to ride up the hard slopes on the way to Alfama neighbourhood top hill. 

Tram 28th starts its journey just in front of Prazeres Graveyard, beside Campo de Ourique, a rectilinear streets neighbourhood that seems to be a world apart in the great Lisbon, it follows route towards Estrela neighbourhood, where it has four stops, to go towards the Chiado stopping previously in Luis de Camoes square, following by rua de la Conceiçao crossing the Baixa Pombalina before go into the Alfama, where after roll up in front the cathedral will leave the main part of its passage in Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol viewpoints. It goes down from the Alfama to ascend, again, to Graça. After a few winding bends stopping at Maria Fonte, Maria Andrade, Anjos Church and rua de la Palma, arrives at the end of the track in Martin Moniz Square about forty minutes after the start.

The first company dedicated to public transportation was founded in 1835. It was the Companhia de Carruagens Ômnibus which operated until 1865. Seven years later, in 1872, Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa was founded in Rio de Janeiro, but were moved to the metropolis, where offered its services, four years later.

The first vehicles carrying regular lines for the transport of travellers were the then called American cars since they were supplied by the New York Company John Stephenson. These were drawn by horses and, from November 17, 1873, the lines linked Santa Apolonia station with Santos, west of the city. The routes expanded progressively: in 1874 the service arrived until Belem, four years later to Algés and to Rossio, in 1891 already covered Benfica and Areeiro.

Between 1889 and 1892 some tests were carried out with steam cars that ended up being discouraged in favour of electricity. In 1901 was inaugurated the first line fed in this way, was the one that linked Cais do Sodré, next to the Tagus, with Algés, beyond Belem Tower. Next year, 1902, the entire horse’s fleet withdrew.

The American cars, now electric trams, continued to arrive from the United States by sea until 1914 supplied by the Philadelphia company Brill, while the power line to which were connected trolleys and overhead catenaries was organized by the London company Lisbon Electric Tramway Co., founded in 1899. That year, 1914, line 28 was created, which at that time covered the route between Prazeres and Baixa. Although modified, many of these vehicles were still in operation during the 1990s.

Currently the network managed by Carris is limited to five lines extending over thirty miles whit fifty-eight vehicles circulating. Ten new generation Siemens trams, incorporated in 1995, articulated and numbered with the series 501-510 serving line number 15 between the Rossio and Algés since these can’t accede to the sloping streets with pronounced turns; forty historic cars called today remodelled due to the mechanical transformations that were submitted in the nineties to keep them active, among others were no longer bidirectional, and are characteristic for their yellow colour; and eight light vehicles with more angular shapes introduced between 1947 and 1964. There’s also a pair of tourist trams lines recognizable by their red or green colours operating the Castle Tram Tour and Chiado Tram Tour.

Some of the units withdrawn from service were sold to foreign companies in the United States and New Zealand, also in Soller, where the line that operates between this Majorcan town and the capital, Palma, is made up of several Lisbon origin cars.

Halfway along line 15, at May 1 Street, in Alcantara, before arriving to Belem, is the Museu da Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa, where, since January 12, 1999, the Company treasures in Santo Amaro old station some old cars and multitude of objects related to the capital popular public transport: models, documents, old notes, photographs and twenty-four cars that have not been remodelled. The museum is divided into three sections united, as not, with a tram build up in 1901.

The 28 has become a recurring souvenir of the city to take back home. It is found in any store reduced to a miniature always transportable, in any scale and also, of course, in postcards and tiles. Even a bar, near the castle, on Santa Cruz Street, recreates the inside of one of these cars, allowing to have a drink quietly more comfortably than in a real one.

The Lisbon trams have also been present in country's literature, José Saramago introduced them in O Ano da Morte de Ricardo Reis - The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis- ,  2002: A meio da rua têm os moços de fretes de chegar-se para um lado, e entào aproveitam para arrear a carga, respirar um pouco, porque vem descendo uma fila de carros eléctricos apinhados de gente...( ) enquanto os últimos eléctricos vào passando , vinte e tres foram, se alguém teve a paciència de contà-los, a camino de Torre de Belém, do Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, e outras maravilhas de Lisboa. (In the middle of the street, the freight boys get to one side, and then they take the opportunity to harness the cargo, to breathe a little, because a line of electric cars is coming down crowded... ( ) while the last tram goes twenty-three went by, if anyone had the patience to count them, on the way to Belem Tower,  Jerónimos Monastery, and other wonders of Lisbon).

© J.L.Nicolas


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