The Brazilians

Memória Ferroviária locates locomotives made in Brazil during the Second World War in good condition

Steam locomotive 340 produced in Brazil, today on display in a public square in Divinópolis

World War II caused an unprecedented crisis in Brazil, especially regarding supplies, mainly because of the impossibility of importing and exporting products. A number of segments of the Brazilian economy were affected, forcing the population to adapt to the new, tough reality. The railroads were not immune and, in order to resolve transportation requirements, the workshops for repairing rolling stock pitched in to help, risking the construction of steam engines. A total of three engines were manufactured in the country: two in Divinópolis (MG) and one in Ponta Grossa (PR).

Symbol of the former Rede Mineira de Viação railroad

Steam engine 339 - a Pacific 462 - baptized “Carmem Miranda,” was assembled in Divinópolis at the workshops belonging to the former Rede Mineira de Viação. Built upon parts from used engines picked up at scrap yards and using measures of length and width taken with wood sticks, railroad technician João Morato prepared a project for the design, construction and supervision of “Maria Fumaça.” Built for a one-meter track and able to haul seven 180-ton capacity cars, the engine ran between Divinópolis and Belo Horizonte and Divinópolis and Garças, Minas Gerais.

Carmem Miranda

“The construction of locomotive 339 took place in 1941, a period when Rede Mineira de Viação was under lease to the state of Minas Gerais and, thus, money was in short supply,” revealed Marcos Antônio Vilela, director of the Divinópolis public archives. He lamented the fact that the locomotive had been sent to the scrap yard. “The Carmem Miranda was a hallmark in the history of the initial progress of this city,” he said.”
In 1942, Morato built another Pacific 462 engine, No. 340, under the same conditions that he had assembled the previous one, which was called Dircinha Batista in honor of a famous Brazilian singer on Rádio Nacional. According to information provided by Vilela, this machine was built to run on firewood and subsequently, in 1958, was converted to use burned oil.
The Maria Fumaça worked on Minas Gerais railroad lines until 1965, when it was retired and placed in exhibition. Currently, the locomotive is the responsibility of the Ferrovia Centro-Atlântica and is located at the Praça dos Ferroviários (Railroad Workers Square), housed in a replica of the former Divinópolis train station.

Secret of war

The Mikado 282 engine was built in Ponta Grossa in 1940 to operate on the Rede de Viação Paraná -Santa Catarina railroad tracks. The Memória Ferroviária Project still has not reached the city, but locomotive specialist Sergio Martire believes that the engine was preserved. “We do not know if it is in a museum or a public square but we are certain it has been well preserved.”

He said that the press did not publish reports about the production of these locomotives at the time due to political censorship imposed during the war period. “Brazil was fighting the Germans and there was considerable censorship regarding what could be disclosed by the newspapers and radios of the time,” he noted. According to Martire, the purpose was to avoid giving the enemy information about the industrial capacity of the country and the growth of Brazilian industry. “Wartime economic information was censored by the government and considered a risk if the enemy learned about it,” he said.