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 which connects the Alausí and Simbambe stations. Here’s what that dramatic train journey looks like from onboard.
How do you get a train around a natural obstacle like the Devil’s Nose? Very, very carefully.
The Alausi train station.
Historic railcars like these are sometimes used to carry passengers navigating the Devil’s Nose section.
Leaving the Alausi station.
Approaching the Devil’s Nose section.
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.
Note the “Cambio Pendiente” (Slope Change) warning sign along the track near the Devil’s Nose section.
To begin the Devil’s Nose navigation, the train heads downhill from Alausi (or up from Simbamba) to the first switchback.
The conductor manually changed the switch so our train could continue descending in reverse across the mountain in the other direction.
The Simbambe station at the bottom of the Devil’s Nose section.
Reversing train ultimately reach a dead end where the track is switched again to the train can continue in the forward direction.
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.