Lisbon’s Trams.

April 6, 2014.

Back in 1996 a European friend said to me, ‘you ought to visit Lisbon, they’ve got some wonderful old trams there.’ Some 18 years later, I finally ticked off that box in my notebook. Better late, than not at all.

Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.

Lisbon is famous for its narrow gauge trams that crawl up narrow and steeply graded streets. This track work is amazing. It’s amazing that it was ever built, and even more so that some of the lines are still worked in 2014!

The old trams are of course a tourist attraction, but like San Francisco’s cable cars, these function as part of the transit system.

Visitors queue to board, much to the delight of local pickpockets. I was forewarned about light-fingered activities, so I took precautionary measures. And, also made a sport of spotting the picks. Not to point fingers, I saw nothing lifted, but I saw some suspicious characters in the queue (who didn’t seem to have any interest in riding a tram).

Steep gradients and colourful old buildings are part of the attraction of Lisbon's tram network. They wouldn't have the same charm serving suburban tower block apartments.
Steep gradients and colourful old buildings are part of the attraction of Lisbon’s tram network. They wouldn’t have the same charm serving suburban tower block apartments.
A tram works up hill by Lisbon's cathedral.
A tram works up hill by Lisbon’s cathedral. Canon EOS 7D photo.
The red trams worked a tourist route. Canon EOS 7D.
The red trams worked a tourist circuit. Canon EOS 7D. 
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014. Tram traffic jam.
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014. Tram traffic jam.
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.

The quirky old cars are enhanced by the colorful tapestry that makes up Lisbon’s old city. Sunny skies were delivered as ordered.

Route number 15 is populated by modern LRV style cars, but passes through some interesting areas and runs parallel to an old heavy-rail commuter rail route.

Modern cars work line 15. Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.
Modern cars work line 15.
Lumix LX3 photo; Lisbon April 6, 2014.
Trams tend to get bunched up in traffic and seem to appear in waves of three or four cars all at once. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Trams tend to get bunched up in traffic and seem to appear in waves of three or four cars all at once. Canon EOS 7D with 200mm lens.
Narrow alleys have barely enough room for single track. Yet, this is a bidirectional line with cars and trucks too. Canon EOS 7D.
Narrow alleys have barely enough room for single track. Yet, this is a bidirectional line with cars and trucks too. Canon EOS 7D.
View from the door of a track-side cafe. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
View from the door of a track-side cafe. Canon EOS 7D with 100 mm lens.
This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Canon EOS 7D.
This car works interlaced track where up-hill and down hill lines overlap. Careful, mind the Volkswagen! Canon EOS 7D.

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3 comments on “Lisbon’s Trams.

  1. Tom Warger on said:

    Outstanding photos! Nice proof, too, that short-radius railed vehicles and electric traction are the perfect answer for inclines and tight clearances.I guess we know that in the US, but mostly as elevators hidden away inside buildings.

    I was born in Cincinnati, but by that time (1952) the inclined railways and the trams were gone.

    I’m putting Portugal on my must-see list. Your scenes in Porto and Lisbon have sold me.

    TW

    • Glad to have helped! As you may know, Frank Sprague’s early wiring of Richmond, VA featured some very steep gradients. Conditions that probably helped sell the electric streetcar in its common form.
      All the best,
      BS

    • Tom Warger on said:

      Didn’t know the Sprague-Richmond history. Will look for that. I’ll be making a business trip to Richmond in June, so (as I usually do before traveling) I’ll do a little research to see whether there are RR sites–active or historical–I can fit into the trip.

      Some of my colleagues in higher ed call that “Ferroequinology.” If you work on campus you get away with being a railfan if you insist it the history that interests you, just as you can get away with being a baseball fan if you insist the Red Sox are your team.
      TW

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