The International Steam Pages

The Railways of Ecuador, 2010

The first (May) 2010 report from Dr. Michael Grimes via Trevor Heath is still available below - click here. The following report was posted on,168724 in September 2010 and clearly things have on the whole moved forwards and not backwards, but to me (and I have never been to Ecuador)  the biggest difference is the tone rather than the substance. The forum report includes some pictures although, from the legend, the picture of 11 indicates it was taken in 2007. Readers who want to know some 2008/9 background should read Stephen Lacey's earlier 2009 report which also contains a link to his 2008 report. There is a 2012 update to this report available too.

"I am happy to report very good news on the narrow gauge in Ecuador.

The rebuilding of the railway is starting to show results and I attach the latest situation, section by section. New trains have been added and it is now only a matter of time until through trains run again from Quito to Guayaquil (Duran).

The following is a current rundown. For about three thousand more photos go to my website - link dead by July 2020.

As for steam it has a very bright future with five engines currently under overhaul. It is expected that Nos. 11, 14, 17, 18, 53 and 58 will be all in service in 2011. Ecuador is set to be the steam paradise of South America.

Duran to Yaguachi..
Rebuilt. Two trains daily Thursday to Sunday. This is really a phoenix arising.The line can now take full heavyweight diesel trains as well as autoferro and steam.

Yaguachi to Milagro.
Work being done. Might have service end 2010. HOWEVER, the city of Milagro has refused to allow any trains into or through it! Interesting to see what happens.

Milagro to Bucay.
Dead for the moment due to Milagros problems.

Bucay to Huigra.
Major landslide problems. Might be ready early 2011.

Huigra to Sibambe.
God knows! It was to be ready this year but my bet is late 2011, if by then. Landslides and bridge out have caused chaos.

Sibambe to Palmira via Alausi
This is the latest casualty in the winter landslide disaster and all available resources are being poured into getting it back working as it is the major revenue earner. The best current estimate is that the Devils Nose (Sibambe to Alausi) might be ready by Christmas with Alausi to Palmira by February 2011.

Palmira to Riobamba
One daily autoferro.

Riobamba to Urbina.Operational. Just no trains.

Urbina to Mocha.
Could be ready with little work. No immediate plans.

Mocha to Latacunga.
This is very much in the lap of the Gods but it just might be ready by the end of 2011.

Latacunga to Quito.
This the newly reopened section and now sees one through train on Thu, Fri, Sat and Sunday with an autoferro. On the same days another autoferro does three round trips from Machachi (which of course is nowhere near Machachi but in the middle of nowhere) to El Boliche for Cotopaxi though the logic of this is hard to fathom.

Interestingly, two trains are timetabled on Saturday and Sunday mornings from Quito to Machachi with no return workings so they must be piling the trains up in Machachi!

Ibarra to Primer Paso.
One train on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday but only as far as Salinas as the track has got so bad between Salinas and Primer Paso. They are hoping to have this section ready manana.

Primer Paso to Lita.
In the God knows when department! But there are good intentions.

Lita to El Progresso.
Track actually operational. Just no trains.

El Progresso to San Lorenzo.
Service cut from two per day to one per day.

The master plan is for Quito to Guayaquil(Duran) to be ready by 2011 and Ibarra to San Lorenzo by 2012. I could see, myself the mainline to Guayaquil ready by 2012 and Ibarra to San Lorenzo by 2012 and possibly Quito to San Lorenzo by 2014. But at least now there is a plan and I personally believe the new Railway Board mean business. The only question is when. And do not forget the unknown unknowns Ė the winter landslides which can destroy any plans.

There are expected to be four serviceable Alsthom diesels, one for Ibarra, Quito, Riobamba, Bucay and Duran. At the moment three are available. Railcars will now be augmented by 110, 111, 112 now that Metropolitan are no longer using them. I hope to have a full equipment list and where it is shortly.

This is Dr. Michael Grimes' report from May 2010

"The news from Ecuador for 2010 is not good.

Despite piling millions into the system it is actually worse than before they started.

The situation currently is as follows - and please correct me if I am wrong on anything and some miracle has occurred since I wrote this - as regards anything for 2010, if you intend going there.

Duran to Yaguachi - Nothing.

Yaguachi to Milagro - Forget it.

Milagro to Bucay - Not even track.

Bucay to Huigra - Not passable. Working on repairing storm damage, maybe OK by end of 2010.

Huigra to Sibambe. Unless the train has wings - to jump the rivers without bridges - and a pretty heavy blade in front - to remove the landslides - forget it.

Sibambe to Alausi - Currently closed, working like hell on landslide damage. Maybe back by mid-June.

Alausi to Riobamba currently passible Palmira to Riobamba due landslide between Alausi and Palmira. Hopefully all the way through late 2010.

Riobamba to Urbina. Passable. But for what?

Urbina - Ambato - Latacunga. It is presumed that there is still track under one metre of earth but uncertain. Forget it.

Latacunga - El Boliche. What you might call in the air - literally. The ballast was removed, the track suspended almost half a metre above the ground to replace the ballast and oh! dear! seems like somebody stole the ballast.

El Boliche to Quito (Chimbacalle). recently rebuilt and operating occasionally.

Ibarra to Primer Paso. Daily service - I think!

The good news is that five steamers, Nos. 11, 17, 18, 53 and 58 are in the workshops being totally rebuilt with a target date (Ecuadorian target, that is!) of January 2011 for returning to service and this has to be good news long term as they will arrive. Personally I would expect about three available for March 2011. As far as I know there is no currently serviceable steam as the "big bang" repair programme took everything out at once.

Other bad news is the withdrawal of all Metropolitan Touring trains (Chiva Expresses) which was over half the passenger trains, mainly due to the fact there was nowhere for them to go. They are three fine railcars and one can only hope for their coming back into regular use when service resumes.

So there is the sad story but there is a chance things will work again in 2011 and the railway management are really trying. But they got "famous" Spanish consultants and we all know what the Spanish did to Ecuador the last time.

Finally, it galls me to see people like RTC offering tours on their websites which they have not a cats chance in hell of delivering. It gives everyone a bad name. Who do they think they are kidding?

So letís keep our fingers crossed and hope that 2011 will deliver something. It will happen but when is the question?"

Rob Dickinson