It is considered one of the world’s most dangerous train rides. The section of Ecuador’s railway aptly titled ‘the Devil’s Nose’, was responsible for some 2000 deaths during construction and even a few gringos after that. It was a remarkable feat for a developing country to build a train system over a century ago that crossed the Andes linking Quito to Guayaquil.
The Devil’s Nose traverses the rocky slopes of the Andes and drops 500 meters over a course of 12km via a switch back system. The switch-back track involves the train moving past a junction, stopping and then heading back down the section to the next junction and moving forward again continuing down the mountain. The mountain side, called ‘the Condors Aerie’ in the town of Alausi, was last section of rail needed to connect the Quito and Guayaquil lines.
In 1901, this became known as the ‘Devil’s Nose’ because of the deaths of many workers that occurred there due to the difficulty of construction. To construct the devil’s nose track, 3 000 Jamaicans and 1 000 Puerto Ricans were brought in. Unfortunately so many died during construction, only about 300 stayed in Ecuador.
Even though much of the rail system has deteriorated, the section of the ‘Devil’s Nose’ has remained well kept because it has been such an attraction for tourists. Tourists flock from all over South America to take their journey down the Devil’s Nose. Visitors used to be able to take their seats on the top of the train over-looking the valley which claimed so many lives and make their journey from the top to the bottom and back up again. However, due to the deaths of a couple of tourists and a few broken bones of others, they have terminated this ticket and now limit riders to the interior of the train only. There are however still many other adventurous and danergous activities left in Ecuador, see some of my favourites in adventure capital, Baños.
The ride itself is fabulous, leaving 3 times a day at 8:00am, 11:00am, and 3:00pm and is of the best $30.00 I spent in Ecuador. After boarding the train, you are given an informational tour about the history of the Ecuadorian rail and Devil’s Nose section in both English and Spanish as you traverse the historical switch back track.
At the bottom of the valley, tourists have the opportunity to leave the train to take photographs, watch some traditional dancers, visit the museum and buy handicrafts. We spent our train break drinking coffee from the café up a few flights of exterior stairs located beside the museum. From the outdoor café we enjoyed a beautiful view of the Andes partly because of the beautiful weather we were lucky enough to have. The tour also includes a boxed lunch (sandwiches) that you can pick up on your way back to the train. The train then departs and heads back through the switch-back track, but this time up to the top of the valley. A total tour duration of 2 hours, still this was probably one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ moments I had in Ecuador.
The town of Alausi also has some of the best restaurants I sampled in Ecuador. Small “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants served delicious homemade local fare for a super reasonable price. To get to this small town you will have to take a bus to Riobamba, or towards Guayaquil and ask the bus driver to drop you off at Alausi. Yes you will be dropped off on the highway BUT it is only a short 4 block walk to the main street in town.
The Educational Tourist says
Stunning views! WOW! At first I thought the train ride itself was dangerous and I was wondering why anyone would want to go! Ecuador looks like an amazing place. I really enjoyed the post.
What an adventure! Hope to be able to do this!
So fun to read about things I may never do but can experience through your story!
Ahh i wanted to do this last year when I was in south america, but didn’t quite have time! I did do the ‘death train’ from bolivia – brazil though. But that’s not scary just has a scary name haha
katja - globetotting says
This looks incredible! A terrible history, of course, but it sounds like an amazing experience to do now. Great photos too – thanks!
Tracie Howe says
This looks like an interesting tour. Stunning landscapes! Is it considered one of the world’s most dangerous train rides because of a few tourists that died and got hurt? That doesn’t seem so bad. Very sad about the construction workers though. :(
Natalie Deduck says
What a great adventure!
The views from the ride are stunning!
Thanks for sharing it!
Tara Cannon says
Oh my, that does seem a little scary. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been to build. It reminds me of the stories I heard about the building of the Panama Canal.
Gabby | The Globe Wanderers says
Wow – what a beautiful spot! Sounds like a great adventure! So sad that so many lost their loves building it though. Great post :)
This looks Like a fun thing to do, thanks for sharing. I thought the title referred to the train ride itself (not the building of it) and wondered what in the world anyone would want to do this for? Nice pictures.
Wow, interesting to see how you enjoyed the experience.
We love train travel, however it was the apparent lack of value for money here that saw us avoid this excursion.
$30 for 2 hours b Ecuadorian standards is a small fortune! ;-)
Glad to be able to see something we missed when we were there!
Gemma Two Scots Abroad says
This is a very similar story to Bolivia’s Death Road. Everyone that passes through La Paz now cycle’s The World’s Most Dangerous Road but it actually got its name from the number of deaths whilst making it. Interesting post, I’d like to do this ride!
Trisha Velarmino says
What a beautiful experience! I’ve done this also but not the way you did it! I hope you liked Ecuador as much as I did and if ever you are still in the area, I live in Peru (neighbor) and would want to meet! Xx
Carolann - One Modern Couple says
Such a sad story but such a great experience to have! Would love to ride this train one day and to learn more about its history!
Looking scary but beautiful!
Looks like by train you could see some unbelievable views of the countryside. What a feat indeed of building such a route!
Anything called the Devil’s Nose must be pretty crazy. I can imagine it took quite a while to get back and forth down all those switchbacks.
Amazing green valley! I love myself a good train ride and would definitely try it.
A bit sad all the effort it took to build it, though.
I’ve never heard of the Devil’s Nose before. It should like my type of trip and has great views. I’m going to look into it more now and maybe add it to my 2016 bucket list.
I would love to go on this train ride – definitely sounds like $30 well spent! Cheers.
Elaine J. Masters says
I’ve wanted to explore Ecuador for long and had heard about trains from Quito. This looks pretty interesting as well.
Cherri Megasko says
How very interesting! I’ve never heard of this before but it sounds like something Greg and I would really enjoy. What a fun way to learn a little local history!