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Railways in Ecuador
There is a train system in Ecuador but it is now more used as tourist attraction than a transport system. This rail system was known as one of the hardest in the whole world because it runs through the Andes between huge cliffs, canyons and rivers. If you are in a hurry don't count on it because it is too old and slow, but it is one of the best ways to see Ecuador. Timetables are at best erratic, and you will need to check that the line is actually running. To buy train tickets and check out the routes you will need to go to Chimbacalle Station ( Estación de Ferrocarril) a few kilometers south of the old town -you can get there on the Trolley Bus to the Machangara stop. Latest information at Empresa de Ferrocariles Ecuatorianos
From Quito you can take the Autoferro along the avenue of the volcanoes to the Boliche Forest at the entrance to Cotopaxi.
The old route from Guayaquil to Quito (the G & Q or 'Good and Quick'), once one of the greatest rail journeys in the world, is no more. Much of the route was damaged by torrential rain and landslides from El Niño in 1997-98, but you can see some of its splendour taking the journey from Riobamba to Nariz del Diablo. This route passes by the lakes at Cajabamba and Colta whilst climbing to the picturesque colonial village of Alausi, and from there zig zags up and down the spectacular 45 degree incline of the Devil's Nose before returning to Alausi. Traditionally tourists ride on the roof, but this was stopped in 2007, so check in advance to see if it is again possible. Paul Theroux also referred to it in The Old Patagonian Express, although strangely never actually came to ride the train.
Train from Alausi
Update May 2009 -a 100km stretch of the Ferrocarril from Quito to Latacunga is open again at weekends and bank holidays, using refurbished old engines, with plans for a further 100km past Urbina, Riobamba to Sibambe in the future.
Current Routes available -subject to change, so do check first:
Riobamba-Alausí-Sibambe-Alausí Riobamba: Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
Takes you past the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) although at the last information it was no longer possible to travel on the roof.
Tickets from Estación Station de Riobamba. Riobamba.
Av. 10 de Agosto y Carabobo.
Tel: 032961909

Quito-Latacunga-Quito: Saturdays and Sundays
Travel through the Route of Volcanoes from Quito. Departures from Station Chimbacalle (Maldonado and Sincholagua).
Tickets from: Main Building (443 Bolivar and Garcia Moreno) Tuesday through Friday.
Tel: 022582921

Ibarra-Primer Paso-Ibarra: Saturdays and Sundays
This route takes you through about twenty tunnels, and long bridges in colourful landscapes
Tickets from: Estación Station de Ibarra (Av. Eugenio Espejo y Colón)
Tel: 062950390

Tambo-Baños del Inca Tambo: Saturdays and Sundays
Visit Baños del Inca archaeological complex
Tickets from the Mayor in El Tambo
Tel: 0722233116
Chiva Express -tours to Cuenca and Guayaquil on board a converted Chiva on rails.
EFE -Empresa de Ferrocariles Ecuatorianos -routes, fares and latest timetables -site in Spanish but with translation by Google into English.
Kells Transport Museum -beautiful photographic essay on the Devil's Nose with lots of pictures -page takes a while to load.
Railway Touring Company -specialise in steam tours all over the world -the group are organising a new tour on the Guayaquil and Quito route for 2010.
Steam in Ecuador -tours on by steam train on the Guayaquil and Quito Route organised by Ecuador Adventure. Also produce a fantastic photo book about the route, thought to be the most difficult railroad in the world.
The Guayaquil and Quito Line -photographic essay from Colin Churchers railway pages.
Devil's nose

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Featured book:

The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas
Paul Theroux
Penguin Books Ltd
Paperback - November 25, 2004
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