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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Rio to the Rockies

By good fortune my daughter and son in law are now tourists in Colorado. This assures this Blog of images from a part of the United States I never got to visit and hence very much an unknown as far as trams and streetcars are concerned. I do however have some books covering the region's transport history and am aware that Denver's former streetcar system went by the name of 'Denver Tramways' - itself something of a rarity in North America. The 'tram' as we know it in the US is either a cableway car or one of those replica motorised tourist trains masquerading as a streetcar but on rubber tires. This has to be a somewhat wretched misuse of the British nomenclature.....

Having already sampled Denver Area Rapid Transit's light rail system with its Siemens designed units a bike ride in proximity to the city this week they found a protected and well preserved / restored open cross bench car parked near a highway bridge. Not known to the writer insofar as its current ownership or status is concerned, it is however one of a sizeable group of similar 'trams' imported back into the US in the 1960s by an enterprising US' traction fan' from the then closing Rio de Janiero city system. A cooperative initiative by several US trolleymuseums at the time provided funds for the purchase and shipping of up to a dozen similar open cross bench cars from Rio. They were then dispersed among museum (and other) purchasers to eventually end up for the most part being restored to full operating condition around the United States.

I recall seeing at least four or five examples during my time living and working in the NorthEast US. Two forlorn cars were stored outside at the Warehouse Point Museum in Connecticut in their dull green Rio colours. One other and possibly two made it to the Pennsylvania rural setting at Orbisonia to join period Brill built enclosed cars from Oporto as well as a varied display of streetcars from the region. In this case the Rio car had been repainted into a smart green livery and was operating. One or two further examples went to the 'Old Threshers Working Museum' in the mid-west where an ambitious working line is put to work around a very large site during the annual agricultural and farming festival at the Museum; drawing tens of thousands of visitors for a mix of cattle, threshing machinery, steam traction engines, electric trams and a host of other displays. Other ex Rio examples have migrated? to diverse locations and been transferred between groups in the US over the years.

Former Rio de Janiero 1877 (retaining its original Rio fleet number) now in a smart US yellow and white livery stored just outside Denver on railroad trackage. A neat perspex screen on the rear platform may conceal a generator unit to provide power on the line which has no overhead wiring. Note the equally neat generator exhaust pipe extruding over to the rear of the car over the clerestory roof. Ownership and status of this car is not known, Just one of those interesting 'finds' one stumbles across (in this case on a bike ride in 27 degree heat) in the USA. Image : Steven Meyer-Rassow

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