04 Sep Devil’s Nose Train – Incredible Views of Ecuador
Devil’s Nose Train – Incredible Views and Fascinating History
Fiona Black – South America Travel Centre
After an early start in Riobamba, I headed to Alausi. A small, picturesque town perched on the edge of the Rio Chanchan Gorge, where the notorious Devil’s Nose Train departs. I was booked on the 11am train which travels along a 12km stretch of the line that once connected Ecuador’s capital Quito, in the mountains, to Guayaquil, on the coast. Built in 1901, this train line, and in particular the notorious Devil’s Nose section, was a feat of engineering for its time.
These days the train line is no longer used for transporting goods and much of the original track has deteriorated. The most scenic sections of the track have been maintained for tourist and historic purposes including the Devil’s Nose section. In the past passengers were allowed to ride on the roof of the train which made for a thrilling, but dangerous, journey, this is no longer allowed. The old train carriages were recently replaced and are now comfortable with large windows which enable guests to enjoy the wonderful scenery.
The Devil’s Nose
When I boarded the sun was shining and the sky a brilliant blue, showing off the lush green mountains. Often visitors prefer to take the 8am train hoping the clouds will stay at bay in the morning but it is never guaranteed and for my train ride I was lucky.
The 45 minute train journey weaved its way around the side of the mountain, with magnificent views of the valley below, and then down the infamous Devil’s Nose. Here the train track has to switchback twice to deal with with the steep slope that even today is considered and impressive piece of engineering. With the use of dynamite and a significant labour force, the near vertical rocky face was cut away to make way for the tracks. This section of the track drops 500 metres over a 12 kilometre stretch and got its name from the many deaths that occurred during the building of the line. The ‘nose’ part of the name comes from the side profile of the mountain, when squinting it looks a little bit like a nose.
The Devil’s Nose
For the duration of the train journey our guide explained the history of the train and its significance. At the bottom of the cliff the train stopped for everyone to disembark and take a look back at our descent, admiring the engineering feet that created the Devil’s Nose train journey.
Eventually a whistle signalled the time to re-board the train to Sibambe Station which consists has a small restaurant and museum wedged between the side of the tracks and the mountainside. Traditional music was playing as we arrived at the platform and a local dance group performed in their traditional dress.
Back on-board the train retraced its journey back up the mountain to Alausi, allowing us to experience the Devil’s Nose train journey in reverse. By the time we arrived the rain had set in (classic Ecuadorian highlands weather during rainy season – sunny one moment, pouring rain the next). Luckily my driver was there waiting with an umbrella. After a fabulous day filled with stunning scenery and history I continued through the Ecuadorian highlands to Cuenca. And within 15 minutes the sun had reappeared showing off the mountains and valleys along the way.
Note: When purchasing a ticket I recommend an ‘Abyss’ ticket – or ticket with A. This means you will be seated looking out over the abyss and are able to open your window for unobstructed photographs.
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