When in the 1880s people in Braga realized that it was far more convenient to build public funiculars than to moan due to a sore back, other cities in Portugal immediately jumped at the idea with great enthusiasm, especially Lisbon, which is natural, given its many hills. Over a period of 20 year, no fewer than 14 elevators and funiculars were built, and about 20 years later, Viana do Castelo inaugurated the last example of this group of historic Portuguese elevators and funiculars.
Of all these, only eight are still in existence, the oldest being in fact the very first to be built, the Bom Jesus funicular, in Braga, a pioneer in Portugal and in the Iberian Peninsula. A masterpiece of industrial architecture, it still runs this day, moved by a water counterweight, just as when it was inaugurated in March 1882. Painstakingly preserved, riding in it makes you feel that you’ve gone back in time, to the year it was inaugurated.
After Braga came Lisbon, where surely a great number of people were fed up with all those hills! The construction of the Lavra funicular, getting the better of the steep street, brought new spirit. From April 1884 onward, the people of Lisbon could feel boastful, because now they too had a funicular, also moved by a water counterweight and prevailing over the curved path, something deemed as unfeasible until then.
And as joys never come single, shortly afterwards, in October 1885, another steep street, Calçada da Glória, also gained its funicular. Looking quite impressive, it could carry passengers both inside as well as on the roof that was fitted with seats where the gentlemen could sit and look very regal while striking their moustaches. It is one of the most heavily used funiculars in Lisbon.
Succeeding Lisbon, Nazare city resorted to building a funicular to solve the important connection problem to the ‘Sítio’. Solemnly inaugurated in July 1889, it was the first funicular to use steam as driving force. Currently being overhauled it is one of the most beautiful funiculars in Portugal because of the beauty of the route and of its carriages.
The Guindais funicular, in Porto, represented a very daring Project in view of the inclination of the route. Powered by steam, it was inaugurated in June 1891, but was closed down after only two years due to a serious accident. Restored on the occasion of the Porto - Capital of Culture 2001, today it is a magnificent and truly modern, panoramic and beautiful funicular.
The sixth funicular on our list is, undoubtedly, the nicest of all the existing funiculars in Lisbon. It started to run in the typical Bica quarter, in 1892, at the time of the Popular Saints, using a water counterweight for a length of time. Smaller, with stepped floor, it soon was up to mischief, but always pulled through. If the nickname hadn’t already been taken, ‘the Kid from Bica’ would have been quite fitting.
The Santa Justa elevator, inaugurated in 1902, was the last to be built in Lisbon. Its vertically running cabins were, in the beginning, moved by steam power. Grand, with a magnificent architecture, it has become a true ex-libris of Lisbon that everybody likes to contemplate and ride in.
The only funicular of this series that is not yet centenarian, but is joyfully getting there, is the Santa Luzia funicular, in Viana do Castelo. Inaugurated in June 1923, it hasn’t had an easy life. There were even times when people thought it would be closed down. However, it was restored and today it is a very beautiful and modern funicular, quite concurring with the beauty of its route.
It is quite impossible, in connection with the construction of all these elevators and funiculars, not to recall Raoul Mesnier, except for the last one that was built after his death.
It is also worth remembering that all of Lisbon’s funiculars and the elevator are owned and operated by Carris, the main public transport operator of Lisbon, whereas the other funiculars are owned and operated by the respective Municipalities, which maintenance and conservation work deserves highlighting.
By issuing this magnificent stamp series, the CTT will surely bring great joy to all those who take an interest in transports, but also to the public at large who thus can learn a little more about our patrimony.
Jaime Fragoso de Almeida
Technical DetailsIssue Date: 17.05.2010
Designer: Atelier Whitestudio/ Eduardo Aires
Printer: Cartor Security Printing
Process: Offset lithography
Colours: 4-colour offset
Size: 40 x 30.6 mm
Values: ?2,50, ?3,74, ?3,84, ?5,71