The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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Let’s take a ride behind steam on the G&Q!

I’ve already covered the part from Durán to Bucay, so will only repeat a bit of that here. But the real fun starts in Bucay, where average grades run between 4 and 5%. Even getting the train under way at Bucay is not easy, as the rails are on a curve at several percent grade!

Here we go:

Your ticket

Here’s your ticket!

Early AM Duran

Work gets under way early. Engines may have to be fired up from cold, or brought up to pressure if a night-hostler has kept them warm.

Firing up #11

Number 11 will take us to Bucay today. This little Atlantic is only 68 years old! Her fire is little balky, lacking a good draft.

Pulling into Duran

The train has been made up, and number 11 struggles to get traction on the wet rails as it pulls the train into the station.

Business end of 11

Note the lack of a fireman: the engine was just being moved down to its train, so the night-hostler did the needful.

Departing Duran

As we pull out of Durán, we pass several old engines, but the one at right is Number 58, the last engine to come to the G&Q from Baldwin, and one of the last Baldwins built.

Stopped at Bucay

We have arrived at the southern end of Bucay. Here the train brakes will be set, and number 11 will enter the yard for a well earned rest and drink of water. She will take a small freight consist back to Durán. Number 46 awaits us and will back down to pull our train on up to Bucay Station.

Number 46 Awaits us

At 33 years of age, Number 46 is a youngster compared with Number 11! This Consolidation will take us on up to Alausí.

Preparing 17

Meanwhile, Number 17 is being fired up to take a freight extra down to Durán.

11 takes return

Number 11, rested and watered, backs to her train back to Durán.

17 taking freight extra

And Number 17 moves back to her train, a freight running extra.

Preparing 46

After thorough oiling and turning on the wye, Number 46 will back down to replace Number 11 at the head of our train.

Pulling up to Station Bucay 1

Under way briefly, we are pulled up into Bucay town and station, right up the main (and pretty much only) street in town.

Pulling up to Station Bucay 2

We approach the station at Bucay. Here we will wait for some problems to be corrected.


Derailments are not uncommon, as most of the ties are rotten in the ground. Spreading a rail is all too easy.

End of train

One of our group wanted to ride this little chair-car, but he was chased off: the car was reserved for a big-wig of the railroad!

Cab No 46 1

Here is the business end of Engine 46.

Cab No 46 2

Pretty simple, really!

Looking back at Bucay

Looking back as we depart Bucay with many passengers on the roof of the boxcar.

Bridge at end of Bucay

We cross the Rio Chan Chan immediately as we depart Bucay. We will cross it many times!

Leaving Buca

Further on we pass a diesel engine and a steam engine in the hole for us.

Rails ahead

The rails look more like a foot-path, but we will pass over them momentarily.

Another bridge

We soon cross the ChanChan again. Note the still-lush flora; it is not quite so tropical here as down in the flats. Before we reach Alausí we will reach past the treeline.

Bridge 2

That’s the ChanChan in the foreground, and another bridge over it in the distance. We are getting into the hills now.

Bridge 1

Approaching that bridge over the ChanChan.

Crossing Rio ChanChan

The Rio ChanChan has gone on numerous rampages over the years, so this section of the railroad has been rebuilt repeatedly. That’s our way forward above the water-line.

Approaching tunnel

There are several tunnels. Riding on the tender of a locomotive is not the best place to be when going through, but fortunately, there was light at the other end.

Entering Tunnel

Get your partners for the tunnel! Better yet, put a shirt over your head and stop breathing!

Hard Work

The mechanista often has a tough time when the rails are wet and slippery. But sometimes it is a family affair!

Into the canyon

We are entering a canyon, and will soon reach Sibambe. The Cuenca branch of the railroad can be seen coming down the hillside.

Looking Back

It’s worth looking back whence we’ve come once in a while!


Onward and upward! the Engineer has one hand on the throttle and the other on the brakes as the engine works. The Fireman is alert to whatever is ahead, and maintains the fire. He also sees to it water is fed into the boiler as fast as it is used up.

33 Sanding flues

It is necessary to sand the flues often. Bunker C oil burns badly and makes a lot of soot that reduces the rate of heat transfer from the fire to the boiler tubes. Sand passing through knocks off the soot, and also rains down on whoever might be sitting on the tender. Like me!

Taking water At Olimpo

There are numerous water-stops along the way. Working on heavy grades, these little engines boil a lot of water!


The Engineer keeps a sharp eye out for rock-slides and other hazards.

First glimpse

There is our first glimpse of the Nariz del Diablo: the Devil’s Nose.

Nearer Diablo

Still working hard! Sibambe is not far around the next corner, and the Cuenca branch comes down from the right.


The two cuts comprising the switch-back on the Devil’s Nose can be seen clearly. Our little train will be up there fairly soon!

Railbus on Diablo

Looking up from Sibambe at an autoferro ascending the Devil’s Nose.

Resting at Sibambe

Our train takes water again and has bit of a rest at Sibambe.


The station at Sibambe.

Leaving Sibambe

We depart Sibambe. The train will go as far as it ever did up the canyon of the Rio ChanChan.

Into the Canyon 2

The Canyon walls close in as we struggle upwards.

S&C 18 at Huigra

We encounter a train in Huigra pulled by S&C Number 18.

Pulling out of Huigra

We depart Huigra. From here it is not far to end of line. (Except for the switch-back, that is).

Approaching Switchback

Approaching the first switch. Once clear of it, we will back up on the track seen at right.

Clearing the first switch

Our train has cleared the switch, and will now back up on the track curving left.

Backing up the switchback

We back up around the Devil’s nose. The Engineer cannot see the end of his train, and has to take it on faith that his train remains on the track! Of course, there are numerous brakemen who keep watch as well.

Approaching the upper switch

When our engine clears this switch, it will be thrown to put us on the forward leg of the switch-back.

Backing up switchback

We approach the reversing switch. The rest of the train is out of sight around the curvature of the Devil’s nose.

Backing up

The Engineer seems bored. I suppose it was all in a day’s work for them, but it was exciting for me!

Looking down on Sibambe

This is the view looking back down to Sibambe!

On up to Alausi

We have pulled ahead on the upper track and are headed for Alausí. Note how the flora has changed! We are still on the Devil’s Nose here.


We are just about off the Devil’s nose itself. Our train is perched delicately on this rocky ledge.

Rounding the Devil

We are off the Devil’s Nose. Alausí is not far ahead.

Into the clouds

That’s our line ahead. The ChanChan is now far below us. We will be in clouds before long!

Number 51 resting at Alausi

Number 51 resting at Alausí. She’s dead-heading down hill after helping a freight up the hill seen beyond the town. That way lies Riobamba, but in 1979 only the Diesel electrics were making that run.

That’s my tale of a trip up the Andes behind steam. Sharp eyes will note that several engines are used in this excursion, which is really a compilation of several such runs at various times. I rode the G&Q every chance I got, and on some days made the ascent from Bucay to Alausí several times. It was more fun than a barrel of monkeys, as the old saying goes, and many years later I returned to ride again, by which time the railroad was pretty far gone. I’ll cover that in my narrative later on. Meanwhile, before returning to Cairo, I will put up one more page of miscellaneous sights on the G&Q.



Written by Editor

June 20th, 2010 at 1:58 pm