Barroso, july 3, 1881.
Mr. J. M. R. Lisboa C. E.
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure to meet your chief of traffic Snr. Paulo Freitas at Sitio station who took charge of us, placed us confortably on the train of your narrow gauge line and brought us in less than two hours to this place, where we were kindly welcomed and hospitably entertained by himself and Mrs. Freitas.
Understanding that you are expected here in a few days, I desire to leave this note for you, stating briefly my impressions of your 30 inch gauge railway, now in operation from Sitio to Barroso, and soon to be opened to S. João d’El-Rei, 100 kilometers from Sitio.
We were accompanied by my friend Professor Derby and Sr. Washington d’Aguiar attached to our commission, and also by Mr. Paist, an American recently arrived from the Baldwin locomotive Works, who desired to see the working of the locomotive on this 30 inch gauge track. He is very much pleased with its performance.
We rode most of the way on the engine, some in front and some in the cab, and I had an excellent opportunity of seeing the road, its location and construction and also to note the behavior of the locomotive and train.
We travelled at the rate of 30 kilometers per hour, making the 49 kilometers including stops, in less than two hours. – The line – as I expected to find, abounds with strong curves, which, in fact are the chief means of economizing the cost of the construction, by fitting it to the contours of the country. I was particularly struck with the ease and entire absence of side – jolting with which the engine and cars traversed the track around these curves.
The grade lines, with a maximum of 2 per cent and the curves are laid with remarkable precision through the 49 kilometers, and the entire track, without exception, is in first rate order and exhibits unmistakable evidence of experienced and careful management. (*)
The bridges, with stone abutments and piers, and trussed-timber superstructures are amply strong, and present a very neap appearance.
The culverts, so far as I could see them, appear to be substantial and of sufficient capacity.
All the works appear to have been judiciously and economically planned, at the same time they are appropriate to the purposes for which they are designed.
The passenger cars are strong and neat, with sixteen separate confortable seats in each. When hereafter, the number of the passengers becomes materially greater, the hording capacity of these cars can be nearly doubled by introducing (omnibus) side-seats in place of the present turning seats.
I am satisfied also, that all of the cars – passenger and others – can, if desired, be made one foot wider with perfect safety.
It’s quite clear to me, that this narrow gauge track (2 fts 6) as an engineering work, is a complete success; and I have no doubt that the future business and moderate cost of running, under good management, will prove it to be a success in all respects.
I learn from Dr. Paulo Freitas that the whole cost, including stations, buildings, locomotives and cars, is only about 18 contos per kilometer; yet, much of the way, the line is located through a hilly, difficult region.
I am now more firmly than ever convinced that the introduction of narrow gauge railways no weder than 30 inches – the gauge of your Oeste de Minas line, will in many parts of Brazil, prove to be the most advantageous for the people and government, as feeders for main-trunk railways; and also as local lines running to ports on the coast.
We have already in the United States a successful passenger and freight railways of 2 feet gauge. Such railways are of course not designed for great thoroughfares, or grand trunk lines; but they are fitting and economical adjuncts of traffic movements in their appropriate places.
My impression is, that when time shall have established the success of this narrow gauge line, and when its practical merits shall become generally known and understood, it will be the iore-runner of others, of no wider gauge, in many other places where there is no sufficient traffic to warrant the construction of costly lines.
Why should the people, anywhere, be saddled with a railway costing 60 to 80 contos or more per kilometer, when the business they have to offer will not pay the interest and the running expenses in carrying only a light traffic?
I sincerely hope that the result upon this line will exceed your anticipations.
With the kindest regards, I have the honor to remain
Your friend and
W. MILNOR ROBERTS
(*) I saw the locomotive that had been thrown from the track in june, but it was not caused by thing wrong in the engine. Such an accident might happen on any new line, of any gauge.
Rio de Janeiro's National Library - Rare Books Session.
Sitio Station: Dom Pedro II (broad gauge line) and Oeste de Minas (the narrow one) railways, 1880. Photo by Oeste de Minas Ry.