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Sao Paulo Railway

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Muji viaducts

Brief history of the railway here, which includes photos of the preserved winding engine and its house at Paranapiacaba (Paranapiacaba was established as a company town for the employees of São Paulo Railway).

See also here[1]

The first photo on this page shows the 1860s Muji Viaduct in the foreground, and the 1890s bridge in the background.[2]

First Railway

A correspondent of the Times sends from the port of Santos, Brazil, the description of a somewhat remarkable engineering feat, by which railway from that port into the interior attains in the course of five miles of mountain a steep elevation of 2600 feet: The San Paulo Railway, a line in the hands of English capitalists and English directors, runs from the port of Santos into the country to the village of Jundiahy, a distance of 88 miles, touching on its course the capital city of San Paulo. Eight miles from Santos commences the vast mountain chain which runs along the coast for hundreds of miles, and is known as the Serra do Mar. It seems to assume its grandest proportions at the only point where the province of San Paulo can be entered from the sea, and it is this point that science has been called upon to grapple with the tremendous difficulty of crossing the dividing ridge. From Santos to the commencement of the ascent the railway runs over a swampy country wretchedly rotten, and reeking with miasma, till, crossing the Cutatao River, eight miles from the sea, it approaches, by a woody defile in the rocks, the gorge of which it has to climb, till, 2600 ft above, it passes out through an opening in the heights on to the campos, over which it runs on into the interior of the province. It is this enormous ascent which gives to the undertaking its emphatic character. Passing the river, and each step becoming more and more confined, the black defiant ravine is suggestive of anything rather than an outlet for a railway course, which goes winding and ascending, crossing mountain torrents, leaping gloomy chasms, cutting through solid rocks, still working upwards, till at length, after five miles of such Titanic effort, it passes out to the “open.” The transit is accomplished as follows:—

'The entire ascent is divided into four “ lifts,” or inclines of of a mile and a quarter each, running at a gradient of 1 in 10. A level platform, or bankhead,” marks the summit of each incline, and at the upper end of the platform is a stationary engine. This engine has double cylinders of 26in diameter, with 5ft. stroke, and has been calculated to haul fifty tons at the rate ten miles per hour. Five boilers of the Cornish description are placed with each engine. On the upper half of each incline there is double line of rails, with arrangements for passing places on the middle of each of these “lifts.” A single line of rails then runs on from the centre to the foot of each of the four divisions into which the ascent is divided. A steel wire rope, 1 3/4" diameter, is made for pulling up the ascending trains. This rope, tested to a weight far exceeding the requirements that will be made upon it, passes over friction wheels, and is attached to the fly-wheel shaft. The inclines are therefore partially self-acting, at the same time passing one train down to the foot of the Serra, and drawing up another to the higher levels on its way out to the province beyond.

'The above description of one of these inclines will serve for the whole. The mechanical contrivance is in each case substantially the same, and the nature of the steep over which the line passes varies very little. Everywhere, a wild defiant, frowning majesty marks the scenery through which these wonderful inclines wind their serpentine way. On the third division, however, there is a ravine, more gloomy than any other. This "Bocca do Inferno," for it is called, is 900 ft. in span on the level of the railway, and is crossed by a viaduct, resting upon clusters of iron columns, which spring up from enormous stone piers 200 ft. below the centre of the line which passes over them. The "Bocca do Inferno" is now alive with human activity, which loads the air with music ; men are swarming in the clefts of the rocks at every available point, and great efforts are being made to connect the two sides of the ravine, so that trains may pass over it, and the whole ascent may made ready for the public.

'The completion of the four divisions of the incline is therefore not far distant. The first division was actually in operation at the time of his writing (July 30th), and he was present at the inauguration. The speed in ascending, at first very slow, quickly improved, and the motion smoother, and in 8 minutes they were on the level platform which forms the “bankhead” of the first lift of the inclines, having passed at the centre point the down train, which was running on to the level below. Once or twice, on our ascent, the train came to standstill, and the ascending and descending carriages were suspended and held fast midway on their courses, by way of demonstrating the absolute safety and control in which all the operations were held by those who had charge of the machinery on the levels above us. As might be expected, such a feat has excited great interest in the country, the Brazilians having been long incredulous as to the possibility of scaling the mountain ridge in such manner.'[3]

