Sao Lourenço, Brazil, Dec 2 (EFE).- Crossing a wooded mountain, seeing rural landscapes that recall a much earlier Brazil or hearing a locomotive whistle to announce an arrival at a station are among the wonders offered by the 34 tourist railroad lines operating in the vast South American nation.
"Train tourism" already transports about 3 million passengers annually and operators want to boost that number.
The trip on the Maria Fumaça, a train connecting the cities of Campinas and Jaguariuna in Sao Paulo state, starts with the sounds of an accordion, drum and rattle played by the Nostalgia Musical band while a group of women and children dance.
The trip takes about 90 minutes, about as long as the run made by the Tren de las Aguas in Sao Lourenço, a small city in Minas Gerais state, where the train rides have become an attraction for tourists and history buffs.
Passengers ride in a 1926 English-made car on a train that travels to the city of Soledade de Minas along the banks of the Verde River.
The railroad, designed and built in England 115 years ago, was used by Brazilian Emperor Pedro II, who was searching for the pleasant Minas climate and the healthy mineral waters that ended up giving the train its name.
"My life is the train, but it's too bad that there isn't more promotion of this type of transportation as a tourism and cultural alternative in Brazil, because that would make people more concerned about historic preservation," Joel da Silva, locomotive stoker, told EFE.
To boost the tourism appeal of railroads in Brazil, the Micro and Small Business Support Service, or Sebrae, and the Brazilian Association of Tourism and Cultural Train Operators launched the "Trains Are Tourism" project in 2002.
Geraldo da Costa, a Sebrae analyst, said Brazil, known around the world for its sun and sand destinations, could double its tourist trains and triple the number of users in 10 years.
To achieve this goal, the program has an additional offering - boarding the Litorina, Brazil's only luxury train.
Passengers depart from a station in Curitiba, the capital of Parana state and gateway to the Serra do Mar, a mountain ridge spanning the southern coast.
After leaving the mountains, the tracks lead to Morretes, a town famous for its banana plantations and renowned recipe for "barreado," a stew traditionally eaten in the state.
"My wife and I have taken rides on trains in Italy and Alaska, and the Litorina has nothing to envy them," Gilberto Tassinari, 71, who took a weekend break from the city, told EFE.
With decor from the 1920s, the train draws its inspiration from the golden age of Brazilian railroads.
The magic of imagining old times persists in the train's cushioned seats, European-style cast iron fixtures and chandeliers, giving the sensation of time travel through the history of Brazilian cities.