The charm of streetcars in La Paz … trams should be back!

Isabel Velasco writes and remembers beautifully in El Diario. Tram pictures were dowloaded from the internet:

The charm of streetcars in La Paz

Isabel VelascoTo protect us from the evil of the “micro”, “minibus” and “radio taxis” that suffer the paceños, we evoke nostalgically to the friendly and cheerful trams, silent witnesses of a thousand and one romances, bickering, criticism, talks and political intrigue confessor of sorrow and guilt, concealing stolen kisses, marital quarrels, political squabbling and many other things that was forgotten along with their venerated remains.

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The bellman of the … ding ding … was the characteristic announcement of the passage of the tram through the streets of the city. Uphill, downhill, from the Central Station, the Montes Avenue, Perez Velasco, the streets Comercio, Illimani, Loayza, Potosi, Socabaya, Mercado, El Prado, Avenida Arce, San Jorge, to Obrajes, from six in the morning until ten at night, up and down, sliding on the rails bombastic trams, showing its path all the happiness and prosperity of those beautiful times of the decades of 1910 to 1930, when the dollar was worth two Bolivians and 30 cents and the British pound 12 with 50.

It had been one hundred years of the great Revolution of July 16. 1909 was the year of the centenary of the First Cry of the South American Independence and paceño people celebrated with enthusiasm that legendary epic. The Municipality of La Paz had to patent this time, to its fondness and love for the city and they did. At twelve o’clock, in an alive party atmosphere, cheers, they left the garage of Challapampa, the “urban electric trams”, ready for release in the presence of President Ismael Montes.

Ambassadors of friendly countries, dignitaries of State, the Municipality in plenary session, chaired by Council President, Mr. Hector Ormachea, began the solemn blessing of the trams. The La Paz Bishop, Nicolas Armentia, was commissioned to baptize the beautiful vehicles.

The “Challa” followed, the godmothers were smashing bottles of French champagne in the “bumpers”. On that occasion the Municipality gave a gold medal to Mr. Horacio Ferrecio, Manager of The Bolivian Rubber General Enterprise “for its work in implementing the laying of the rails in the city.

They left the garage of the Station at Montes Avenue, corner Uruguay, with the colors of the national flag: red, yellow and green.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 10.15.54 AMOn their way through the streets the people cheered gleefully throwing confetti, flowers and streamers. The trams on their first trip went to San Jorge, where the first section of track ended, the area was extended until there then, later to be extended, taking Miraflores, reaching the Estado Mayor citadel, then the “Hipodromo Nacional” [racetrack]. Another line going to the General Cemetery and one last to the neighborhood of Sopocachi, culminating in the Montículo.

These beautiful French manufacturing trams were elegant and stately, like trams in Paris, a little smaller to overcome the special topography of our city.
40 trams were made for this urban transport service in the city and was also carrying passengers to El Alto.

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 10.15.32 AMThe management and control were in charge of the “motorist” who commanded the chariot with all circumspection and seriousness. He was dressed in a blue uniform, chevrons and gold buttons, white shirt with collar and cuffs ironed and a military cap. Similarly, the “collector” was dressed with his hand “purse” in charge of ticketing and receiving money. There was one more character: the Inspector, responsible for reviewing and check that all passengers had paid for their tickets, marking them with a small punch.

Red streetcars were first class, designed especially for the paceña “elite” passengers, the ticket cost 20 cents. It was worth paying so much, since the seats were beautifully made from upholstered wicker. The yellow, lined with leather seats, were for second class and the passage was 19 cents, small fee for office workers, clerks and persons regardless of social class. The green trams had two compartments, a first and a second. No lumps of any kind were allowed.

It was to see the swell “dandies” of that cute period up to the tram, they preferred to go on the “platform” for show “posh” and phonies, wearing their fancy pants, straw-colored hat tilted to the side, holding studied movements in their modern “sticks”, showing their style to the good looking girls who were passing on the road.

Old Tram memories, nobody knows where you ended up, you disappeared like everything beautiful and unforgettable, yet still live in the memory of the paceños old enough who have not forgotten your kindness and that in the long, long lines waiting for a micro, yearn to hear your “ding ding …” so dear!

I also found an interest website: for more pictures and more info in Spanish, please use this link

Published by Bolivian Thoughts

Senior managerial experience on sustainable development projects.

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