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THE CORREGIDOR TRAMWAY

Ralph Forty

It will come as a surprise to many readers that some tramways of the United States have evaded documentation. One of the least known electric systems outside the continental United States was also the west-most tramway in the Philippines. On the small island of Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay was located a strategic defence post of the U.S. Forces, known as 'Fort Mills', or more commonly just "The Rock."

A poor picture of a car leaving the Malinta tunnel.  The picture's caption describes it as  "Car 66 leaving Malinta tunnel between Monkey Point and Bottomside - 1934-36."  Note the single track.  The currently restored portion of the main Malinta tunnel has two tracks, and suggests that the rail system was expanded from its original design.  Cars 65 and 66 were two 14-bench bogie (8-wheel) cars delivered in 1927.  These, plus a 35 foot motorised flat car, were the last pieces of railway equipment brought to the Island.

In 1907, the US Congress authorised the construction of an electric tramway to service the island batteries with foodstuffs and munitions, and to provide a means of internal communication. At the time the only civilian community or barrio was developed on the narrow isthmus, roughly in the centre of the island. [1]   The tramway linked the north and south docks with the various batteries on high ground facing westwards to the open sea, and most of the system was opened in 1910. The 1067-mm (3-foot 6-inch) gauge track was mostly single, but there were passing places at the principal junctions at San Jose, Middleside (where the depot was located) and Topside. When completed, the system served all the batteries, the hospital, cinema, barracks and golf course. Construction of the line was difficult because of the terrain, and a 4 per cent grade and hairpin bends were necessary to reach the high ground. At least four cross-bench cars numbered between 62 and 66 were supplied by the J. G. Brill Company shortly before the line opened. The tramway was operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps, the initials QMC appearing on the car dashboards, and the trams were staffed by servicemen. After the first world war, the island became an almost forgotten outpost, the barrio becoming a typical Filipino fishing village. Little appears to have happened to the tramway at this time, but it is recorded that the only peacetime accident occurred in 1925 when a car overturned on a curve, killing eight people. In the 1930's more interest was taken in the island as war clouds again loomed on the horizon. In 1934, a complex of tunnels was built under Malinta Hill, through which the tramway was extended to Water Tower Hill, which was near the small Kindley Airfield. [2]

 

The given description was "car 63 at Bottomside, 1930's".  If correct, car 63 was one of four 12 bench motor bogie (8-wheel) cars, numbered 61 to 64, that were delivered in 1911.  Building 643 is the 'Freight and Passenger Station" The driver's improvised sun visor for early morning/late afternoon operation is interesting.

A car of the 61 to 64 series at Topside.   The large building is the baseball grandstand. The waiting shelter is rather attractive.  Of interest are the "advertising" on the dash of the car, which read CDQM' and 'Safety First." No other picture I have seen shows this feature. The tram crews were locally trained regular soldiers, and the crews turned-over every two years. 

 

On 4th May, 1942, 31 years of peacetime tramway operations was ended when Corregidor was invaded and occupied by Japanese forces.  [3]  By 16 February 1945 when the island was liberated, the tramway had disappeared. Nothing is known of its fate or the ultimate end of the cars.   Presumably the same fate awaited them as did their sisters across the bay in Manila.  [4]

 

Car 62, a Brill cross-bench trolley car, heads towards North Dock. (1936).

Car 66, also a Brill cross-bench, picks  up passengers on it's way past Middleside Station. Note that there is a passing track at this station.  (1936)

 

 

   

  NOTESx

 

[1]  The barrios on the island were Concepcion, Lourdes, San Isidro, San Jose & San Juan;   p

[2]  Malinta Tunnel's main shaft  was completed in 1932 and the digging of the laterals continued fairly constantly afterwards.  p

[3]  The tramway's last duty was to evacuate supplies and the hospital to Malinta Tunnel. It ceased to operate on 29 December 1941 when it was critically damaged in the first Japanese air raid.  p

[4]  The rails were torn up by POW work gangs and sent to Japan as scrap. Two of the cars featured in the Battle at Calhoun's Hill on the 18/19th February, 1945.  ("The Night of a Thousand Hours")  A photo of these cars' remains is featured.  p

 

 

t The final delivery of passenger cars was in 1927, with the largest of the J. G. Brill 8-wheel equipped passenger cars. The older cars were either scrapped or converted to freight only use. (Enlargements CD ROM only)

►The largest freight cars came equipped with standard railway couplers(1927). This 8-wheel J. G. Brill was fitted with air brakes. (Enlargements CD ROM only)

 

 

  CREDITSx

 

Originally published in       Modern Tramway (1969)
Photo Credits   The Late R. Forty Collection
Submitted by   Don Campbell,
Sydney, Australia
Recommended Other Reading   The Corregidor Railway System
Bibliography  

"Rails to Doomsday - The U.S. Army's Corregidor and Manila Bay Railroads" by Charles S. Small.

Published by Railroad Monographs - Greenwich CT USA in c1980.  70 pages.  No ISBN

Layout & Notes   Carl White

 

 
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