the Nariz del Diablo
Alausi, the railway station at
of the Nariz del Diablo
train ride, is
also an attractive town in its own right.
& the Devil's Nose
Train Ride -
railway town at the top of the famous Nariz del Diablo, or
Devil's Nose, section of Ecuador's train line. It's
also a pretty little town in its own right, watched over by a large
statue of St. Peter. Attractive
old houses, some of the original adobe construction, line the steep
Alausi is best visited during the dryer months of the year,
i.e. June to December.
During the rainy season it can be shrouded in clouds which
obscure the otherwise magnificent views.
hill you'll find St. Peter's statue, great views, a city
map and lots of huge but harmless rhinoceros beetles.
The railway station houses stalls selling
handicrafts and railway souvenirs - a warm hat could be a good
before the train-ride. For some reason there are also
a wide range of hand-knitted finger puppets, ideal gifts for children.
The stationers' shop up the
hill beside the railway line (shown in the top photo)
sells old-fashioned, home-made icecreams - try the
income and jobs remain in Quito or Riobamba, according to the
people of Alausí, leaving them feeling
exploited by the famous railway despite it being a high point
of Ecuador tourism. You can help by spending
time and money in their
town during your train journey.
There are various places to eat
and sleep in Alausi. One day and one night is probably
here, but it is a pleasant place to relax and wander, provided that the
weather is dry. Bring warm clothes for the train ride and at
night - Alausi is at an altitude of over 2340 metres.
Railway history: Ecuador's
railway line was was slow to develop - not surprisingly, since it was
time renowned as the most difficult railway construction in the world
due to the sheer rock wall known as the Nariz del Diablo, below Alausi.
Plans were started in 1874, but work only began in 1899 on
the coast in Guayaquil
and the train track zigzagged up to Alausi in
The Devil's Nose is so steep that the train has to
reverse up alternate bits of track up the zigzag in order to climb
around 800 metres up to Alausi at a gradient of 1 in 18 - then
considered almost impossible in railway engineering. This
makes it one of the world's great railway journeys for fans of railway
continued through Riobamba and reached Quito
in 1908, over a century ago.
between the capital and the coast ran for around 90 years. It
often suffered from delays, financial problems, the odd derailment and
less than excellent administration, but was a key part of Ecuador's
infrastructure. This ended when the El Niño of
1997 smashed large parts of the railway line and since then only the
from Riobamba to Sibambe, at the bottom of the Devil's Nose, has been
restored. This 100km section is run as a tourist trip by the
State via the Empresa Nacional de Ferrcarriles del Estado at prices
which prohibit most Ecuadorians from using the train.
President Rafael Correa has said that he would like to see much more of
Ecuador's railway line restored and used, so it may yet be repaired to
of its former glory.
remaining stretch of
rail track offers spectacular views and is a popular journey for
Many travel on the roof of the train, which is chilly and
totally unnecessary, but if you decide to do this then wear lots of
layers of clothes and take something soft to sit on.
Especially on the way back up the Nariz del Diablo, the train
or autoferro is working really hard and giving off a lot of fumes.
Be prepared for delays, especially on the Nariz del Diablo
section, when the driver and the guard often have to get out and shift
rocks off the railway line.
Nariz del Diablo
train uses a
relatively modern engine to pull the beautiful old railway carriages.
These days, the train is often
replaced by one of two 'autoferros', which are basically a bus body
mounted on train wheels. You still see the same views, but
the vehicles are less atmospheric than the train and have fewer seats.
If it matters to you, check when you buy your train tickets
you will be on the train or the autoferro. Note that the
train track is frequently damaged by falling rocks or by the earth
out from under it so there may be days when the train cannot run until
the railway line is repaired. Sometimes the autoferros, which
lighter, can still travel when the track cannot support the heavier
Devil's Nose train or autoferro leaves Alausí every
Wednesday, Friday and
to go down the Nariz del Diablo and back - you'll be back in
Alausi by around 1p.m. This timetable may change, especially
on bank holidays - check with the Alausi ticket
office upstairs at the station or phone them on 03
The autoferros are also sometimes booked for extra private
tours by travel agents from Quito. Buy your train tickets in
time as they sell out quickly. Tickets cost $7.80 for the
trip down the Nariz del Diablo and back and a further $3.40 to continue
up to Riobamba, a slow but scenic rail journey. Alternatively
can leave Alausi by bus to Riobamba or Quito.
train from Riobamba leaves the railway station there at around
7a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and train tickets cost $11 to
Riobamba - Alausí - the bottom of the Nariz del Diablo -
From Alausi you can either take a bus back, or pay an extra
$3.40 to return to Riobamba on the train. The ticket office
at Riobamba train station, tel. 03 961909, is open from 6am on the days
trains are running.
to Alausí by bus takes around 5 and a half hours -
you may need
to change in Riobamba, from where it is around 2 hours to Alausi.
If you're travelling to or from Quito you will pass through
town of Salcedo (between Latacunga and Ambato).
Salcedo is famous
for its icecreams, especially the striped ones with several different
flavors. Vendors may board the bus, or you might just have to
buy one through the window when the bus stops at a junction, but
Salcedo ice cream is too highly recommended to be missed.
Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Alausí, Ecuador:
Nariz del Diablo: Devil's Nose
autoferro: bus that runs on train tracks
Destinations: Alausí, mountain railway town and station for
Devil's Nose train journey - one of the world's great railway journeys.
Alausi is an attractive town reached by bus from Quito or the famous
Diablo train from Riobamba.
Ecuador railway history, Devil's Nose train station phone numbers,
Nariz del Diablo train times, Ecuador train travel
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
content of this website is copyright and may not be used or reproduced