Buenos Aires was once known as the City of Trams. It had one of the most extensive networks in the world with over 857 km of track, but most of it was dismantled during the 1960s in favour of bus transportation. Despite this there are some tram services in existence today and several are worth seeing.
The Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company opened Latin America's first "underground tramway" system, (Subte Line A) in 1913. The original route was partially underground and on street level until 1926, for this reason the "pantograph" cars built by La Brugeoise in Belgium had both low doors at the ends for boarding from the street and high doors in the middle for loading from platforms in the tunnel. These vintage carriages (sans end doors) are still in operation as part of the Subte system and are fascinating. One commentator described the feeling of travelling in them as rushing sideways in an old wooden wardrobe. He is not far wrong.
Using the same surface non revenue tracks of Line A in the Caballito neighbourhood, the "Asociación Amigos del Tranvía" operates every weekend and holidays a Heritage Streetcar Service, with a nice collection of fully restored tram and metro cars.
In another part of the city, the Tren de la Costa (the coastal train), a light rail running on an old railway right of way from 1891-1961, was inaugurated in 1995 and serves tourist and local commuters. It runs from the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires to Tigre along the river for approximately 15 kilometres. Then there is the PreMetro E2, which operates as a feeder at the end of Metro Line E in the western suburbs.
The 2-km experimental Puerto Madero Tramway is the system most likely to be seen by visitors to the city. This is now operating in the Puerto Madero District, with extensions to Retiro Rail Terminal Station and La Boca neighbourhood being talked about. The trams are almost silent ultra-modern cars from France which creep up on you if you are not awake. We didn’t see many people using the system but if the extensions are carried out I think this would be a real winner.
There are also talks about a "heritage tram" to be put in service in colonial San Telmo. If this and the other planned projects go ahead, Buenos Aires will once again have a number of trams in operation. A city of trams it will never be again but trams will once more make a contribution to the city’s transportation network.