1866 The ironwork of the impressive Mugi Viaduct was supplied by the Ashbury Ironworks of Openshaw, Manchester. The steeply inclined girders crossed undulating terrain and a river, supported by ten iron piers seated on masonry pillars. The iron piers were assembled from flanged cast iron 'pipes' with wrought iron cross-bracing. The tallest pier was about 150 ft high. There were ten spans of lightweight lattice girders, 4 ft 6" deep, 66 ft 2" long, and one of 45 ft. The viaduct was built with a curve of 30 chains radius. The contractors were Sharp of London (Robert Sharpe and Sons?). Their engineers and agents were Mr Henderson A.I.C.E., succeeded by A. L. Light, M.I.C.E. Also employed on the works were Messrs Kitching (Ketchum?), E. and W. Ware, Kirkwood, Topham, J. Bolland, Madely, Ramsey, Rupert Swindell, and Edward Willis. The Engineer-in-Chief was James Brunlees, and the Resident Engineers were D. Makinson Fox M.I.C.E. and W. H. Rankin, M.I.C.E.[4]

Photo of preserved 1860s winding engine [6] and here.

Second Railway

Due to increasing traffic, a second rope-hauled system was constructed between 1895 and 1901, with five sets of winding machinery on the 10.5 km route.

The following snippets are condensed from an excellent blog (in Portuguese) by Carlos H Deusdara[5]

The construction work began in 1896, under William Speers as the S.P.R. Superintendent. Bullivant and Co were the main contractors, and D. Makinson Fox was hired as a consulting engineer.

Engineers in charge of the various parts of the project were James C. Madeley, James Fforde, Emilio A. H. Schnoor, F. Stewart, Francis Hull, and Henrique Gursching.

The new line was to run parallel with the original line, but with a smaller maximum gradient, necessitating 5 inclined planes instead of 4. The new system would have endless wire ropes powered by 1000 HP engines, instead of the original 'tail end' balanced system with 500 HP engines. The trains were headed by 0-4-0 steam locomotives which gripped onto the cable. The ascending and descending loads were to be balanced as far as possible, minimising the power from the haulage engine. The wire ropes when new were rated at 97 tons tensile load, but were only loaded to 12 tons.

Boiler Houses (Casa de Caldeiras): Each had four Lancashire boilers supplied by Thomas Beeley and Son, rated at 150 psi maximum. Depending on the demand, two or three boilers were in steam, while at least one was always in reserve.

20 brake locomotives (Locobreques) were supplied. Of these, 4 are still in Paranapiacaba in good working order, while another 3 are derelict. One is at Jundiaí station, another on display at the maintenance yard between Estação da Luz and Julio Prestes Station, and two others were being restored at ABPF workshops, near the Immigration Museum at Brás. The fate of the other 8 locomotives is not known.

From 1974 the 2nd funicular system was gradually deactivated and replaced by a new technology, using a rack and pinion system, built by the Brazilian government, in the same section, where the first line of the funicular was inaugurated in 1867. The engine house of the last level, in Paranapiacaba, was preserved. The second funicular system was discontinued in 1982.

The haulage machinery was made by Yates and Thom of Blackburn. Photo of one of the massive flywheels here. They evidently supplied replacement items in 1929 and 1934: see photos here.

Photos of derelict 1895-1901 works and winding engine here.

Photo of derelict Corliss-type engine at 3rd stage here and here.

A Report from 1921

Trains Hauled 2,600 Feet Up Incline by Cable — Extends from Santos to Tablelands
There is only one railroad in the world entitled to the name of the Coffee Railroad: it is the Sao Paulo Railway, says a writer in the February Pan-American Magazine. This pre-eminence has been acquired through the fact that practically its whole business is concerned with the production and transportation of coffee grown on the red-earth tablelands to the seaport of Santos, whence 1,500 steamers carry it annually to all quarters of the globe.
The annual crop varies from 10,000,000 to 14,000,000 bags of 132 pounds each, an aggregate of 660,000 to 924,000 tons of high-grade freight, on which a high tariff may be reasonably imposed. As a result the Sao Paulo Railway is perhaps the richest in the world, as it commonly pays its stockholders annual dividends ranging up to 50 per cent.
This railroad is notable in the engineering world for its unusual structural features. Nowhere else have similar difficulties of the same extent been presented to the railroad engineer, and nowhere else have they been more skilfully overcome. The plateau on which the coffee plant flourishes lies at an average elevation of 2,600 feet above sea level. The face of this lofty terrace is abrupt, and impossible to ordinary railroad construction.
The engineers, therefore, decided upon an incline to be operated by a cable. The enormous weight of a cable reaching to the summit made it necessary to divide the height into five sections, each of the inclines to be operated separately as a unit. These sections were laid out about 1 1/4 miles in length, separated by bankheads of 425 feet. The total climb is thus overcome in a little more than 6 1/2 miles, an average rise of about 400 feet to the mile. The actual grade on the inclines is eight feet in the hundred.
The cables are 1 11/16 inches in diameter, made of six strands of smaller cables of steel wires wound upon hemp cores. They work at a strain of 12 tons and have a breaking strength of 96 tons. Each of them is spliced into an endless circuit, and passes eight times round the winding drums at the top of its section. It is kept taut under all conditions of temperature and load by a weighted carriage at the bottom of the section.

