The Mauá Railroad, officially known as the Imperial Steam Navigation and Petrópolis Railroad Company, was the first railway established in Brazil and the third in South America. It was built in 1854 by Irineu Evangelista de Sousa, Baron of Mauá. Initially, it connected the Port of Mauá to Fragoso, in Rio de Janeiro, with later extensions to Petrópolis and Areal.

The First Railroad in Brazil

The railroad had a historic inauguration in 1854, with the presence of Emperor Dom Pedro II, who blessed the locomotives and took the first trip on the route. The inaugural journey impressed everyone, reaching a speed of 36 km/h, something unimaginable at the time.

To carry out the project, on May 29, 1852, at the headquarters of the Bank of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, the Imperial Steam Navigation and Petropolis Railroad Company was founded, with a capital of 2 thousand réis, divided into 10,000 shares of 200,000 réis each.

The construction work was overseen by English engineers William Bragge, Robert Milligan (responsible for the execution of the Railroad Plan), and Joseph Cliffe. Under the direction of English engineers, more than 200 men built the Mauá Railroad with pickaxes, and the project was completed in two years. The journey from the wharf to the Petropolis Mountain was reduced to 30 minutes.

The First Railroad in Brazil
Ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the first Brazilian railway, the Mauá Railroad. Oil on canvas, Geyer Collection, 1852.
The First Railroad in Brazil
The Baroneza – National Railway Museum Train.
The First Railroad in Brazil
Jacarandá work cart, offered by Irineu Evangelista de Sousa to Dom Pedro II in 1852.

Currently, only a portion of the railway, between the Piabetá and Vila Inhomirim stations, is used for trains on the Vila Inhomirim Line of SuperVia. Many historical items associated with this railway are in museums in Brazil, including the imperial flag used at the inauguration in 1854, which is part of the collection of the Engineering Club of Rio de Janeiro, and a jacarandá work cart offered by Irineu to Dom Pedro II, which is at the Brazilian Historical and Geographic Institute.

Reference: CORNEJO, Carlos and GERODETTI, João Emílio. Railways Of Brazil In Postcards And Souvenir. United States: Solaris, 2005.

CALDEIRA, Jorge. Mauá: Empresário do Império. Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 1995.

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Matheus Araújo
Founder and Editor at Brazilian History | Website

Matheus is an entrepreneur at Araujo Media, where he serves as CEO and Creative Director. He shares analyses on his personal blog "" and is currently pursuing a degree in Advertising and Propaganda. Moreover, he has a passion for history, particularly that of Brazil, which led him to become the founder and editor of the Brazilian History portal.