On the tracks of Votorantim

The railways in the interior of the state of São Paulo were decisive for the growth of the Brazilian industry, transporting people, products and stories that Votorantim also helped to write.


The beginning of the journey

Railway Estrada de Ferro Sorocabana, opened in 1875, ran between the rivers Peixe and Paranapanema. The railway complex in the state of São Paulo was built with a peculiar outline, like a vast flat hand: the fist in the city of Santos, the hand in São Paulo and the fingers running through the interior of the state. Sorocabana was the little finger.

When, at the end of the 19th century, Banco União de São Paulo proposed to build the textile factory Fábrica de Tecidos Votorantim , in the region of Sorocaba, it also invested in the construction of the entire infrastructure to support the enterprise. Engineers, equipment, trains, rails, wire, wood, immigrants, technicians, workers, all in great effervescence. The first step was the construction of a branch line of Sorocabana, called Estrada de Ferro Votorantim. After opening of the footpath with scythes and axes, equipment parts and the large boiler arrived. The railway, initially a 60cm gauge steam road, was managed by Calixto de Paula Souza (later, the Sorocaba station was named after him – Estação Paula Souza) and connected the city of Sorocaba to Itupararanga, being used to transport equipment to the textile factory.

First stop: 1918

After acquiring the bankrupt estate of Banco União, in addition to the textile factory, Antonio Pereira Ignacio acquired Estrada de Ferro Votorantim. Aiming to improve the production and flow of products from the factory, Pereira Ignacio changes the size of the gauge of the rails and electrifies the railway. From then on, the railway becomes Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim (EFEV), being the second railway to be electrified in the state of São Paulo. Distinguished personalities were present in the opening in 1922, including the president of the state of São Paulo, Washington Luiz. Calixto de Paula Souza was remembered for his dedication to the construction of the railway and the Sorocaba station was named after him.

Second stop: traveling on the tracks Still in the 1920´s, EFEV was extended to the Santa Helena factory , arriving to the quarry Pedreira Baltar . It was used to transport limestone to the cement factory. Train at the quarry Pedreira Baltar , 1920´s.   In 1924, Antonio Pereira Ignacio opened a branch line of the railway connecting the textile factory to his ranch called Santa Helena. The tram arrived in the garden of the house. A small line vehicle was used by Pereira Ignacio for his displacement and, at the time, when seeing this vehicle, people would say: “There goes Pereira Ignacio to take the train at Sorocabana to São Paulo!” In addition to cargo transport, EFEV was also used by the people who worked in the industrial district of Votorantim, mainly employees of the textile factory . The railway was an important factor for the development between the cities of Sorocaba and Votorantim, resulting in the creation of neighborhoods, villages and shops. On EFEV, there was also the “lunch-box train”, which had a wagon loaded with the lunch of the employees who worked at Votorantim plants – Textile, Votocel and Santa Helena. The train stopped in each station and the people used to ship a metal lunch-box with a label indicating the name of the employee and the plant. The curious practice lasted until the 1970´s.

Record of the line vehicle at the time located at the Itupararanga hydroelectric power plant. Photo by Hans Gunter Flieg, 1970´s.

Final stop

Until the 1950´s, the railways were the main means of transport for passengers and cargo in the state of São Paulo. They were a source of pride for employees and the municipalities crossed by them. With the growth of the developmental policy of president Juscelino Kubitschek (1902 - 1976) that prioritized the automotive transport, the railways had their period of glory impaired and, in 1966, EFEV ceased to carry passengers. The railway continued with the cargo transport until 1998, when it was permanently deactivated. Much more than a simple railway, Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim was the path through which people who built neighborhoods, shops, dreams and many stories passed by. Much of the greatness that transformed a textile factory into a world-class company passed by its tracks.

Train at the quarry Pedreira Baltar , 1920´s.


Excerpt from the 1922 film showing some aspects of the operation of the EFEV (Votorantim Electric Railway).

Ticket of Estrada de Ferro Elétrica Votorantim, departing from Votorantim to Estação Paula Souza, used on November 11, 1944.