Enthusiast

Steam in the Andes

8 to 21 August
Ecuador

We are pleased to offer this tour in conjunction with Trains and Travel in the USA. This is their 20th tour to Ecuador since 1990.

Ecuador is the last stronghold of rugged mountain railroading using steam in the Andes of South America and the gem of the Equatorial Andes, is a small but spectacular country that encompasses an amazing variety of landscapes, with great biodiversity, not to mention a fascinating cultural and historical lagacy once associated with the great Empire of the Inca.

Ecuador is also home to the famous Guayaquil & Quito Railroad, one of the world’s most famous railway engineering endeavors built on 42-inch gauge. The G&Q has been called by some as the “Most Difficult Train in the World” and has seven Baldwin steam locomotives in operating condition for the enjoyment of railfans. Two 2-6-0’s and five 2-8-0’s including the last Baldwin steam locomotive built in the USA. These locomotives are stored serviceable for charter work.  

Over the past 30 years we have seen many changes to the railroad including a complete rebuilding of the line between Duran and Quito. But railroad management does not have the funds to keep the 288 mile line in good repair. The entire route is no longer open as the rainy season in Ecuador has taken its toll on the railroad. Out of 288 miles 30 miles is closed pending repairs. The railroad has told us that they plan to get back in operation then entire mainline but over the past 30 years we have experienced just how long repair work can take so our itinerary below is based on railroad that is open now. As repair work is completed, we will add those miles to our tour. We will also have a charter railcar on the San Lorenzo Railroad out of Ibarra for 40 miles.

Highlights

  • Incredible scenery
  • Steam hauled charters with six different locos
  • Workshop visits
  • Great photo opportunities
  • Many meals included
  • Devil’s Nose Switchbacks

Tour Manager: Chris Skow

From: Heathrow, Bristol, Norwich, Birmingham, Manchester, Humberside, Edinburgh

Itinerary

Day 1 Saturday 8 August (D) Early morning flights with KLM, via Amsterdam, from most of the UK’s larger airports, to Guayaquil. All tour members will be met and transferred to our hotel. Welcome to Ecuador dinner in the evening.

Day 2 Sunday 9 August (B,L) Visit the Duran railroad workshops which is just across the Guayas River. If you look carefully you will see the boiler and tender from one of the railroads long-gone Garratt articulated locomotives. We then board our charter train at the workshops pulled by Baldwin No. 14 a 2-6-0 built in 1901 for the run to Yaguachi and return, a total of 28 miles. Yaguachi was the original starting point of the planned railroad to Quito, with the first tracks laid in 1871. This section of the railroad is in the flatlands running through the farms and rice paddies. There is a triangle (wye) to turn our steam locomotive at Yaguachi. Photo run-by both directions.

Day 3 Monday 10 August (B,L,D) After breakfast oard our charter train at Duran for the run to Barraganetal, a distance of 43 miles. We will have plenty of time to make a number of photo run-passes. Past this point the railroad is being repaired. Depending upon repairs we will run as far as possible past Barraganetal. Today our train will be pulled by “Andes Class” Baldwin No. 53, a 2-8-0 built in 1953 by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton. We then transfer to our waiting motorcoach for the short trip to a local working cattle ranch which has also been made into a hotel. On our way to this ranch we will stop at Bucay to explore the old steam workshops. Several steam locomotives and boilders are still here and have been used for parts to keep the other engines running. Bucay is located at the base of the Andes and was once a very important terminal where the Andes Class 2-8-0’s would take over for the steep 5% climb into the mountains.

Day 4 Tuesday 11 August (B,L,D) Today we travel on our charter bus for the steep climb into the Andes on the Pan American Highway to Riobamba which is at 9035 feet. The rail line out of Bucay is closed for 17 miles to Huigra and needing repairs. As we make our way northbound towards Riobamba we will stop at an overlook with spectacular views of the famous Devils Nose Switchbacks far below. Then at Alausi we will make a stop at the railroad station to check-out which diesels and railcars are in town. Upon arrival in Riobamba, known as the “Sultan of the Andes”, we will visit the workshops before going to our hotel for check-in.

Day 5 Wednesday 12 August (B,L,D) Charter train southbound Riobamba to Alausi , a distance of 53 miles with steam locomotive No. 58, a 2-8-0 built by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1953. No. 58 was the last steam locomotive built in the USA by Baldwin. Photo run-bys all day. Upon arrival in Alausi, at 8,663 feet and hotel check-in.

