Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; abandoned buildings in the railway ghost town of Paranapiacaba)

Nestled in a mountainous region of Santo André roughly 38 miles outside Brazil’s alpha global city of São Paulo, the once abandoned village of Paranapiacaba is today something of a railway ghost town, its elegant British-style buildings seemingly frozen in time.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-9 (Image: Paulocarmona; a preserved goods shed in the Paranapiacaba railway)

Dominated by the railway network around which the once-thriving outpost grew up, Paranapiacaba enjoys a rich industrial history and boasts a design reportedly inspired by English social reformer Jeremy Bentham‘s prison model.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-2 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; new station master?)

The village was built during the 19th century as a company town for the British-owned São Paulo Railway Company, and included a station clock tower modeled on the one that houses Big Ben in London. For 30 years Paranapiacaba thrived as an export centre for the transportation of coffee beans along the railway line to the port at Santos.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-3 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; an abandoned railway viaduct)

At its height the settlement was home to around 4,000 people, until the advent of modern technology brought with it automated machinery which replaced the dependable old funicular.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-4 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; abandoned station buildings at Paranapiacaba ghost town)

No longer in need of such a large workforce, the population of Paranapiacaba declined rapidly, leaving many of its elegant Victorian buildings abandoned.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-5 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; this decaying train still stands on the original rails)

Thankfully, the ghost town’s important industrial heritage cemented its survival, ensuring that it didn’t go the same way as other British-built railways whose rusting remains can still be seen across the vast South American continent.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-6 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre)

In 2000 and 2002, Paranapiacaba ghost town was included in the World Monuments Fund, and subsequent years have seen significant preservation and revival efforts at the one-time company village. The former residence of the Chief Engineer of the Railways is now a museum, and steam trains once again ply the network of rusting tracks around the town.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-7 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre)

The Brazilian government has worked to promote the railway ghost town of Paranapiacaba to tourists and ensure its economic development amid the broader São Paulo region. The village is now home to around 1,200 people – not quite the 4,000 workers and their families of its heyday, but nevertheless far from abandoned.

Paranapiacaba-brazil-abandoned-8 (Image: Diego Torres Silvestre; Paranapiacaba’s decaying platform)

However, many of the old railway buildings, and silent track, retain the haunting air of a deserted industrial staging post, a living ghost town where past and present come together in the verdant Brazilian mountains.

Related – Explore 20 Haunting Ghost Towns of the World