National Geographic : 1905 Dec
THE PANAMA CANAL come obsolete. If the docks, wharves, warehouses, terminal yards, locomo tives, and cars of the Panama Railroad had been in good repair, which they were not, they still would have been entirely inadequate to properly care for and handle the small commercial busi ness the road was transacting. The existing facilities, poor as they were, were rendered less efficient by the entire absence of any mechanical appliances on the docks to assist in receiving or dis charging the steamers' cargoes. The negro laborer was the only power em ployed; he was at once the only hoist ing machine and the only traveling crane in use. Imagine, then, the congestion which necessarily ensued when the ac cumulated orders in the states began to arrive in large quantities on both sides of the Isthmus. To aggravate the situ ation, while the deluge of arriving ma terial was at its height, the commercial business of the road increased nearly 50 per cent over the year before; and at the moment when we thought affairs could get no worse, two cases of bubonic plague at La Boca resulted in two con secutive quarantines at that place, com pletely tying up that outlet for 60 days. Furthermore, the personnel of the Pan ama Railroad as acquired had not been educated on modern lines, and therefore was completely paralyzed when con fronted with the onerous conditions caused by this congestion. It was neces sary, consequently, to begin at once the construction of new wharves equipped with modern mechanical appliances, and of large terminal yards at both ends of the road; of extensive warehouses ; of suitable machine shops, and of a modern coal hoisting plant, which will reduce the cost of handling coal from ship to engines from $1.30 to about 12 cents per ton. We have also purchased new and more powerful locomotives, larger cars for both passenger and freight services, and heavy steel rails for relaying the road, and have strengthened the bridges to enable them to carry the heavier equipment. We have reorganized the personnel of the road, putting into the higher positions experienced, aggres sive, up-to-date men, with the result that with the old equipment and facili ties they have cleared up during the last thirty days an accumulation of over 12,000 tons of commercial freight. With the advent of our increased dock facili ties, terminal yards now nearly com plete, and new power and equipment now arriving, the road will be in a posi tion to handle efficiently and economic ally a vastly larger volume of business than heretofore. While all this necessary work was in progress the task of purchasing, for warding, and distributing the enormous quantity of materials and supplies of all kinds was receiving our constant and most careful attention. The purchases included not only the items entering into the permanent plant, but also those required for the preliminary work. To give you an idea of the magnitude of these purchases I will read for you the principal items : 6 steam shovels. 1,300 flat cars. 12 rapid unloaders. 22 unloading plows. 13 earth-spreaders. 324 dump-cars. 12 hoisting engines. 120 locomotives. 5,000 tons of steel rails. 125,000 cross-ties. 12,000 pieces of piling. 14 air compressing machines. 3 cranes. 152 rock-drills. 30,000,000 feet of lumber (approxi mately). 2 dipper dredges. 646,000 pounds blasting powder. 617,500 pounds dynamite. 7,000,000 paving brick. 3,500,000 building brick.