July 02, 2010
The rehabilitation of the legendary Quito-Guayaquil Railway, one of the world’s most extraordinary engineering feats is fully underway and the Government of Ecuador has given this task a high priority. The idea is to position the Railroad, as it was decades ago, as a prime tourist attraction of the country, luring more visitors to Ecuador and becoming a motor to boost the national and local economies, favored by the benefits of tourism and employment opportunities. The Railway constitutes a Cultural and Touristic Patrimony of Ecuador.
The Ecuadorian Rail Company, sponsors a Public Enterprise, the mega project which consists of reconstructing and rehabilitating the segments that time, weather, natural phenomena and oblivion had left abandoned and inoperable. The plan includes a recovery of the actual tracks, the backbone of the railroad; reconstruction of several Stations, many of which are architectonic gems and historic sites; repair and placing in operation of a 908 Baldwin steam locomotive and one electro-diesel locomotive from 1992, plus the refurbishing of the passenger coaches.
The kick off of the new plan was launched on June 29th, this year, with the reopening of the Duran-Yaguachi segment, in the coastal plains of Ecuador. Duran is a historic Station, located on the namesake town, just separated from Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main sea port, by the mythical and vast Guayas River. The centenary Station was rebuilt conserving its architectonic characteristics, predominantly wooden structures and decoration, recreating the romantic epoch, over a hundred years ago. The Station is now complemented with ample spaces for the passengers, Tourist Information Center and an attractive Train Café and Shop complex. The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa re-inaugurated the route, accompanied by national and local authorities and was one more thrilled passenger, recreating the ancient route as it travelled through the bucolic and beauty-filled coastal fields, wetlands and cocoa, coffee, bananas and rice plantations.
The Yaguachi Station was equally rebuilt, preserving the original design and complemented with comfortable spaces for the travelers, Tourism Information Centre and additional services to make it more user-friendly. The experience is enhanced by an alliance between the Railway Public Enterprise, the local Municipality and a tour operator, to provide the visitors with a variety of activities of touring in the area, including visiting the Old Cathedral; rides on the colorful trici-motos; boat rides, bird watching and gastronomy options, particularly using as the venue, a typical coastal hacienda and its rich natural products, converted into delightful pieces of local cuisine. The overall project provides an ample participation of the local community in the venture.
The ambitious recovery program counts with a Master Plan, coordinated between the Railway Enterprise and the Ministry of Tourism, considering the premier touristic focus which fuels the initiative to put the Old Train back in action. The Quito-Guayaquil, Trans-Andean Railroad is over a hundred years old, almost 500 kilometers in length and provides one of the most spectacularly scenic train voyages one can imagine, as it choo-chooes past the 32 stations which cover the full route that unites the seaport of Guayaquil with the historic capital city of Quito, high in the Andes. The complete Quito-Guayaquil Route is expected to be fully operational in 2012. Meanwhile, segments like the recently re-inaugurated Duran-Yaguachi will progressively join the network.
With emotion, the President of Ecuador, at the re-inauguration ceremony, said that the Railway is bound to become a “Star” or Flagship tourist attraction for the nation, like the Galapagos Islands, and called the Railroad “a Rolling Monument of our History”….