Brazil's Most Famous Railway: The Serra Verde Express

Written by Peter Lauffer
May 8, 2020
The "Serra Verde Express" is a famous tourist train that runs from Curitiba to Moretes in the Parana State of southwestern Brazil. The most memorable and breathtaking section of this railway journey is where the train enters the cloud forests of the "Pico do Marumbi State Park" and descends to Moretes at sea level.

History of the Serra Verde Railroad

The Belgium-French Company "Chemin de Fer Bresilien" acquired the concession of the Curitiba-Paranaguá Railway. Chief engineer Antonio Ferrucci divided the railway project into three parts: Paranaguá-Morretes, Morretes-Roça Nova, and Roça Nova-Curitiba, with work starting on all three sections simultaneously in 1880. The railroad was built to facilitate access to the Atlantic port of Paranagua, which has always been vital to the Brazilian Economy.

Curitiba-Moretes Railroad and the Carvalho Viaduct
Curitiba-Moretes Railroad and the Carvalho Viaduct

In 1882, Joao Teixeira Soares took over the railway project from Antonio Ferrucci and completed the construction work in 1884. The almost 110 km long railway line from Curitiba to Paranagua is considered an engineering masterpiece of the late 19th century.  Sadly, five thousand people are said to have died of typhoid, malaria, and accidents during the five-year construction period of this railroad.

Map of the Railway from Curitiba to Moretes

This narrow-gauge railway is single-track and departs from the metropolis of Curitiba at 934 meters above sea level. During the first 40 km of rail, the train ascends from 934 to 952 meters above sea level. This portion of the train journey passes through beautiful forests and rolling hills and travels alongside sparkling rivers and lakes.

Serra Verde Express in the Marumbi State Park

In the upper part of the journey, the train precariously descends steep mountain slopes, passes through 14 tunnels, and crosses 30 bridges and viaducts. The most famous of these is the "Viaduto do Carvalho," where it seems to passengers as if the train is flying through mid-air.  ‍

The Tourist Train Serra Verde Express

The Federal Government inaugurated the Serra Verde Express in 1997 with the idea of offering a unique mode of transportion for passengers between Curitiba and Paranaguá. Currently, the train transports more than two hundred thousand people each year on the stretch from Curitiba to Morretes. There are currently no passenger trains between Moretes and the city of Paranagua 38 km away.

Serra Verde Express at the Moretes Station
Serra Verde Express at the Moretes Station

🚂  Travel Tip: The train journey from Curitiba to Moretes takes about three hours one way. The return journey may be longer, so you might not have enough time to visit the small, but interesting colonial towns of Moretes and Antonina. My suggestion is to arrange for a driver in Curitiba to take you to Moretes by car, and if you like colonial towns, you can even visit Antonia along the way. Then, order lunch in Moretes in one of the many charming restaurants with terraces, before the train passengers arrive. Travel back to Curitiba on the much less crowded afternoon train, which departs from Moretes around 3 p.m.

Moretes Downtown

The train has various classes. For those who like taking photos or videos, be sure to travel in a carriage where you can open the windows. Note that although the "Litorina de Luxo" carriage is air conditioned, the windows can’t be opened, so traveling in this carriage is more like being on the New York Metro than on a train in tropical Brazil. When traveling from Moretes to Curitiba, sit at a window on the right-hand side of the carriage. Usually, there aren't very many passengers on the way back to Curitiba, so you can change your seat if necessary. Rail South America takes the Serra Verde Express on our tour, "Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."