Day 6 Thursday 13 August (B,L,D) We board our train at Alausi and run it down the Devil’s Nose Switchbacks to Sibambe which is at 5,925 feet. We then continue into the Chan Chan River Canyon to Huigra which is at 4,800 feet. Here we will turn our engine on the triangle (wye) for the return trip up the steep 5.6% grades to the Devil’s Nose Switchbacks and then on back to Alausi. 2nd night at Alausi. Today we will cover a total of 32 miles packed with photo run-passes.

Day 7 Friday 14 August (B,L,D) We again board our charter train pulled by steam locomotives No. 58 for the steep climb out of town. We will first run several photo run-passes running down the  middle of the Alausi  cobblestone streets and over the  spectacular Alausi Bridge. Departing northbound from we run over the steepest part of the railroad as our hard-working locomotive tackles the 5.7% grade to the top of the Chan chan River Canyon. At Palmira we reach the first summit which is at 10, 623  feet. By time we reach Riobamba we will have traveled 53 miles.

Day 8 Saturday 15 August (B,L,D) We board our charter train with steam locomotive No. 45 a 2-8-0 Baldiwn built in 1944. We head northbound up the spectacular “Avenue of the Volcanoes”   to the highest point on  the entire G&Q Railroad at Urbina  which is at 11,841 feet  and is on the slope of the massive  20,689 foot Chimborazo Volcano which is the highest point in Ecuador.   Riobamba to Urbina is 27 miles and is all uphill. We will run many photo run-bys on this stretch of railroad. From Urbina Summit to Ambato is 26 miles and almost all downhill. At Ambato which is at 8,435 feet we transfer to our hotel. Ambato is known as the “Garden of Ecuador” and the “City of Flowers”.

Day 9 Sunday 16 August (B,L) We reboard our train pulled by steam locomotive No. 45 at Ambato and continue northbound towards Quito. Today we will run to the station of Salcedo, a distance of 21 miles. A few miles north of here there is a wash-out but railroad management said this has high priority in getting repaired so there is a very good chance we will be able to continue northbound past Salcedo. Until we received the information from the railroad we will assume that at Salcedo we will transfer to our charter motorcoach and run around the wash-out to the next station at Latacunga, a distance of 13 miles. Here we will board one or two of the autoferro railcars that are based in Quito for the 71 mile run on into the city. Today we will crest the Cotopaxi Summit at 11,638 feet which is at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano and the popular Cotopaxi National Park.

We then drop down into the valley and once again start climbing the final hill into Quito. Before we arrive in downtown Quito we stop to explore the workshops which is a few miles outside of the city. Then steam locomotive No. 17 a 2-8-0 Baldwin will take us the final few miles into Quito. Upon arrival at the Quito station we reach our final summit at 9,110 feet.

Day 10 Monday 17 August (B,L) Today you can sleep in a bit before we take you on a Quito City Tour which will also include the “Center of the World Monument” which is 16 miles north of downtown Quito.

Day 11 Tuesday 18 August (B,L,D) We depart from our hotel in Quito by charter bus for the 71 mile trip north to Ibarra, at 7218 feet where we visit the workshops of the FC San Lorenzo (Railroad) Steam locomotive No. 18 a inside frame 2-8-0 will be operating in and around the yard for photos. We then board our charter train pulled by a diesel for the 20-mile run to Salinas where we turn our train on the triangle (wye) and come back to Ibarra. We then transfer to our hotel.

Day 12 Wednesday 19 August  A few miles from our hotel is the famous Otavalo Indian Market at 8,307 feet of which is considered one of the best local indian markets in all of South America. The local vendors sell just about everything you could think of, including textiles, handmade blankets, tablecloths, jewelry, musical instruments and a lot more. We then return to Quito and hotel check in. This evening we will have our “Farewell Dinner”.

Day 13 Thursday 20 August (D) Free day in Quito to relax and explore the city on your own. This evening we will have our “Farewell Dinner”.

Day 14 Friday 21 August  Transfer to the airport for your flights home (arriving UK on Saturday 22 August). It is also possible to stay on for an Amazon safari or a Galapagos Cruise.

Place(s) available

Prices (per person)

  • From London Heathrow: £5,725
  • From Norwich: £5,725
  • From Birmingham: £5,725
  • From Manchester: £5,725
  • From Humberside: £5,725
  • From Edinburgh: £5,725
  • From Guayaquil to Quito: £4,725

With flight prices confirmed at time of booking

Options

  • Single room supplement: £690

Deposit

  • £750 plus any flight costs
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