The International Steam Pages
Steam in Ecuador, 2009 and in the future
Click here for a 2010 update to this.
The Guayaquil and Quito Railroad is one of the most spectacular railways in the world offering as it does a ride from the coast at Guayaquil up into the high Andes with zig-zags at the Devil's Nose and a fair amount of street running as an added bonus. It's been in need of renovation, like many such lines, and the Ecuadorian government, to their credit, have embarked on this despite the country's poverty. The hope that this might be completed fairly quickly has prompted a number of tour operators to offer steam tours to the country in the second half of 2009. Stephen Lacey who spends a lot of time in the country sent me a report of developments in December 2008 - updated below - which expressed some doubt as to whether the rebuilding would be quite as complete in time as had been suggested and it's clear that some of the more exciting mountain sections are unlikely to reopen by the time these tours were due to take place. 'Caveat Emptor' definitely applied to anyone contemplating joining one of the proposed tours and they have all now been postponed as indicated below (information correct as of 17th April 2009 and obviously subject to change on the pages concerned).
I have never been within a thousand miles of Ecuador although many of my friends have been and speak very positively of their experience there. The global recession has hit Ecuador hard as it uses USD as currency which brings some stability but also a lack of economic flexibility for the government. I hope that despite this the railway will be open for steam business come 2010.
Stephen Lacey has provided the following report on the current state of play in Ecuador:
The state of the Ecuadorian Railway system is somewhat of a mixed bag at the moment. The rejuvenation of the line between Quito Chimbacalle Station and Cotopaxi is in an advanced state with the line from Chimbacalle to Santa Rosa being rebuilt using a mixture of concrete and wooden ties. The line from Tambillo to Muchachi has seen a lot of work to improve the level and stability of the infrastructure and as of the 27th March 2009 was waiting to be ballasted.
Chimbacalle, Tambillo, Santa Rosa, Muchachi and Latacunga stations have all been or are in the process of being restored externally. Tambillo station now possesses a small cafe which will be open on the days when the trains are operating, along with a number of display boards showing historical information and photographs.
I had the pleasure of being invited to join railway staff on a trip behind locomotive No. 58 on a test train between Tambillo and Quito Chimbacalle on the 5th of December 2008. The train consisted of No. 58, a tanker wagon, flat car box car and a refurbished original coach. The trip was enjoyable and the No. 58 seemed in good mechanical condition, although there were problems with both injectors at various stages. At this point, no watering facilities were working along the line, so it was planned for a road based water tanker to meet us at Santa Rosa, this never materialised and seeing as No.58’s tender was dry, the fire service were called, who duly topped us up.
Clearance issues were dealt with in typical Ecuadorian fashion, a low hanging telegraph cable in the Southern suburbs of Quito became caught around the chimney of No.58, so we kept on going and ripped it cleanly from the walls of the adjacent buildings! Closer to Chimbacalle a new set of concrete steps had been fabricated by a lineside landowner, seeing these would foul the front of the locomotive, two railway workers enthusiastically reduced the steps to rubble with a couple of sledge hammers – no place for NIMBYs in Ecuador.
A further steam working ran from Chimbacalle to Cotopaxi at the end of December, but since then steam has been dormant. No.17 was stored temporarily at Tambillo before being moved nearer to Muchachi for display. She was however stored in Chimbacalle station as of the 27th March 2009.
Regular weekend train services were planned to commence from Chimbacalle to Muchachi during the middle of April using the Alstom diesel locos, refurbished or new build coaches and box cars, specially fitted with plastic seats on the roof. Although it looks like roof riding will not be allowed out of Quito due to the number of low hanging wires crossing the line. I was invited to travel aboard a newly restored Autoferro from Quito to Muchachi on the 27th March, issues with low hanging wires were still present and local customs are going to have to change seeing as they will no longer be able to use the railway lines as places to park road vehicles.......
The line from Latacunga to Riobamba is untouched with work due to commence at the tail end of the year, although priorities often change. No stations were visited, but it is understood that no work has taken place on restoring them.
The line from Riobamba to Sibambe is still operating using Autoferros, although the joy of riding on the roof is no longer allowed with all autoferros having the rungs from the ladders removed. The line is constantly suffering from landslides and rock falls which resulted in the Devils Nose train running from only from Alausi to Sibambe as of the middle of March. Riobamba and Alausi station builds are both restored and looking cared for. Sibambe station is in the process of being restored.
No work has been undertaken on the line to Cuenca or southwards towards Guayaquil from Sibambe. It was reported that the rejuvenation of the line from Duran to Milagro would start in the autumn, depending on the progression of other projects.
The old station at Duran (Guayaquil) has now been truncated and is partly used as a private residence. The workshops at Duran contain an interesting steam crane that used steam from a locomotive to power the winch and boom. The Boom is currently detached and it does not look like it has worked for years, but it is certainly a gem amongst the items there. There was also a line of about 30 locomotive wheels, obviously from those that were sent to Columbia for scrap in the 1980’s.
When I visited the workshops of Duran, Bucay, Riobamba and Quito in December 2008, I was welcomed with open arms by all staff. Photography was not a problem and many staff were more than willing to talk about the locomotives and future of the railroad. What a difference a month makes! In January and February, most staff seemed to have disappeared from the workshops and were just replaced with a few security guards at the workshop entrances. Although armed, they were to their credit very friendly and helpful, although letting a gringo into photographs the steam locomotives was not a viable option for them.
A list below shows the current status of the steam locomotive fleet in Ecuador. If there is demand (let us know!) then a list of the existing diesel locomotive and carriage fleet is available.
Here are some recent photographs:
Firstly 58 working between Quito and Latacunga
7 at Duran
11 at Duran
14 at Ibarra
15 at Riobamba
17 at Quito
18 at Quito
44 at Bucay
45 at Quito
46 at Bucay
53 at Riobamba
Remains of 55 at Duran
Boiler at Duran (off 56?)
Steam crane at Duran