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The cable car

Augusto Ferreira Ramos, a Brazilian engineer born on August 22, 1860, was General Coordinator of the historic 1908 National Exhibition, held on Praia Vermelha to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Brazil’s opening its ports to friendly nations and had the original idea of building an aerial tramway to the top of the Sugarloaf mountain. Together with businessman Manuel Antonio Galvão and Commander Fridolino Cardoso, Ramos secured authorization from the mayor of the “Federal District” (Rio de Janeiro was capital of the country at the time) Mr. Serzedelo Corrêa, for building and operating the cable car system in three lines: one connecting Praia Vermelha to the top of Morro da Urca; another one connecting the peaks of Morro da Urca and Pão de Açúcar and the third one linking the top of Morro da Urca to the peak of Morro da Babilônia.

Building of the first line
On July 30, 1909 a 30-year license was granted for building the colossal enterprise (issued by Municipal Decree number 1260 on May 29, 1909). With a seed capital of 360 contos de réis (Brazil’s former currency), Augusto Ferreira Ramos and a group of prominent citizens founded the Companhia Caminho Aéreo Pão de Açúcar and in 1910 began the construction of the first aerial Brazilian tramway.
Brazilian and Portuguese workers labored together, using equipment and material imported by German company J. Pohlig. Two million contos de réis and four tons of material were spent in the equipment, which had to be taken up to the top of the two mountains by hundreds of men performing dangerous climbs, in a daring operation for those days.
The tramway cables were launched by specially trained teams. The first team took a pilot cable to the base of the mountain. The second team climbed the mountain through a forest trail, carrying a long rope. At the peak, they threw down one end of the rope and another team tied it to the pilot-cable, which was at the base of the mountain. The cable was then pulled up and set in place. The other end of the pilot cable was placed at Praia Vermelha and was used as a guide for laying the steel cable that actually holds the cable car. The cable car was then hoisted up and attached to the steel cable.
This first part of the ride, between Praia Vermelha and Morro da Urca, is 528 meters long and 220 meters high. It was opened on October 27, 1912, when 577 people took the ride up to Morro da Urca, at the price of 2 mil réis for the round trip. The “Camarote Carril”, as the cable car was then called, was made of wood and held 17 people. It was suspended on two track cables and used eight pairs of pulleys to glide up and down on the cables. Power was supplied by a 75-HP electric engine, and electric brakes provided safety to the system. The average time of each ride was 6 minutes, at a speed of 2 meters per second (on both parts of the trip, i.e. all the way up to the Sugarloaf).

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