Dia a Dia: El Tren de los Sueños

Following is a link to the show that aired on Dia a Dia on Sunday, February 13. The crew joined me on a ride down the Devil’s Nose and then we traveled to Huigra to talk about the cemetery. The show also covers the history of the construction, as well as the impact of the rehabilitation effort on Nizag, the local indigenous community.

See the show!

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Railroad in the Sky…in the News!

Tonight, two major Ecuadorian news shows, La Television and Dia a Dia, will be airing stories about the railroad and our projects.

Last September, La Television followed us for three days as we excavated the cemetery, rode on the renovated rails, and gave speeches at a reception in Quito. Tonight will be the first of a two-part story following us and the history of the train. On Friday I was in the studio for an extended interview and saw a cut of the show. You won’t want to miss it!

A week ago, Dia a Dia joined Rodrigo and me as we rode down the Devil’s Nose on the newly opened portion of the railroad. We also drove down to Huigra, where we checked in on the cemetery and talked about where our projects are going in the next six months.

If you are in Ecuador, be sure to check them out. If not, I will try to post them here once they have aired. In the meantime, here is a promo for the upcoming Dia a Dia.


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Calamity and Despair: G&Q Railway Photos from the Harman Collection

When my grandmother, Lillien Harman, died ten years ago, she left behind a colossal treasure trove in her Massachusetts attic — old Guayaquil & Quito Railway books, documents, financial accountings, letters, memos, cables in secret code, journals, diaries, personal photos and professional photo albums of the railroad in Ecuador. Tucked away for 100 years, the collection told the secrets and the missing story of the harrowing years of Ecuador’s G&Q Railway construction from 1897-1908, and of the years of my grandfather  — Archer Harman –  in Ecuador as President of the G&Q in the 1920s, before he sold the railway stock to the government of Ecuador.

Here are a few calamitous photos from the early 1920s.

For more information or for use of these photos, please contact Katharine Brainard.

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Home again… but not for long!

Well, we are all home – Brooklyn, NY; Bethesda, MD; and Santa Monica, CA – but not for long! We already have plans to return to Ecuador.

But first comes the sorting of digital video, development/scanning of large- and medium-format photos, transcription of notes, and writing of follow-up emails.

We would like to take a moment to thank all the wonderful folks who helped make this expedition possible on the ground – especially team member Rodrigo Donoso, driver Juan Santos, and Rodrigo’s staff, Fabian, Delfin and Angel.

We met so many wonderful folks (like our double-trouble twins from Huigra in the top photo) who helped us along our way. Here are just a few…


Thank you, thank you, thank you all! We’ll see you again soon!

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The Big Dig: Day Three

Day three began with the backhoe digging under the torn-down pig house, in a continued search for the Major. The dirt was rich and black, and full of earthworms that weren´t in the other dry soil. A possum popped up out of a hole below the pigpen dirt.

We uncovered the base of the biggest cross yet, which ended up being a monument rather than a grave.

Then, alack and alas, the backhoe blew an oil hose, and that was that. We carried the crosses and pieces of stone across the railroad tracks to store them safely in a nearby stone shed. We bagged small pieces together and marked bags accordingly.

Here is a diagram of all the findings at the dig.

We assembled a proposal to turn the American Cemetery that we´d uncovered into a memorial for all those that gave their lives in the construction of the Guayaquil & Quito Railway, with photos and sketches.

The team stopped for a photo in the ditch.

Then we loaded up the van and headed to Quito for an official celebration at the refurbished Chimbacalle Train Station. There commenced speeches and a presentation of a green marble plaque in honor of Archer and John Harman. We proposed our plan for the cemetery in Huigra, and we had the great pleasure of meeting the 90-year-old daughter of William Layman, whose remains lay under the first grave we uncovered.

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