Ecuador’s Guayaquil & Quito Railway was built between 1897 and 1905. It connected Quito (and other destinations in the Andes) with the port city of Guayaquil. The line travels 273 miles (440 km) from nearly sea level at the terminus in Duran (Guayaquil), through the line’s high point of 11,841 feet (3,609 meters) at Urbina, before ending in Quito at 9,111 feet (2,777 meters). There are many ups and downs in between, including an overall climb of more than 16,700 feet (5,090 meters) when traveling between Guayaquil and Quito. It was one of the most complicated railroad lines ever built and the most challenging part of all is a 7.5 mile (12 km) section called Nariz del Diablo or Devil’s Nose train which connects the Alausí and Simbambe stations. Here’s what that dramatic train journey looks like from onboard.

Devil's Nose Tren Ecuador

How do you get a train around a natural obstacle like the Devil’s Nose? Very, very carefully.

Alausi train station Ecuador

The Alausi train station.

Historic railcards Tren Ecuador

Historic railcars like these are sometimes used to carry passengers navigating the Devil’s Nose section.

Alausi Tren Ecuador Devil's Nose

Leaving the Alausi station.

Tren Ecuador Devil's Nose

Approaching the Devil’s Nose section.

Approaching Devil's Nose

The Devil’s Nose section drops 1,677 feet (511 meters) over just 7.5 miles (12 km) of steep track which includes two switchbacks that allow the train to navigate the tricky terrain.

Devil's Nose Ecuador

Note the “Cambio Pendiente” (Slope Change) warning sign along the track near the Devil’s Nose section.

Devil's nose train switchbacs

To begin the Devil’s Nose navigation, the train heads downhill from Alausi (or up from Simbamba) to the first switchback.

train switchback Devil's Nose

The conductor manually changed the switch so our train could continue descending in reverse across the mountain in the other direction.

Siambe station bottom of Devil's Nose

The Simbambe station at the bottom of the Devil’s Nose section.

Tren Crucero Devil's Nose

Reversing trains ultimately reach a dead end where the track is switched again so the train can continue in the forward direction.

Decending Devil's Nose Ecuador

It is said that as many as 2,000 Jamaican and Puerto Rican workers died building the Devil’s Nose section of rail line.

Watch the dramatic Devil’s Nose train journey in Ecuador in our time-lapse video, below, which was shot with our Brinno camera.


Here’s more about travel in Ecuador

Here’s more about Train Travel in the Americas

See all of our Photo Essays


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