Panama Railroad Comes to Life Again!
by Jim Clary
from: Canal Record - December 1998

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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.

Presented by CZBrats
December 29, 1999

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