Wildest Train Ride Ever!


The train to the SKY… SKY… SKY…


Dennis, at www.guanguiltagua.com, who organized our car and driver for Ecuador, tried to tell us that we should come back to Quito through the mountains. I tried to tell him that I don’t really like mountains, nor windy roads that make me motion sick. Plus, we had read that the Andes are so high that people get altitude sickness. The altitude is extremely high, in the 10,000 ft range. Just what I need – altitude sickness and motion sickness.


No thanks I said. Once, twice, maybe half a dozen times, I politely said “No!”


But he insisted. And insisted. I was getting a little ticked. Finally, after I agreed that we’d think about it and make a decision when we get near the mountains, he laid off. Jeez.


Well of course he was right, and so was I. We did have altitude sickness, but we had the most amazing experiences in the Andes Mountains!


The most incredible was the hair-raising Devil’s Nose 1920’s train up one of the highest mountains, zigzagging back and forth at dizzying heights and sharp cliffs looking down to a tiny ribbon of the river below.


The trip starts in Riobamba and the railway snakes up a mountain known as El Nariz del Diablo (The Devil’s Nose). This nearly vertical wall of rock was the greatest natural obstacle engineers encountered during construction of the Southern Railway. The mistake of going over instead of around the Devil’s Nose has become a point of engineering pride.


A team of engineers came up with an ingenious solution of carving a series of tight zigzags into the side of the mountain, which allowed the train to climb a gradient of 1-in-18 meters from 6000 ft to 9000 ft, by going forwards then backwards up the tracks. Today an incline of 1-in-100 meters is considered steep!


Moreover, inclines and curves in the track, especially ones as dramatic as those of the Devil’s Nose, limit the speed of trains and the loads they can carry. Whenever possible the tracks follow topographical contours. 


I read that engineers ruled out tunneling through the mountain and decided that they must either go up it or around. They chose up! This decision made sense in 1900 but unfortunately it made it unusable as a freight or passenger line. It is being used only as a tourist train, but still it is closed every few days for track repairs.


People used to ride on top of the train as well, but a few years ago, someone was killed, and this practice was stopped – awww!


The arduous task of building the railroads in Ecuador also killed thousands of indigenous and Jamaican workers hired to do the climbing and blasting and building.


Between gasps of amazement one minute, in fear the next, here are a few of the photos I managed to take:


First, the Train Station

P1030560 Train is in - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever

P1030554 Train Station - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever


The train…


P1030545 Train of Ecuador

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Lining up with tickets…

P1030562 Train - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever

P1030564 Train - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Inside the train… gorgeous wood…

P1030566 Inside the Train - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever P1030567 Inside the Train - Copy P1030569 - Copy


The ticket…

P1030563 Train Ticket - Copy



Hand Brakes???


Leaving the station. Notice the flat car behind the engine? T says this flatcar behind the engine is not normal, but the brakeman on the flat car is there to put extra hand brakes on going up the steep slopes, in case the engine brakes are not enough! He will be working extremely hard.

P1030572 Train is Departing - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Here we go…

P1030577 - Copy

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Going up…

P1030580 Going Up

Wildest Train Ride Ever

And up…
P1030582 Devils Nose Train, Going up into Mtns that Disappear into Clouds

Wildest Train Ride Ever

And up…

P1030583 Gigantic Mtns Disappearing into the Clouds

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Devils Nose Train going up into Andes Mountains

P1030585 Devils Nose Train, Train Track Below

Wildest Train Ride Ever

The tops of the gigantic Andes Mountains disappearing into the Clouds…

P1030589 Train to the Sky

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Up and up…

P1030592 And UP


Barely grazing by sheer rock cliff walls… someone yelled,

“Keep your arms inside the car!”

And I did, just in time.

P1030605 Passing Inches from Sheer Rock Cliffs

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Sharp cliff-side drops on the other side….


And still going up and up….

P1030608 Devils Nose Train - going straight Up

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Incredible views…

P1030620 Devils Nose Train, Higher and Higher

Wildest Train Ride Ever

The river a ribbon far below…

P1030629 On the Train, Tiny Ribbon of River Straight Down Mtn

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Railroad Workers


Passing workers who barely have enough room between the moving train and the steep bank into the deep valley below them…

P1030617 Passing Workers

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Workers sitting on a rocky outcrop, enjoying the view…

P1030630 Train passes 2 Guys on Rock Outcropping

Wildest Train Ride Ever

OMG! Higher still…

P1030632 Tiny Ribbon of River Straight Down Mtn

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Arms out the window taking pictures while holding my breath!

P1030633 On the Devils Nose Train, Still going Up, hangin out window taking pics

Wildest Train Ride Ever


Train Goes Backwards


Going forward and back to get up the steep grade of the Devil’s Nose!

P1030634 On the Devils Nose Train - Cliff Edge

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Higher and higher…

P1030637On the Train, Tiny Ribbon of River Straight Down Mtn

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Oh My God!

P1030646 Devils Nose - Oh My God

Wildest Train Ride Ever

And still going straight up…

P1030651 Devils Nose Train - zigzagging backwards

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Two more zig-zags to the top of the Devil’s Nose! This has to be the wildest train ride ever!

P1030666 Going Down, See rail lines above house

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Amazing views…

P1030720 Fog, Train View on the way Down

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Traditional Ecuadorian Dancers


Now starting back down the Devil’s Nose, with a stop at a little train station where tradition Ecuadorian Dancers performed…

P1030668 Traditional Ecuadorian Dance Performance at a tiny station halfway down

P1030670 Traditional Dancers at Mtn Train Station

P1030687 Traditional Dancers at Mtn Train Station

P1030689 Dancer


Traditional crafts…

P1030684 Women Working on Traditional Crafts



Waiting for the train…

P1030702 Waiting for the Devil's Nose Train



Back Down the Devil’s Nose

P1030709 Train View on the way Down

Wildest Train Ride Ever

P1030714 Train View on the way Down

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Unbelievable views

P1030716 More Incredible Views

Wildest Train Ride Ever

P1030718 Train View on the way Down

Wildest Train Ride Ever

P1030709 Train View on the way Down

Wildest Train Ride Ever

Wildest train ride ever!!!

P1030720 Fog, Train View on the way Down


El Nariz del Diablo (The Devil’s Nose) – the train to the SKY!



Note: Passengers used to ride on top of the train, until several people were killed.


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P.S. The views and challenges are serious in the Andes Mountains. If you are inclined to do some mountain climbing and need some genuine mountain gear, check out the Smart Lad’s website.

Originally posted 2013-08-12 12:02:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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5 Responses to Wildest Train Ride Ever!

  1. wendy miller says:

    That sounds awesome!

  2. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. They are both a reminder of travels past and an inspiration for the future. Stay brave and adventurous!

  3. Pingback: How Do You Have Fun In Spite Of Altitude Sickness? | TRAVEL TO LITTLE KNOWN PLACES

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