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12 astounding aqueducts

By: Matt Hickman on July 22, 2015, 11:21 a.m.
The Carioca Aqueduct  in Rio de Janerio

Photo: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

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Carioca Aqueduct

Who ever said that a decommissioned aqueduct can't learn new tricks? A postcard-perfect landmark in a city chock full of postcard-perfect landmarks, Rio de Janeiro's Roman-style Aqueduto da Carioca (Carioca Aqueduct) stands as one of Latin America's most curious instances of historic adaptive reuse: a functional, 42-arch aqueduct bridge completed in 1750 that, nearly 150 years after it went into water-supplying service, was converted into a tramway bridge following a brief period of abandonment.

Incorporated into an extension of the fabled Santa Teresa streetcar trolley line (the bonde), the erstwhile aqueduct serves as the most scenic section of a tramway that carries passengers from Rio's city center to the bohemian, hill-bound Santa Teresa neighborhood. Largely a tourist attraction in recent years, the Santa Teresa Tram last made a trip across the Carioca Aqueduct in 2011, the same year the streetcar line was shuttered following a deadly derailment. (The accident, which claimed the lives of five people and injured many more, occurred on the winding cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa, not on the bridge itself). The 19th century tramway, outfitted with new streetcars currently being subjected to test runs, is slated to reopen to the public at some point later this year — just in time the 2016 Summer Olympics. This is fabulous news as Rio just isn't Rio without the bright yellow streetcars operating atop a colonial-era aqueduct.