Return to Ecuador

The past few months have been very busy since I left Ecuador. We have been working hard on the documentary, El Último Hielero (The Last Ice Merchant), and continuing to prepare our book, Train of Dreams: The Passage of Time. I’m delighted to say that, after months of silence, I have returned to Ecuador to continue work on our projects and keep things moving. This time I am here to focus on the book. And, of course, I have reunited with Rodrigo to see what kinds of trouble we can get into.

Once I arrived, we immediately headed down to the coast to collect interviews from railroad workers and descendents of railroad workers, as well as to scout locations for photography. We didn’t realize how quickly we would meet so many interesting people. In fact, we barely had to do any more than walk into Duran, the coastal town where the railway starts, to start uncovering stories.

For now I will focus on only one person, Sr. Davis. Sr. Davis is an engineer in Duran. Though he does not work for the train company, his father did, also as an engineer. His father, like many other railroad workers, felt passionately about Ecuador’s trains. The trains were such a focus in his life, in fact, that he devoted much of his personal time rebuilding miniature working versions of them in his garage. Hand-crafted and fully functioning, these trains are strong enough to carry adults across the miniature, hand-crafted tracks.

Sr. Davis watches over his father's trains in Duran, Ecuador.

Sr. Davis watches over his father's trains in Duran, Ecuador.

Today, Sr. Davis looks after the trains his father built by hand and brings them out of the garage on holidays. He is also always happy to give a tour of the garage and to share a personal demonstration to any passersby. The following is a video of the demonstration he gave us, with Rodrigo happily jumping on top of the train for a ride.

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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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