Madeira-Mamoré Railroad

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Madeira-Mamoré Railroad

Madeira-Mamoré Railroad, a transportation company linking Bolivia and Brazil. Ever since the first Europeans descended the treacherous falls and rapids between the Mamoré and Madeira rivers in the eighteenth century, developers dreamed of opening a more direct connection between them. Upriver were great quantities of rubber, quinine, sarsaparilla, hardwoods, and other forest products.

A railroad was first proposed by U.S. entrepreneur George E. Church. Between 1869 and 1872 he obtained Bolivian and Brazilian concessions to build a 220-mile line around a dozen major falls. He raised money in London and began work, but within a year the project collapsed. In 1878 he launched another attempt, this time financed in Philadelphia. It, too, failed; and in 1881 the Brazilian government shut it down with only 11 miles of track laid.

The U.S. magnate Percival Farquhar completed construction of the line early in the twentieth century. Having been successful in his ventures in southern Brazil, he won contracts to modernize the port of Belém. At the same time he acquired the Amazon Navigation Company, which earned great profits by transporting rubber from the headwaters.

The railroad was inaugurated in 1912, just as the rubber boom was being undermined by cheap rubber exports from Asia. Farquhar lost the railroad, as well as his holdings in the port of Pará and the steamships. The railroad ceased operation in 1972.

See alsoFarquhar, Percival; Railroads.


Frank W. Kravigny, The Jungle Route (1940).

Charles A. Gauld, The Last Titan: Percival Farquhar (1964).

Additional Bibliography

Carvalho, Vania Carneiro de, and Solange Ferraz de Lima. Trilhos e sonhos: Dreams and Tracks: Ferrovia madeira-mamore railroad. Rio de Janeiro: Museu Paulista/USP, 2000.

Pinto, Emanuel Pontes. Rondonia: Evolução histórica. Rio de Janeiro: Expressão e cultura, 1993.

                                  Michael L. Conniff