The most impressive section of Ecuador's railway network is known as the Devil’s Nose (Nariz del Diablo in Spanish). This 12 kilometre section of track connects Alausi and Sibambe stations dropping some 500 meters in elevation over the route. The Devil’s Nose crossing is made possible by using switchbacks: the train travels ahead past a junction and then reverses down the next section before continuing forwards again. Although time consuming, it was the only way to get trains down the mountain with such an enormous drop in vertical height over such a short horizontal distance. It is an impression piece of engineering and the journey is definitely a hair-raising experience.
The end of the Line: Sibambe station
How to get to Alausi?
To get to Alausi independently catch a bus from Quito (5 hours) or from Riobambe (2 hours) or combine the Devils's Nose experience with a one-way train journey from or to Duran (Guayaquil).
Having first enquired about the Devil’s Nose train at Riobambe station the previous day, we were told that the train no longer operated from there due to a landslide. At Alausi station there were two, what looked like converted road buses now mounted on train wheels. Both had been equipped with bars on the roof to give passengers uninterrupted views when travelling down the Devils Nose. It was certainly a tourist only service.
Each person was given a cushion to sit on if opting for the roof option and the idea was to allow your legs to dangle underneath the bar and down the side of the carriage. I was sat on the right hand side in the direction of travel and this gave me amazing views of the descent from Aluasi to Sibambe. On the return journey, those that sat on the roof had to sit inside to give everyone a fair chance at riding the roof of a train.
The other bus-train at Alausi station was even more purpose built for sitting on the roof...