The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson


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I spent a rather uncomfortable night. I remained fully dressed, as there was no blanket in these spartan—to put it mildly—digs. I did not get a lot of sleep, and  was up at first light. Engine 53 had been kept barely warm overnight,

Bringing Engine 53 back to life

and there was no indication she was expected to do anything more that day. Late in the morning she came to life bringing her train up to the high iron.


Getting under way the next morning

Waiting for some cargo


The way ahead, uphill

This view gives one a good perspective on a 3% grade: the end of the platform in the distance is about a hundred feet away, and about three feet higher than where I stood to take this picture. The picture below shows the same thing a trifle better.


A steep ascent for an adhesion engine

Eventually, the train was spotted on the high iron

Our train spotted so the engine can be turned around

and No. 53 chugged her way up to the wye a short distance up the line, where she was turned to head down hill.

The wye can be seen clearly ahead of the engine


The end of the wye can be seen. Engine 53 barely fit without falling into the Rio Chan Chan!


See what I mean?


Heading downhill to reconnect with our train

There was more waiting, during which I managed to find some “aijujas” hot enough to be safe to eat. And, more waiting.

A rail-bus headed down hill

In the early afternoon a rail-bus came along headed down hill. There was some pandemonium, as apparently many folks wanted to ride it instead of the train.

Huigra18I am on the tender as No. 53 backs up to give the bus an assist

It further devolved that the bus had a dead battery, and it would be necessary to tow it to get started. Engine 53 was the only thing handy to give the tow! (Presumably, trying to start the bus on compression on the down-hill could easily have gotten out of hand!)


Engine 53 towing the rail-bus to get it started!

Throughout the preparation of the train in Bucay, and now again in Huigra, there was this incredibly cute young Ecuadoreño who seemed to have a fascination with me and my camera. He had one outfit: stark, pure white pants, shirt, sox and shoes. I did learn his name, Miguel, and not much else beside the fact his father worked for the railroad. Had he been here in San Francisco, I’d have said he was a muneca, but in the local milieu, it was hard to be sure. I did write a story about him, alas, entirely fictional! Every time I pointed my camera at him, he pranced and posed: I never did get a decent photo. I’d much rather have gotten an INdecent photo, but that was out of the question.

Along about 2 PM, our train was reconstructed,

The brakeman waiting for us to join the train

and we set off down hill to Bucay. The engine needed only enough pressure to be sure the brakes worked, and it primed (spewed hot water out the stack) fiercely: by the time we reached Bucay, I was quite drenched. It was dark, and I elected to return to Guayaquil by bus: it was clear getting the train hooked to the waiting diesel would take more time. Even though Miguel sought me out and promised a place beside him in the First Class car, I was so tired and filthy that I passed up that opportunity. I have always regretted doing so! The bus ride was long and lurching, and it was near midnight when I finally reclaimed by room at the Grand Hotel. I immortalized “Miguel” in a story of that name that can be found on Nifty.

Here are a few other stills taken in Huigra while waiting for things to get moving:


Engine 53 looking a bit travel-worn


Operation of these engines was a relaxed affair


Young boys the world over love steam engines!


Lots of water required to make steam


The mechanista makes adjustments and poses for the camera

That ride down hill was to be my last on the G&Q. In  days following, I took more photographs in Bucay shops and the facilities at Durán. These will follow in subsequent pages.

By the way: I have found a lot of wonderful videos of the G&Q on Youtube. Some are quite recent, and suggest a renaissance of the railroad, which is now ENFE (Empresa Nacional de Ferrocarilles Ecuatorianos). The Government and others have found out what a “draw” the railroad is for tourism, and they’re trying to make the most of it.

Have a look here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here! These will lead you to many more.

Let me know if any of these are broken at MYOB@brucebramson.com



Written by Editor

November 21st, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Uncategorized