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FERROCARRILES ECUATORIANOS - ENFE - FERROCARRILES GUAYAQUIL QUITO - FERROCARRILLES QUITO SAN LORENZO
THIS PAGE IS INTENDED TO GIVE A DESCRIPTION OF THE RAILROAD PLUS MAPS AND THEN THE PHOTOS OF EACH SECTION ARE OBTAINED BY CLICKING ON THE MENU ON THE LEFT FOR THE SECTION IN QUESTION. IT WILL BE EARLY OCTOBER BEFORE EVERYTHING IS COMPLETE BUT 90% IS DONE NOW.
A proper map will be inserted shortly but in the meantime as a guide to the locations a schematic map is being put in. The colour code on the section title has the following meaning:
Red. Line Not useable.
Blue. Line useable but no current passenger service.
Green. Line currently has scheduled passenger service.
GUAYAQUIL (Duran)- YAGUACHI
No Passenger Service. Line serviceable.
YAGUACHI - BUCAY
Line exists but not serviceable.
BUCAY - HUIGRA
Line serviceable.No passenger service.
HUIGRA - SIBAMBE
Line washed away currently under repair. Expected re-opening February 2006.
SIBAMBE - CUENCA
Line totally destroyed. Very unlikely to be rebuilt.
SIBAMBE - ALAUSI
Almost daily service via Devil's Nose to Alausi.
ALAUSI - PALMIRA SUMMIT - GUAMOTE - RIOBAMBA
Almost daily service.
RIOBAMBA - URBINA SUMMIT - MOCHA
locations a schematic map is being put in.
MOCHA - AMBATO - LATACUNGA
Landslide has line blocked. Expected re-opening early 2006.
LATACUNGA - EL BOLICHE
Line serviceable. No scheduled passenger service.
EL BOLICHE (COTOPAXI) - TAMBILLO
Almost daily service.
TAMBILLO - QUITO
Line unusable owing to action of Quito City Council.
QUITO - IBARRA
Line Destroyed. Unlikely to be rebuit.
IBARRA - PRIMER PASO
Daily Service by Autoferro No. 36.
PRIMER PASO - EL PROGRESO
Line washed away. Unlikely to be rebuilt.
EL PROGRESSO - SAN LORENZO
Twice Daily Service.
POTTED HISTORY OF THE RAILWAY
About 1850 a struggling Ecuador needed some means of getting its produce, mainly cocoa and bananas, to the coast in order to export it. García Moreno, a major landowner and power grabber proposed to bjuild a railroad from Ecuador's highlands to Guayaquil, the country's largest port. Initally he proposed connecting Quito at 10,000 feet with Guayaquil. This stretch of the rail system became known as the "Southern Railway".
A bit like modern Ireland, Political wrangling and fudging delayed things but construction did start in 1872. In August 1875, less than three years after the start of construction, political opponents assassinated Moreno on the steps of the presidential palace. Eloy Alfaro when he was President pushed thing and is generally given credit for completing the railway. He too got assassinated. Rightist thugs sent by the opposition captured Alfaro and a group of his supporters, transported them to Quito on the train, and turned them over to an angry mob.
Over the next four decades, the Southern Railway claimed many more lives as more than two thousand indigenous and Jamaican workers were killed in its construction.
At the same time it was planned to build the railway from Quito to San Lorenzo and from Sibambe to Cuenca. In fact, the construction of the 373-kilometer Northern Railway between Quito and San Lorenzo and the 110-kilometers of track from Sibambe to Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city, took almost twice as long to build, 57 years, as the 464-kilometer line from Guayaquil to Quito. The San Lorenzo line was not completed until 1962 and the Sibambe-Cuenca section was the last to be inaugurated in 1965. Interestingly the latter was steam run for its entire life and new steam railways in 1965 were quite rare. Politics was of course the reason for the mammoth delay in the construction.
The complete rail system survived less than 10 years. Throughout the 1970s the government discontinued most of the secondary lines because it lacked the funds necessary for repairing them. Flooding and mudslides regularly destroyed portions of many branches of the railroad and, eventually, even closed the main southern and northern lines. Trains ran the Guayaquil-Quito and Quito-San Lorenzo routes until 1998, when El Niño destroyed large sections of the tracks.
The current government has said that it intends rehabilitating the entire line from Quito to Guayaquil but has not announced any plans for the San Lorenzo line. Part of the problem for the latter was that originally San Lorenzo was to be a grand new port connected by aeil with the rest of Ecuador. Unfortunately after the railway was built it was discovered that nobody had bothered to mention the small problem that ships could not use San Lorenzo because the water was not deep enough and no amount of dredging could solve the problem. End of San Lorenzo as a port!
it is very hard to put a figure on the rehabilitation but evidence of the good intentions of the current gvernment is that machinery has moved in on the Huigra to Alausi section and once this is done it will be both politically expedient, easier and more desirable to redo the line through to Quito. Even more to the point, the author saw two large containers of spare parts for the Alsthom diesels being unloaded at Riobamba workshops and it should be possible to have seven diesels operational within about three months. It is unlikely these parts would have been purchased unless they really did intend to restore the line as at the moment diesels can only operate from Tambillo to Cotopaxi and Riobamba to Sibambe. watch this space, as they say but I rwelaly think that Huigra to Alausi will be open by February 20056 followed by Yaguachi to Bucay later in 2006. The minor landslide near Ambato will not really be a problem.
