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GUAYAQUIL AND QUITO RAILROAD - ENFE
Bucay to Huigra Section
The Bucay to Huigra section of the railway is currently semi-abandoned and has not seen passenger service for some years. However, the writer was fortunate enough to be granted the facility to go on a railcar over the section and as the photographs show it was most interesting.
The section is currently scheduled for rehabilitation and in fact most of it was in better condition than the sections seeing current passnger use. For the trip we had railcar No. 95, a Bluebird Thomas bodied Cummins engined rail chassis.
First we drove from Guayaquil to Bucay in this Marcopolo bodied Isuzu badged as a Chevrolet.
The road goes across the flat jungle plains in the ninety degree, high humidity, heat
Loco 167 was just driven in and left. This was one of ten Alcos ordreed in the late 1960's by the Ferrocarriles Ecuatorianos and built in Spain. The intention was to replace the steam fleet by these six axle motors but it did not work as there were no spare parts and steam continued to reign supreme. The narrow gauged (1067 mm) DM535B's were never
satisfying - being too heavy for the tracks west of Bucay
When did a driver last sit in this?
The wind whistles through the cab.
The electric panel was opened to work on - and left!
Steam loco 36 is serviceable and was just driven in and abandoned.
The track car No. 85 has not been moved in moons. Even it carries people on the roof as does every piece of equipment on Ecuador Railways.
The station building looks a little the worse for wear.
Another abandoned diesel can be seen across the shed which has much of its roof eaten away by corrosion.
The mechanical calculator still worked
And the Chief Mechanical Engineers Office just gathered dust from the day he left.
As there were no trains for moons the track and bridge had become the local main road.
The station lies in the middle of the town and the track runs down the street.
Waiting for the train and having lunch meanwhile.
Suddenly a horn blows and a ghost of a railcar No. 95 appears from nowhere no doubt from the grave where it had been sleeping and this was its two day resurrection. It even had been painted for the occasion.
The cab has the usual steering wheel which is the clamp brakes, left for on and right for off. A piece of wire with a hook prevents it slipping off although nobody really trusts this and the wheels are always chocked if the driver leaves his seat. The cummins engine is the right and the door control likewise. There is an accelerator, brake pedal and clutch as well and the gearbox is a splitter box which always grates going into bottom gear no matter what railcar it was.
The inside is utilitarian but presentable and in good nick.
The horn blows and passengers upstairs, please! Behind we have a wagon which will bring a workcrew and sleepers to replace any that don't exist. Bearing in mind that it is at least a year since anything traversed the line it promised to be - and was - an advanture.
The hi-tech towbar with its automatic safety devices and non-existent non-continuous non-air brake!
Leaving Bucay we start through the fields.
The foothills of the Andes increase the gradient
With level sections here and there.
It's a poor country and good city wages are 2 dollars her hour and in some places two dollars a day in the country.
First station in sight.
You can always tell the approach of an Ecuadorean train in the jungle as the first thing you see is the people on the roof coming around the corner whereas the rest of the train is hidden by the foliage.
Departing the station. Incidentally, because this is rain forest it rains frequently and heavily!
And so we get on our way again. The track looks a little out of gauge so we must stop and check.
With our hi-tech gauging measure - otherwise known as a metre tape - we check the track where it looks a little too wide for comfort. On this occasion it was not. This beats lasers anytime!
Can't say the bridges look too healthy either.
An abandoned station. Wagons just left here.
The station building has not probably seen a human for years.
The track winds along the river. Flanges squeal.
The bridges make you wonder!
An almost sleeperless track.
Starting to climb again.
Gorges every so often.
The occasional flat section.
Oh, dear that bridge ahead really does look a ilttle the worse for wear. Full stop and all out for an inspection.
There do appear to be a few sleepers missing, a few burnt here and there, not to mention the odd one dangling. In view of the fact that there is a 70 foot drop to the river bed it just might be prudent to stick a few sleepers on the bridge.
Sleepers Off first.
Then lay them out. Cut out the slots for the rails and drill holes for the keys, all by hand.
Lo and behold a permanent way car arrives from the other side with five eople having travelled all the way downhill. There is certainyl no shortage of helpers.
Stick them in, a few spikes here and there and low and behold the bridge is ready. Not sure it looks very much better. All aboard and onto the middle to see if it works. Its called confidence in your work.
The view from the door of the train is not for the queasy. You can see right down the 70 feet. That is the water below.
Another rather unqiue loooking bridge!
But never mind. On our way again. Now who could have strung a water pipe acrsos the valley out here in the middle of nowhere? Amazing as it appears to run from nowhere to nowhere.
The station at Huigra on one side has not had a train for years. It used to be the passing place for the daily Riobamba to Guayaquil trains.
On the other side it is a little better.
And finally it arrives at the station. Nobody was really sure when the last train was there and the whole town was out to see the appearance of the ghost.
These towns were built for the railway and when the railway was abandoned, because they had no decent roads, they too went downhill and towns such as Huigra are fast becoming ghost towns.
We turned our machine on the wye and here is a unique picture of a train entering Huigra from the north.
A rather dilapidated building once superb and living on the railway.
This was once the headquarters of the railway.
Thats it for the day. Back to our nice accommodation in the jungle over another bridge.
Closup of the bridge. The Photo says it all.
Oops! Slight derailment! All hands to lifting the section car back on the track. It sort got out of control going down hill and ended up in the dirt.
Our train stops right outside the door.
A very comfortable place to stay in the middle of nowhere.
Following morning was brilliant sunshine so away we went back up the line to Huigra for another look.
The sun starts to shine. It makes the scenery even mroe fantastic.
The rivers gush down the mountain.
Plains occasionally appear...
To start disappearing again....
Into beautiful gorges.
The mountains are only stunning.
Patterns are carved into the mountains.
95 with an Andean backdrop.
95 crossing another rickety bridge.
This time in Huigra in sunshine.
The town looks better in the Andean sunshine.
As does the old railway headquarters.
I am not sure the same can be said for the other side of the main street.
And finally we leave faithful 95 to go back to sleep for another year or so! Actually the line from Huigra to Alausi is blocked by a major landslide but machinery has moved in and it is planned to re-open the entire line from Bucay to Alausi by December 2005 which would be absolutely fantastic as it has to be one of the most wonderful train rides in the world. It would be such a tragedy to abandon this beautiful line. I felt privileged to be able to travel on this section as very few people have managed it.