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Trams of Olinda

The first public transportation to exist in Recife was the diligence. Drawn by four horses, sometimes having two floors, it was also called bus.

Trams of Olinda

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 28/07/2022

By: Lúcia Gaspar - Librarian of the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation - Specialist in Scientific Documentation

Who Goes to Farol It's the Olinda TramYou say you like me


But it can only be a hot game
Why do you lie so much?
Who goes to the lighthouse is the tram from Olinda
Who goes to the lighthouse is the tram from Olinda.
You tell everyone you're a millionaire
But I only see you walking
This habit of lying, my dear, is not appropriate
Travel at least on the loré [second-rate tram]
you say you like me
But it can only be a hot game
Why do you lie so much?
Who goes to the lighthouse is the tram from Olinda
Who goes to the lighthouse is the tram from Olinda.
You know I know and everyone already talks
But you want to hide me
Confess soon and stop pantin' for me
that you live and deceive me

The construction of a road linking Recife to Olinda began in 1817, passing through Santo Amaro das Salinas, where a dump had been made and whose route, in a straight line, considerably reduced the journey. Due to the conflicts resulting from the 1817 revolution, the construction was abandoned.

In 1841, during Francisco do Rego Barros’ mandate, who was the Count of Boa Vista (1837-1844), the construction was reinitiated under the responsibility of the then chief engineer of the Department of Public Works of Pernambuco, Louis Lèger Vauthier, who also considered important the construction of a railroad linking the two towns.

The first public transportation to exist in Recife was the diligence. Drawn by four horses, sometimes having two floors, it was also called bus.

In 1847, this type of transport began to circulate between Recife and Olinda, after the completion of the Tacaruna bridge.

Once completed the works to extend the Tacaruna road until Varadouro, a gunpowder merchant, residing in Apipucos, Cláudio Dubeux, hired, in 1855, the capital’s bus services to the suburbs of Olinda, publishing the schedules and prices of passages in the newspapers:

[...] there will be a bus to Olinda, in all business days, which will go there at 6am, and will return at 7am so that it can be found here at 8am and at 2pm, with the passages costing 20$/month for subscribers and 500 rs. for non-subscribers. [...]

In 1870, the bus would make two round trips connecting the two cities at the following times: 7 am and 4 pm, going from Recife to Olinda, returning to Olinda at 8:30 am and 5:30 pm.

The bus carried people between the two cities until 1871, when the trains from Companhia Trilhos Urbanos started to run, with the famous Maxambombas (a corruption of the English term machine pump). They were steam locomotives (known as Maria Fumaças) with open cabins, two or three wagons, and with one or two floors.

The first steam trains arrived in Olinda on June 24, 1870, still in provisional traffic. Mário Sette, in his book Barcas de vapor, thus describes the event:

[...] Soon Varadouro heard the “civilizing whistle” of the locomotive. They rubbed their eyes to believe it. But it was a reality: one Maxambomba was coming straight from the shed at Rua da Aurora until the Varadouro entrance, and, soon after, until the two-gated mansion at the Carmo courtyard. That’s what I call progress! In 24 hours two thousand people traveled in the Maxambomba […].

The people quickly grew accustomed to the train. No sooner had the machinist sounded the 5 minute whistle, than everyone was quickly finding their favorite seat: in the grids gap or in the salon-car. […] But there already were those who complained about the machine’s smoke… They might have preferred canoes… They are from every age…

The Companhia de Trilhos Urbanos do Recife a Olinda e Beberibe, at the time had 13,273km of extension, of which 8,823km were from the line to Olinda. It had six locomotives and thirty passenger cars, with eighteen first classes, six second, and six third.

The route from Recife to the Varadouro station could be made in approximately 30 minutes. After that, an extension until the Carmo courtyard was opened, with the rails following a route parallel to the sea.

The old Maxambomba station, close to Largo do Carmo, was a starting point for a rail that went from Olinda until Boa Viagem, passing through Estrada de Belém, Beberibe, Estrada Velha de Água Fria, Caxangá, Rua Imperial and Centro do Recife.