Current cost estimates put the restoration of passenger service from Guayaquil to Quito alone, which represents about half of the original system, at 200 million dollars. To rehabilitae the entire railroad would cost about 500 million dollars. Major changes would be needed for freight at higher speeds but there is no section of the line anywhere that will not rerquire total renewing. One might get away with new sleepers initially but new rails will have to follow. It is considered in the U.S. that you need one good sleeper in two for main lines and perhaps one in four for branch lines. One in 20 is not currently unusual in Ecuador. As can be seen from the photos a guy runs along the track ahead of the train on suspect sections with an ultra high tech gauge checker, also known as a steel measuring tape! p>
On November 29, 2001, the Ecuadorian Congress passed legislation that envisions rebuilding the country's principal lines. The 2002 budget appropriated 4.5 million dollars for the renovation of track from Guayaquil to Riobamba and from Ibarra to San Lorenzo. Unfortunately, this is like a drop in the bucket but in 2005 the raiwlay has been told to go ahead and money will be found. You only have to look at the photos to see what a terrible state the track is in.
Municipal leaders and businessmen in Riobamba have invested over 4 million dollars in the renovation of the city's colonial train station. The revamped facility will include a train museum, restaurants, shops, and a theatre. The Riobamba-Sibambe train generates over a million dollars annually in ticket sales and millions more for local businesses. Riobamba hopes the new station will attract even more tourist dollars.
Local authorities are showing an interest and among one of the schemes currently being looked at - but unlikely to get anywhere - is the possibility of building a train to transport cargo to Guayaquil from Manta, Ecuador's largest port after Guayaquil which has a super harbour. The proposed train would make the trip in half the time and at a sixth of the price per container that trucks currently charge and at wistful thinking speeds fo 120 k.p.h. Several U.S. and European companies have allegedly shown interest in the 60 million-dollar project but other than the State building it nothing much is likely to happen, even though it would be of major benefit to the country.
Guayaquil was never helped by the fact that the railway terminated in Duran on one side of the river whereas the docks were in Guayaquil on the other. There is now a new road bridge connecting the two but that is not much help to the railway.
In summary it is very hard to tell what will happen. Proabably tourist service from Qutio (Tambillo) to Duran within three years but little more. However, that would be fantastic as riding Ecuadorean Railways is one of the finest railway experiences one can have especially when you can ride on the roof. Political discord and an empty treasury have destroyed Ecuador's railway and even today the City Fathers of Quito have stopped the railway operating into the town and it now terminates at Tambillo some fifteen miles out.
For photographic purposes the railway has been divided into seven sections as follows:
1. Guayaquil (Duray Alfredo) to Yaguachi
2. Bucay to Huigra
3. Alausi to Sibambe via the Devils Nose.
4. Alausi to Riobamba
5. Riobamba to Mocha
6. Latacunga to Quito (Tambillo).
7. Ibarra to Primer Paso.
The railways section is unique in that I was fortunate enough to cover abandoned and closed lines and have a complete photographic record of anything that can move and any place it can go. Even more unique I have photos of three steam locos taken this past week working the routes they were designed for and which were especially brought out of retirement. These photos could have been taken fifty years ago.
Ecuador Railways are one of the most fascinating in the world and fighting for survival and may well close at the end of the year. The scenery is utterly fantastic as they climb the Andes. It is also probably the last set of photos that will ever be taken as my trip on some lines was believed to be the last ever.The first section of the Guayaquil and Quito Railroad is from Duran to Yaguachi, a section which has no services of any kind and is in appalling condition. We took Steam Engine No. 11 and an autoferro to Yaguachi and back. The pictures are only amazing, even though I say it myself.
The next section to be covered is from Bucay to Huigra, again without any service. There has not been a train on this section for moons and the line showed it. There were interesting diversions with bridges on fire, derailments etc. I had Autoferro 95 on this.
Then I travelled from Riobamba to Sibamabe via the Devils Nose, which is one of the engineering wonders of the world. This section is actively used for tourists and on one day there were four sections on the line, I having Autoferro 95 and Steam Loco 17 and also present was a diesel with the mixto and the Circus Wagon of Metropolitan Touring.
Next the local train having suitably derailed, We took Autoferro 95 and Steam Loco 17 as far as Palmira Summit and the following day from Palmira to Riobambe. This was a fascinating section made more so by arriving at Guamote during the market which gave fabulous pictures.
At Riobamba we changed the steam loco to a heavy steam engine No. 53 and we took her to Urbina summit and continued by autofefrro No. 95 to the outskirts of Quito.
The final gem is the line from Ibarra to Primo Paser which matches anything in the world for scenery and gradients and we had autoferro 36 on that.
Railcar No. 36 arriving in Ibarra station to start its trip to Primer Paso.