Cry God for Carris, remodelados and São Jorge.

"Se Cathedral and the tram is coming!" So writes Olivia O'Brien of this stunning photo, which is used with her permission. Click image for her blog.

I am stepping slightly outside of our usual purview — tramways of the English-speaking countries — for this post in tribute to another blogger’s remarkable photos featuring one of the wonders of the tramway world.

Then again, I’m not really stepping terribly far outside the Anglosphere in this homage to Oliva O’Brien’s blog post about Lisbon’s Tram 28 and Castelo de Sao Jorge. After all, Portugal remains a popular destination for British tourists and expatriates, while vintage trams in Lisbon and Opporto bear a strong family resemblance to American semi-convertible streetcar designs of the early 20th century, from which they are descended. And the São Jorge to which Olivia refers is none other than England’s patron saint, for whom the imposing Moorish castle looming over Lisbon is named.

I first discovered Olivia’s blog post in early May, when it was accorded the honor of being spotlighted on WordPress.Com’s home page under the Freshly Pressed feature. We exchanged emails and Olivia kindly agreed to let me feature her picture in a post on my own blog. I only regret it has taken this long to hold up my end of the bargain!

What, then, are Carris and remodelados?

Carris — formally Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa — is the undertaking which operates Lisbon’s buses, trams and inclines (or funiculars), though not the city’s metro. The system has a long, rich history and remains a vital lifeline for Lisbon today. Savvy travel site Lonely Planet offers tips on using Carris services, while a selection of visitors’ experiences (and photos) can be found on the Virtual Tourist site. The system is a natural draw for tram enthusiasts: Eclectic architecture, topography rivalling San Francisco and a mixture of vintage and modern cars.

Remodelado car 581 makes the rounds on Lisbon's line 12 in June 2010. Photo by Flickr user Trams aux Fils, via Creative Commons license. Click the image to visit his photostream.

Remodelados are 45 single-truck Carris trams (541-585) rebuilt in 1995-96, in which rehabilitated 1930s bodies were equipped with new trucks and electrical equipment. Interestingly, those 1930s bodies were originally built by Carris as an updated local interpretation of  American designs from the early 1900s, using recycled trucks and electrics from imported Brill and — wait for it —São Luís cars. The system was electrified in 1901 with rolling stock from Brill, and during its first two decades relied on American cars from that Philadelphia traction juggernaut, from Brill subsidiary Stephenson and from Midwestern rival St. Louis Car Co. It is amazing to note that with rebuilding and modifications, some cars from the system’s first decade managed to survive in service as late as 1996.

A useful history of the system and its rolling stock can be found at The Trams of Lisbon site maintained by Ernst Kers. A detailed description of the remodelados can be found on The European Tram Blog by Paul Turner. Some atmospheric photos and a colorful historical narrative can be found in Sebastien Ardouin’s post Trams under the rain, Lisbon.

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