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 12 Traditional modes of transport
The history of the settlement in Madeira is strictly related with the development of the modes of transport. Most of these had to evolve in a fairly creative way in order to cope with the rough landscape of the Island.
The starting point for expanding the first road network from Funchal to the whole Island was the conclusion of the Ribeiro Seco bridge, in 1849. But this expansion was fairly slow and only during the 1920s the first collective transport companies started organizing themselves to transport goods and passengers, mainly within the city of Funchal.
The first automobile arrived in Madeira in 1904, but it was not until the democratic turnaround, in 1974, that it stopped being considered a luxury item. Prior to the advent of automobile, infrastructures were poor and therefore circulating in the Island was quite a difficult task, as only some stony paths existed.
Often the terrain was so steep that those paths seemed as stairs and therefore walking was the most popular mode of transport and the natives mastered the ability to carry the load over their shoulders and heads. Among the wealthier individuals, horses were frequently chosen and so as the exotic and elegant nets carried by two men. Tailored to Madeira topography, the palanquin (inspired in oriental countries such as India) allowed for rich people or someone suffering from illness to lay with their legs extended, in a padded seat while being transported.
Goods, notably wine, bananas and wicker were carried out on “corças”, animal powered vehicles that resembled cars without wheels. These vehicles were used until the 1970s.
The first half of the XIX century introduced the wicker baskets, linking the steep yet romantic parish of Monte, where many hotels and high class “quintas” are located, to the centre of Funchal. They are still in
use today and are easily recognizable for gliding on wooden supports, pushed and steered by two “carreiros” that use their rubber-soled boots as brakes. The renowned American author, Ernest Hemingway wrote that sliding downhill in the wicker basket was one of the most exhilarating experiences" of his life.
In 1893 a train was launched to facilitate the connections to Monte. This train followed 3.911 of track, between Pombal station at an altitude of 60m and Terreiro da Luta station at an altitude of 850m. The railway was totally closed in 1943 and since then Madeira has no rail connections.
In Madeira, it was in most cases easier to travel from one point to another

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