When you want to entertain a 7-year old boy, you probably can’t go wrong with trains or trams. And such was the case today, with the Porto Tramcar Museum and my grandson Ethan.
A system of historical electric-powered trams still operates in the old town area of Porto, with three distinct lines.
- Line #1 is also known as the riverside line. It runs along the north bank of the Douro River between the historic centre of Porto and the garden of Passeio Alegre (close to the mouth of the river).
- Line #18, or the Restore Line, runs between the Church of Carmo and the Tramcar Museum on the north bank of the Douro.
- Line #22, the Low Line, runs a circular route around the historic area of the city (also passing by the Carmo Church)
Single journey tickets can be purchased onboard, from the driver, for 3 Euros per person. Two-day (multi-journey) tickets cost 10 Euros for adults and 5 Euros for children aged 4-12 years. Monthly tickets are also available.
We boarded our tram at the #18 line stop opposite the Carmo Church and I was instantly struck by the age and beauty of the vehicle. Built in 1930, tram #218 exudes the style of a bygone era with it’s wooden interior and orange padded seats. The open windows allowed a gentle breeze to flow through the tram as we trundled and rattled down the streets to the riverside. The pleasant ride was over too soon, as we pulled up outside the Tramcar Museum. Before heading into the museum, we watched as the driver took his handle and other equipment to the opposite end of the tram. He switched around the overhead electricity pole and then adjusted the backs of the seats, so that they were facing the opposite direction. And then the tram set off, back in the direction it had come from. So cool!
General admission into the museum costs 8 Euros for adults but we were able to take advantage of the family rates – 5 euros for adults and 4 euros for accompanying children. So, our total admission for three came to 14 euros. Very reasonable.
The Museo do Carro Electico (or Tramcar Museum) aims to provide an exhibit where history and technology intersect to show the evolution of the electric tram network of Porto that, in the first 45 years, was fed by energy produced by the century-old Massarelos Thermoelectric Power Plant. To that end, the museum is split into two sections. The ground floor displays a number of trams that operated in Porto over the years. The upper level houses the Sala Das Maquinas (Machine Hall) where the electricity generating machinery is displayed.
The tramcars in the display hall are arranged so that the older cars are viewed first, leading to more recent models and then the working cars. Signage for each tramcar includes a description in Portuguese and English. Some of the tramcars have closed doors but visitors can climb aboard any of them that have open doors. This provides a great interactive experience, especially for children.
Horse-drawn tramcar number 8 probably commenced work in Porto about 1870. This type of vehicle first appeared in the USA around 1832, so became known as the American car.
Electric tramcar number 163 was probably acquired at the beginning of the 20th century. It has features that resemble tramcars built by the John George Brill Company, Ltd (USA). It was fully restored to its original condition in 1992/93.
Electric tramcar number 100 is a replica of a cross-bench car that was lost in a fire in 1928. At least two cross-bench cars were in use from 1910. They were first pulled by mules and were subsequently powered by steam and then electricity.
Tramcar 247 was acquired in 1909 and became known as ‘the British’ because it was built by the British company “United Electric Car Company” of Preston.
Electric tramcar number 315 was one of 16 tramcars that were built in Porto in 1929 and 1930. It had eight slide-up windows on each side that would be removed during the summer. Smoking was permitted when the tramcar was operating without windows, so it became known as ‘the Smoker’.
Tramcar number 288 was one of ten tramcars that were purchased from a Belgian company in 1928. They were bought to replace some of the 30 tramcars that were burned in a fire in 1928, and became known as ‘the Belgians’.
Tramcar 269 was part of the 266-269 series known as ‘Smoker’. This model had 11 slide-up windows on each side. 269 is the largest of the tramcars on display, weighing 16 tons and measuring 11.74 metres long.
Goods wagon number 80 is a trailer that was used to transport fish baskets from the fish market at Matosinhos to the markets of Porto. The fish baskets were placed on the trailer whilst the ‘fishwives’ rode on the tramcar that pulled the trailer. The trailer was probably built around 1932 in Porto.
Motor overhead repair car number 49 was built in 1932, in Porto. It was used to repair overhead wires.
Coal car number 66 was used to transport coal, ashes, goods and materials to repair tracks.
Hansa Lloyd overhead repair vehicle. Bought from Germany in 1929. Equipped with a 3,970cc engine, it allowed more flexibility in the repair of overhead lines. It has an elevating platform and its double cab can seat five people.
Trolley car number 23 is a single-deck bus built by the Italian brand BUT Leyland.
After seeing these amazing old tramcars, we went upstairs to see all of the equipment in the Machine Hall.
The tramcars were an interesting way to spend a couple of hours and Ethan loved being able to climb onto several of them. Definitely worth a visit for any family with young boys.