From 1915 on, the connection between Recife and Olinda began to be made through electric trams. A good and accessible transportation, the trips were comfortable, happy and fun. During the route people talked; made business; discussed soccer, politics, theater and literature; people read papers, flirted and made friendships. The vehicles were clean, safe and pretty. One could travel peacefully in them.

In 1916, the trams from Companhia de Trilhos Urbanos do Recife a Olinda e Beberibe had their central station at Rua da Aurora, number 38. From there went trams to many districts of Recife, and a branch that went to the city of Olinda stopping at the following stations: Hipódromo, Campo Alegre, Campo Grande, Salgadinho, Duarte Coelho, Santa Tereza, Varadouro, Milagres e Carmo.

With few lines in the beginning, electric trams quickly gained the suburbs of Recife in all directions, as well as the line for the city of Olinda, making great competition against horse-drawn vehicles and the Maxambombas . Acquired by the firm Pernambuco Tramways and Power Company Limited, the little trains of Companhia de Trilhos Urbanos do Recife a Olinda e Beberibe (after called Brazilian Street Railway Company ), continued its activity in the longer routes, such as Olinda, Beberibe and Dois Irmãos, until the early 1920s.

After the closure of the activities of the companies responsible for the animal traction trams and Maxambombas , the streetcar was the absolute mass transit in Recife and Olinda .

An agreement between the city of Olinda and Tramways in 1927, enabled the urban rails to be moved to the center of Avenida Sigismundo Gonçalves, aiming to improve local traffic.

In 1928, Pernambuco Tramways was acquired by a U.S. group that kept the same name and promoted reform in vehicles, modernizing them. The trams were closed and became more aerodynamic, being called “Zeppelins” by the people, at the time a great sensation in the skies of the world. On June 7, the Farol de Olinda line was opened.

There were two known types: Zeppelin and Cristaleira, whose fame crossed borders. The Zeppelin, considered the most beautiful, was used only in the Olinda line, considered the chic line. It led a trailer, also closed and of the same size of the engine-car. The Cristaleira, closed and glazed, circulated in the Olinda and Espinheiro lines, in Recife. Both only transported passengers who were well-dressed and wore shoes.

In 1936 , the trams of the Recife - Olinda line had their starting point in Praça Rio Branco and after a journey through the streets and bridges of the city went through Avenida Cruz Cabugá , covering the following itinerary Olinda: Rua do Rosário, Rua Santos Dumont. Av. Sigismundo Gonçalves, Praça do Carmo, Rua do Sol e Avenida Rio Doce.

In the 1940s, the decline of the tram as public transport in Recife and Olinda was beginning, until their total extinction in the mid 1950s.

Tram 104 was the only one preserved, at first being exposed at river Capibaribe on Rua da Aurora, and in 1985, donated to the Joaquim Nabucco Foundation, where it is on display in the gardens of the Museu do Homem do Nordeste.

Recife, 11 January 2011

sources consulted

ARAÚJO, Rita de Cássia Barbosa de. As praias e os dias: história social das praias do Recife e de Olinda. Recife: Prefeitura, Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 2007.

BONDES no Brasil: Recife/Pernambuco. Available at: <>. Accessed: 5 jan. 2011.

DE Olinda a Boa Viagem, nos trilhos. Available at: <<>. Accessed: 5 jan. 2011.

SANTOS, Dalvino. Olinda que eu conheci. Anuário de Olinda, Olinda, p. 24-25, 1961-1961.

SETTE, Mário. Barcas de vapor: cenas do passado brasileiro. São Paulo: Edições Cultura, 1945.

SETTE, Mário. Transportes do Recife. Arquivos, Recife, ano 1, n.2, p. 125-143, nov. 1942.

TRÁFEGO urbano e suburbano: bondes. Annuario de Pernambuco para 1936: Suplemmento dos Diario da Manhã e Diario da Tarde, Recife, p.23, 1936.

how to quote this text

GASPAR, Lúcia. Trams of Olinda. In: PESQUISA Escolar. Recife: Fundação Joaquim Nabuco, 2011. Available from: Access on: Month. day, year. (Ex.: Feb. 10, 2021.)