Tren Crucero – Ecuador’s Cruise Train
Imagine that you’re traveling though the beautiful countryside of Ecuador on a great trade ride where you’ll see magnificent volcanoes.
Picture the train coming up to a stretch of rail track that’s known for being notorious. You you come upon a mountain with the name “The Devil’s Nose.” The train follows a narrow path which is carved into the side of the mountain. During the construction of the tracks in this area, hundreds of workers lost their lives. This is a short section of track, but one of the most nerve wracking in the entire world. The track climbs more than 500 meters using its switchbacks that require the train to drive backwards for periods of time.
At one side of the train the rocks of the Devil’s Nose barely miss the train. On the other side there’s a steep drop off which is just inches away. On this track, there’s no room for any errors.
The ride might seem scary, but it’s quite safe and this is just a short portion of the Tren Crucero’s trip. The rest of this trip is tame in comparison to this. There’s beautiful scenery to enjoy and great cultural experiences to enjoy.
During the latter part of the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th century this railroad was constructed. The Ecuadorians considered the feta to be a symbol of the unity of their country. The new railroad was also an amazing example of engineering. The final segment of the 280 miles of track was opened in 1908. This linked the capital of Ecuador Quito, which is in the Andes, to Guayaquil one of the coastal cities.
Once the railroad was completed it cut through villages which ran through the regions dozen plus volcanoes. These included the volcanoes Pichincha, Illiniza, Cotopaxi, and Chimborazo. Decades after the railroad was constructed, it went into disrepair and it was neglected and unsafe for travelers.
During the years 2008-2013, the government of Ecuador put $280 million into the railroads restoration as it was the centennial. There’s an exclusive heritage train today which caters to 54 passengers which traverses between Quito and Guayaquil on the restored railway.
The train is pulled most of the way by a diesel locomotive. When the train gets close to its final desiccation, the diesel locomotive is changed for a 1950’s steam locomotive. The train has four coaches and there’s tow armchairs for each passenger. One of the coaches is a bar car and lounge. The last one has an observation car which has four two-person couches. At the back of the train is an open-air platform.
The Tren Crucero leaves from Guayaquil and Quito. There’s no food or sleeper cars so passengers that go on overnight trips sleep in hotels on the route and take any meals away from the train.
Longer trips allow for sightseeing excursions, like the trip to the base of Cotopaxi which is one the largest active volcanoes in the entire world. You can also take an excursion to one of the rose plantations which have made Ecuador famous. Along the trek is Urbina station, which is 11,814 feet above sea level so it’s the highest point of the trip. This station is in the shadow of Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador.