Panama Canal Shovel In Costa Rica

Photos and Text by Dave Lang, The Bucyrus Company

Of the one hundred and two steam shovels that dug the Panama Canal seventy-seven were built by The Bucyrus Company in South Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Marion Steam Shovel Company of Marion, Ohio built twenty-four. The Thew Shovel Company built one.  260,000,000 cubic yards of material were removed, enough to cover a square mile area 251 feet deep.

Upon completion of the canal the shovels were sold off for use in Alaska, Spain, Costa Rica, and Ohio. None of these shovels remain in Panama. The accomplishments of these shovels on the Panama Canal, though often heralded in print, have not been commemorated in any other way.

The only verified remnant of the fleet is a Marion model 60 currently residing in front of The Omar Salazaro Museum at the University of Costa Rica, in Turrialba. After its Panama Canal tour of duty this machine was used for construction and maintenance on the Costa Rican Railroad. Although the Turrialba shovel is not yet restored, it is intact and represents a vivid example of the mystique of these grand old excavators.

Authenticity of use on the canal has been verified in the old Marion records through the Builders Plates  (#1799) residing on the machine. It was shipped to the Panama Canal from Marion, Ohio in 1904.

Turrialba is located about a 1-1/2 hour drive east of San Jose, or about a 2-1/2 hour drive west of Limon.

These photos are the exclusive property of the photographer.  Reproduction by any means is prohibited without written permission from CZBrats

March 27, 2005