Several plans and attempts were made to build a railway between Guayaquil and Quito between 1860 and 1874. An agreement was finally reached in 1899 and this is when construction of 'the most difficult railway in the world', as it was called at the time, began. The tracks reached a huge obstacle — an almost perpendicular wall of rock called 'The Devil’s Nose'. Many lives were lost in the building of this masterpiece of engineering as a zigzag was cut out of the rock, which allows the train to get from top to bottom of the steep gorge in a series of switchbacks. The tracks finally reached Alausí by 1902 and Riobamba by 1905. Construction was easier from this point on and the tracks continued past Urbina at 11,824 feet (3,604 meters) and on to Quito, where it was greeted with festivities of dances and banquets that lasted for four days.
Your journey begins in Riobamba, where you will pick up the 'Autoferro' — a one coach train, like a bus on tracks — to the small town of Alausí for an astonishing ride, twisting and turning over the Andes, bridging ravines and river gorges. From here, you will head down the thrilling section of the track known as the Devil’s Nose, before journeying on by road to the Cotopaxi area.
This journey is always subject to the train running on the day, and sections of the railway are often closed and have to be covered by road instead.
Experience it for yourself
You can enjoy this activity as part of the suggested tour below, or we can weave it into a trip shaped entirely around you.
Ecuador, Galapagos IslandsView this tour