Minas Gerais is one of the most prosperous states in Brazil. The discovery of gold deposits in the region attracted European pioneers, thirsty for adventure and wealth from 1693 onward. Gold was found in the beds of rivers and the slopes of mountains. The region quickly became an Eldorado, and Portugal appropriated this mining enclave decimating the local indigenous population to get all the wealth for their crown. Minas Gerais means in Portuguese “general mines” and reflects clearly the origin of the province. Colonial cities in Baroque style like Ouro Preto, Mariana, Tiradentes, Congonhas, and Diamantina were built thanks to the labor of slaves brought from Africa during. the gold boom. Convoys of mules transported gold to the narby Atlantic ports to be shipped to Portugal. At the dawn of the 20th century, these convoys gave way to the railways.
By the way, the subsoil of the region still holds iron, ore, and gemstones, including topaz and emerald. The gold veins that made the area famous, however, are exhausted.
“Maria Fumaca” from Sao Joao del Rei to Tiradentes
To get an idea of how people traveled in Minas Gerais at the end of the 19th century, embark aboard the Steam Train from Sao Joao del Rei to Tiradentes.
The gauge of this railroad is only 73 centimeters, which gives it its nickname of “Bitolinha” (the small narrow track). On weekends, Baldwin locomotives pull historic trains between São João del Rei and Tiradentes. This train journey takes about 40 minutes. Be sure to watch how the steam locomotive changes direction on the manually operated turntable and visit the railway museum at the railway station in Tiradentes.
Information and departure dates of this trip you find at this link: Maria Fumaca Sao Joao del Rei – Tiradentes
Trem Ouro Preto – Mariana
Explore the history and enjoy the beautiful scenery between Ouro Preto and Mariana during the exciting train journey.
The construction of the Ouro Preto Railway began in 1883, and the extension to Mariana concluded only in 1914. The railway between the two cities gave a considerable impulse to the economy of central Minas Gerais after the gold boom.
The Ouro Preto-Mariana Tourist Train’s Steam engine was made in 1949 by Skoda in the Czech Republic. The average speed on the Ouro Preto-Mariana railroad is 20 – 25 km / h. Important to note is that a diesel locomotive was used, instead of the steam locomotive (Maria Fumaca), to pull the tourist train during my recent journeys. In case you have only time for one train journey in Minas Gerais, do this one.
Information about this Museum Train journey you find at this link: Train Ouro Preto – Mariana
Trem das Aguas
In the south of Minas Gerais, another steam train called Trem das Águas runs on the 10 kilometers between the cities of São Lourenço and Soledade de Minas. This train is out of the way when traveling from Tiradentes to Rio de Janeiro; therefore, I could never include it on one of my travels. I will write about it at a later moment.
Information about the Trem Das Aguas
The train Journey Sao Joao del Rei – Tiradentes and Ouro Preto – Mariana is part of my trip, “Brazil by Train.”