M Y O B

The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

RETURN TO ECUADOR II

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IN OUR LAST EPISODE, THE TRAIN WAS MADE UP IN BUCAY WITH ENGINE 53 ON POINT

At long last, around noon, the train was made up, Engine 53 was up to pressure, and I was aboard the tender, ready (I hoped) for the wonderful ride up to Alausí. Bear in mind we have a heavy train getting under way on a 3.5% grade, and on a curve (also the main street of Bucay). The mechanista took some throttle, we began to move, and within a few feet one set of drivers slipped off the rail! The engine tilted alarmingly, the fireman blew out the fire (steam jets are provided for this eventuality) and I clambered down from the tender, happy the engine had not fallen right over on its side.

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Ooooops!

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Something has to be done!

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Making the nick-name "weed-whacker" meaningful!

I really wondered if that massive crack-pin on the ground was all that prevented the engine from toppling all the way over!

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Grounded!

Workers trying to get a re-railer into place.

Over the next several hours, poor little 53 was eventually returned to the tracks, aided by re-railers, stones, planks, and the removal of her train and substitution of a diesel to pull her back. A single new sleeper was inserted and spiked into place, gauge was checked and found within some limit, and once again the engine moved forward past the bad spot. Our train was reattached, and off we went, about 4 O’clock. Darkness set in rapidly, so further photos could not be had. To see my photos of the same run in 1979, see “Ascending the Andes behind steam” in this blog.

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Diesel power to the rescue!

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These Alsthom Diesels look very large

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The diesel engine has replaced the train.

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Not much progress yet.

The train has been spotted elsewhere, and the diesel attached  to #53. At this point she has been dragged backward, but she’s not yet back on the rails.

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Note the condition of the ties, really just logs

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Unfortunately, the tender had also spread the rail

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Digging out a rotted sleeper

Back on her feet once again. Engine 53 will be getting up steam again shortly.

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A single new sleeper was put in place

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Under way at last!

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Approaching the first bridge over the Rio Chan Chan

We made it to Huigra, and no further. I was told there was too little fuel to get the train to Alausí. The people on the train, who probably had relatives nearby, disappeared. There was no power, so what light there was came from oil lamps. Fortunately, I had included a flash-light in my little bag, but I had no more than a quick change of underwear and a few toiletries, as I had expected to stay overnight at Alausí. Eventually, with help of locals, I found a woman willing to rent me a room for the night. It was a spooky place (still no power, no light) and was just rough boards to make an enclosure on the top floor of the building. There was a smelly squat-toilet one floor down, and the bed was a thin mattress heavily stained. There was no lock on the door. I slept poorly, having had too little to eat, but thank glub there were no chinchas. It was a long night, made more-so as I thought of the relative comfort of the room at the Grand Hotel for which I would pay but not use.

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The farthest building on the left was my “hotel”

In the next page I’ll describe how I got back to Guayaquil!

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Written by Editor

November 7th, 2010 at 12:16 pm