Railroad Comes to Life Again!
by Jim Clary
from: Canal Record - December 1998
Click for larger image
The American Companies, Kansas City
Southern Industries (KCSI) and Mi-Jack Corp. have purchased the Panama Railroad concession
from the Panamanian government. What this concession allows the newly formed Panama
Canal Railroad Company (PCRC) to do is to rebuild and operate the railroad for at least
the next 30 years. The reconstruction project will require removal of all existing
track and new ballast rock. KCSI's part of the deal will be to rebuild and operate
the railroad. Mi-Jack's part of the deal will be to build and operate the terminal
facilities where cargo containers will be transferred from ships to trains and from trains
to ships. Current plans for the project are to use the train exclusively for
transporting container cargo, stacked two containers high, across the isthmus on a single
track. Passenger service may be added sometime in the future, and if the economics
can justify it, a second parallel track will be added.
Panamanian laws require that an Environmental Impact Statement be prepared for the project, so last April Jim Clary (married to Karen Husum) and three of his associates, under contract with KCSI, with personnel from the Panamanian environmental company ANCON, did the field work for the EIS. The field team was lucky enough to ride the rail from Balboa to Colon which was a 6 hour trip. It is not like it used to be. The rails are badly aligned, and most of the railroad ties have been severely burned from brush clearing and burning over the years. A normal size locomotive and train would not be able to travel the entire distance now, so we were taken across in a small open "cart" pulled by another small "cart" with an engine. We made many stops along the way including the Miraflores tunnel, Pedro Miguel, Summit, Gamboa, Frijoles, Monte Lirio Bridge, Gatun and Colon. What a treat it was to travel the Panama Railroad again? One of the very amazing things about the trip was the fact that the Canal/Gatun Lake level was nearly 10 feet lower than its normal level. There were many broad expanses of beach exposed and the upper parts of Gatun Lake revealed miles and miles of exposed tree stumps in the lake.
Construction of the new railroad should be well underway by November of this year. The engineering design company, Bridgefarmer, has established a Panama office and will be letting bids for the construction. Plans are to have the railroad operational by approximately December, 1999.
December 29, 1999