Railways in Minas Gerais, Brazil

Written by Peter Lauffer
August 10, 2020

The State of Minas Gerais has one of the largest railway networks in Brazil. Many of the railroads are Museum Railways where trains run on weekends only. Traveling on these trains is more than going from one place to another. - It is traveling in time. Charming trains go from Ouro Preto to Mariana and Sao Joao del Rei to Tiradentes.

Maria Fumaca near Tiradentes
Maria Fumaca near Tiradentes

Historical Background on Railroads in Minas Gerais

Minas Gerais was one of the most prosperous states in Brazil. European pioneers, thirsty for adventure and wealth, discovered gold deposits in the region. Convoys of mules transported the extracted gold to cities at the Atlantic Coast. From there, the gold  was shipped to Europe, especially Portugal. It was at the dawn of the 20th century, when these convoys gave way to the railways.

Parallel to the Gold and Mining Boom, agriculture developed in the state of Minas Gerais. The railway had a large share in the success of agriculture in Minas Gerais. The hilly landscape is optimal for coffee growing and milk production.

 Brazilians call a Steam locomotive "Maria Fumaça," which means "Smoking Mary" in English.

Train Ouro Preto to Mariana
Train Ouro Preto to Mariana

Ouro Preto - Mariana Railway

The Ouro Preto to Mariana Railway was part of the railroad from Ouro Preto to Rio de Janeiro. The Railway was inaugurated on October 12, 1914 . The Mariana Railway was operated until the 1980s. In 2003, "Vale" recovered the railway line and its buildings and to be part of the Museum Railway Ouro Preto - Mariana. Since 2006, tourist trains connect the 17km railroad between the two cities.

Mariana Railway Station
Mariana Railway Station

Scenery wise, the Ouro Preto to Mariana Railway is the most scenic in Minas Gerais. The hilly countryside provdes an exciting touch to this exciting train journey. The train ride takes about 45 minutes in either direction.  VALE operates the tourist train. VALE is a large mining and logistics company in Brazil. The train runs on weekends and, depending on the season, on some weekdays. 

🚂 Travel Tips: I recommend booking the train journey as part of an organized tour from Ouro Preto. The baroque city of Mariana is best visited with a local guide. On the way back, organize a stop at the gold mine "Passagem de Mariana." The Passagem Mine is a fascinating site to visit, especially the trip on the funicular to enter the Mine.

Mine Pasagem de Mariana
Mine Pasagem de Mariana

Time Table Ouro Preto - Mariana

Confirm the Train departures on the VALE website at this link: 

http://www.vale.com/brasil/PT/business/logistics/railways/trem-turistico-ouro-preto-mariana/Paginas/default.aspx


Maria Fumaca at the Railway Station in Tiradentes
 Maria Fumaca at the Railway Station in Tiradentes

Maria Fumaca from Sao Joao del Rei to Tiradentes

The São João del-Rei to Tiradentes railroad was a part of the Antônio Carlos to Barra do Paraopeba railroad. The railraod was  built in 1881. Between 1983 and 84, a large part of the original railroad was closed and removed. In 2001, "Ferrovia Centro-Atlântica (FCA)" took over and preserved 13 km railroad from São João del-Rei to Tiradentes. FCA converted the railroad into a Museum Railway. Today, the Railway is classified as historical heritage for passenger transport. It is one of the few places in Brazil that saw the continued use of steam locomotives. A particularity of this railroad is its narrow gauge of 762 mm.

Sao Joao del Rei RailwayStation
Sao Joao del Rei RailwayStation

Embark aboard the Maria Fumaça between Sao Joao del Rei and Tiradentes. This railroad has the nickname "Bitolinha," which means the small narrow track. A Baldwin steam locomotive pulls the historic train between the two mining cities. The train operates on weekends and public holidays on the 13 km railroad. This train journey takes about 40 minutes in either direction. 

Railway Museum Sao Joao del Rei
Railway Museum Sao Joao del Rei

🚂  Travel Tip: Watch the manually operated turntable in Tiradentes. The Steam Locomotive changes direction before it returns to Sao Joao del Rei. Sao Joao del Rei has a fascinating Railway Museum next to the railway station. 

Timetable Museum Train Sao Joao del Rei - Tiradentes

Friday + Saturday

Sao Joao del Rei dep:  10:00
Tiradentes arr: 10:45
Tiradentes dep: 13:00
Sao Joao del Rei dep: 13:45

Sao Joao del Rei dep: 15:00
Tiradentes arr: 15:45
Tiradentes dep: 17:00
Sao Joao del Rei arr: 17:45 

Sunday

Sao Joao del Rei dep:  10:00
Tiradentes arr: 10:45
Tiradentes dep: 11:00
Sao Joao del Rei dep: 11:45

Sao Joao del Rei dep: 13:00
Tiradentes arr: 13:45
Tiradentes dep: 14:00
Sao Joao del Rei arr: 14:45 


Opening Hours Railway Museum Sao Joao del Rei:

Wednesday - Saturday: 09:00 - 11:00 and 13:00 - 17:00
Sunday: 09:00 - 13:00 

Both train journeys are part of our tour, "Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."