Track 3: For Power or For Passage: Re-envisioning Historic Industrial and Transportation Infrastructure

General Abstract

Transportation systems and modern expectations. A history of the old Tramway of Bogota

Tuesday, September 25
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: BNCC-106AD

Following recent excavations, the rails of the old tramway of the former Royal Street of Santafe de Bogota (Colombia), were put into evidence. These findings led to the characterization of this transportation infrastructure and its transformation between the end of the 19th century and 1951 when it ceased to operate, as well as a preservation proposal of the archaeological remains.

An interdisciplinary research process of this transportation system included a historical survey of several documents such as contracts, letters, plans, aerial photographs, old photographs, maps, press articles and political caricatures. This information was contrasted with the archaeological context and material evidence, by using stratigraphic methods, and typological and chronological analysis, as means to understand how this infrastructure fulfilled expectations of a modern planning and configuration of the city.

As a result, a chronological sequence of the tramway rails was built, revealing tense situations in the history of Bogota’s public transportation system and the constant attempts of the local government administrations to meet the needs of the citizens. Although it was meant to shorten distances and save time in a slowly growing small city at the turn of the 20th century, most probably the tramway was intended to make evident the transition from a colonial urban landscape to an idealized cosmopolitan city.

The first public system was established in 1884 according to historical documentation, and consisted of a small-scale tramway powered by horses, like the one functioning in New York city. Also for this the Colombian ambassador requested the NYC transport authorities an assessment and evaluation of this transportation infrastructure. Despite its importance and significance during its early years, archaeological evidence of this first system are scarce, since in 1910 it was replaced by a new electric tramway which required a different type of rail, combined with different types of tramway sleepers.

This second electric tramway was almost fully replaced again by 1928, by still using American technology and steel from the Lorain Steel Co., due to the passengers’ constant complains as it did not fulfill their expectations, and as a response of the city planning renewal movement and the rising idea of infrastructure as quality of life. In the 40's a last change of the tramway took place, when a different and presumably low-cost building technology was introduced, in accordance with the financial difficulties of the city.

The results of this study also contributed to the assessment of values of this industrial heritage of Bogota and conservation measures for the archaeological remains, improving authority’s decision-making for their management and engaging public opinion through different dissemination and exhibition strategies.

Learning Objectives:

David Cohen

Researcher/ Associate Professor
Fundación Erigaie/ Universidad de Los Andes

Conservator-restorer with Master's degree in Cultural Heritage Studies. On the last thirteen years, he has been working as a researcher and professor associated to different universities in Colombia and Latin America, as well as a consultant for international conservation projects for Unesco and ICCROM. He currently works as researcher at Fundación Erigaie on different topics such as historical archaeology, archaeometry and archaeological conservation. He also works as a professor for the Art's History undergraduate program at Universidad de los Andes in Bogota.


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Nancy Rankin, AIA/Leed AP

John G. Waite Associates, Architects

Nancy A. Rankin, AIA, is a principal with John G. Waite Associates, Architects and has been an integral part of the firm, managing some of their many prominent historic preservation projects including New York City's Tweed Courthouse; The Cincinnati Union Terminal in Cincinnati, OH; the Nassau County Government Operations Center in Mineola, NY; and Hamilton Grange, the home of Alexander Hamilton in Harlem, NY. Ms. Rankin currently oversees the firm’s New York City office and is managing the interior restoration of Cincinnati Union Terminal in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Ms. Rankin is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.


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Transportation systems and modern expectations. A history of the old Tramway of Bogota

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