This carriage has a horizontal pulley 14 feet in diameter round which the loop of the cable passes. The carriage runs upon a track 105 feet in length, with a grade of one to eight and wire ropes from its truck run to the lower end of the track and over pulleys to a weight of five tons hanging freely in a pit. As the cable expands the carriage is pulled downward by the sinking weight, and vice versa. For 33 years this device has worked perfectly without an accident.
Except in the center of the inclines only three rails are laid, the middle one being used by both the up-going and down-coming trains. At the center of each incline a passing place is provided, the middle rail being forked so as to provide two complete two-rail tracks for a few yards. The operating cable is supported in its bed on 16-inch steel sheaves (idlers) set 29 l/2 feet apart on the straight track and 19 1/2 on curves. The minimum radius permitted in these curves is 1,850 feet.

The hoisting engine at the head of each section is of 1,000 h.p., and is operated by an engineer stationed on an elevated platform where he has his train in full view for the entire distance of his section. Besides he is informed of the position of his train by an indicator before him moving on diagram as the train moves.
The train is of three passenger cars or six freight cars. It is attached to the cable by a locomotive brake-van, operated by a crew of two men. The brake-van carries a picking-up mechanism, the cable nipper (of the Bullivant type), hand brakes, an automatic vacuum brake, and two emergency grip-rail brakes, one for each rail.

The train comes from Santos for a few miles along the littoral with an ordinary locomotive. When the incline is reached the locomotive is detached, and the brake-van takes its place at the lower end of the train, picks up the cable and grips it, and thus pushes the train to the summit of the incline. Here the cable is dropped, and the brake-van, running by its own steam as a locomotive, pushes the train along the bankhead level to the foot of the next incline, grips that cable, and so continues until the summit of the plateau is attained. A regular double track is laid on the bankheads, so that trains may pass at such points.
The natural difficulties of the route were tremendous, requiring 19 tunnels, 16 viaducts, and the construction of two miles of retaining walls.
The entire railway is 87 miles in length, running from Santos to Jundiahy, and passing through the city of Sao Paulo, 50 miles from Santos. The surveys, plans, and details of construction were worked out under the direction of James C. Madley, and the actual work of building the road was directed by James Fforde, who afterward became the railway’s chief engineer. Emilio A. H. Schnoor was division engineer of the section comprising the inclines, and D. M. Fox and A. McKerrow were the consulting engineers.'[6]

See here for a 1905 description of the railway, with facts and figures about numbers of locomotives, etc.[7]. Information includes the fact that the railway had maintenance workshops at Lapa, near Sao Paulo, equipped with an iron and brass foundry. The erecting shop had two rope-driven 30-ton cranes by Craven Brothers. Craven Bros also supplied some of the machine tools, with others from Sharp, Stewart and Co and other makers.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Railway Wonders of the World - A Gateway to Brazil - The Trunk Line that Climbs a Precipice
  2. 'Wonders of World Engineering', ed. Clarence Winchester, publ. The Fleetway House
  3. Hull and Eastern Counties Herald - Thursday 8 September 1864
  4. [2] The Engineer, 23 November 1866, pp 406-8
  5. [3] Blog 'Os novos planos inclinados: a 2a funicular ou Serra Nova' by Carlos H Deusdara, 28th January 2012
  6. [4] The Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, March 1921
  7. [5] 'Through Five Republics of South America; a critical description of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Venezuela in 1905' by Percy Falcke Martin,