Railway Preservation News

Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama
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Author:  technoty [ Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

I went with my family to Panama in the summer of 2009. We saw the canal and its parallel railroad, but this discovery is a wonder to me.

I visited a port town called Almirante, in the northwest province of Bocas del Toro. A town long dependent to the banana export business, I don't expect a former railroad in this town. When driving down the main road, I began suspecting a former railroad in the town because the parallel strip next to the road looks like it still hosts a roadbed in a small yard. Then this supports my surprise.

This reminds me of a railroad crossing cantilever! It gave me the belief a railroad used to be here!

More identifications was stopped as we depart from the town to the nearby islands, which is a popular tourist destination in the country. In an internet cafe, I searched for information about the railroad, and I spotted this web page http://www.ledbury.plus.com/arra.htm . The web page details one of the last days of Almirante's rail line, the Bocas Fruit Company Railroad, formerly operated by the United Fruit Company.

We reentered Almirante after a day and a water taxi trip back during a storm. Upon arrival, I saw a tall big structure in the right. My curiosity prompted me to ask my dad to drive by the structure. As we went next to it in the other side, I got amazed by its artifacts, surprisingly kept some 4 years after abandonment.

We continued this discovery by investigating the aforementioned structure, which is open but protected by a fence. Machinery work was heard from inside, and we consulted a worker and got inside.

The structure stores an unknown amount of this railroad's diesel locomotives and freight cars, although others are found just outside of the structure and within the fenced area, sorted in the preserved "yard". I don't remember if there will be a fate to the rolling stock or not, and I'm not sure if they're still there. There are small yellow engines, tankers and other rolling stock. It's all I can describe here in the forum. I have more pictures, but forum limits prevented me to do so in this post.

(Images HNI_0044.JPG, HNI_0045.JPG, and Panama 2009 009.JPG removed on May 6, 2015)

Author:  Taylor Rush [ Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

We (Sumpter Valley Railroad) purchased one of the narrow gauge GE 50-tonners, number 720, and a private individual purchased a sister, number 805. Both locomotives are on site in McEwen, Oregon. The number 720 is almost operational, with luck we'll have its refurbishment finished up this year. Number 805 is currently stored awaiting repairs.

Thanks, Taylor

Author:  Brian Norden [ Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

This operation had 3' gauge box-cabs in the 1930s. These were built by GE, but had Winton engines, sold through EMC.

NGboxcabChiriqui_b.jpg [ 49.3 KiB | Viewed 7139 times ]

And then bought 300hp high-hood ALCO units in the late 1930s.

Author:  tomgears [ Wed Mar 20, 2013 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

Thanks for sharing. I'm bummed I missed that one. There are some little jewels of rail preservation in Central America.

Author:  technoty [ Thu Mar 21, 2013 12:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

More pictures!

(Images Panama 2009 004.JPG Panama 2009 005.JPG and Panama 2009 007.JPG removed on May 6, 2015)

An aerial view of this place can be seen at Bing Maps.


Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Thu Mar 21, 2013 6:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

You are more likely to find more information if you search for the proper company name. From the ever-popular Wikipedia:

Ferrocarril de Chiriquí

At the end of the nineteenth century, the government of Panama studied the feasibility of additional railroads. In 1910, Panama Railway was commissioned to estimate cost of a railroad from Panama City to David, Chiriquí with branches to Antón (Coclé Province) and Los Santos. The costs were however too high and the government decided to construct additional network in Chiriquí Province only. In 1914, a contract was signed for construction of a railroad David - Boquete - Concepción with a branch Dolega - Potrerillos and another short one to Puerto Pedregal. The railroad was inaugurated on April 23, 1916 with the first train from David to Boquete. (Dr. Alonso Roy)

Edwards Rail Car company reports an undated acknowledgment of their three railcars, which were delivered to Ferrocarril de Chiriquí probably in the 1920s.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the railroads are mentioned in connection with Chiriquí Land Co., a United Fruit company, involved in banana growing and real estate management in Panama. The railroad used General Electric engines ([1]).
In Bocas del Toro Province, Chiriqui Land Co. also operated a railroad system that covered Almirante, Changuinola, Guabito and parts of Sixaola. This railroad was removed in 1999, leaving only the bridge over Changuinola River.

After 1974, the infrastructure of Chiriquí Railroads has been transferred to Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Obras Públicas) and operations were stopped. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the tracks of the defunct railroads are being dismantled and reused for construction of bridges in rural areas La Prensa February 21, 2003.

We received at the Md. Rail Heritage Library a boxload of photos--B/W and color slides--taken of these lines. The thing that stood out to me was that it appeared that no two internal-combustion locomotives on the railroad were the same model...... truly a "dog's breakfast" of secondhand locos from across the hemisphere...

Author:  S. Weaver [ Fri Mar 22, 2013 4:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

Nice wheel press on the ground ...

Author:  machinehead61 [ Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:02 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

This is all that I know about American locomotives in Panama:



Author:  machinehead61 [ Sat Mar 23, 2013 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

S. Weaver wrote:
Nice wheel press on the ground ...

Are you refering to photo #005 and that long framed thing?

What is a wheel press and what does it do?

A google search and I think I answered my own question:



Author:  S. Weaver [ Mon Mar 25, 2013 9:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

That's it.

Author:  technoty [ Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama


I visited Almirante in early August 2013 to ride a water taxi to a nearby island. The town had lost much of its railroad infrastructure, so that means I can't find that signal cantilever and a huge shed (I think I didn't see the former because I explored the town less this time). The only rolling stock I found was one of the yellow engines parked in front of the shed, probably coupled with a wagon. I did not explore the site with the pictures taken.

Also, Google Earth has a new satellite image of the town that shows these changes. The map reveals that the rail yard for Almirante is gone and the shed is reduced to a smaller shed, with no rail equipment visible. Bing Maps has an older satellite image with the lost railroad present, seen in a link around this thread. It sounds like most engines are scrapped, but I wished they have spared the passenger car and other unique cars.

By the way, this fallen railroad in Panama is not the only hidden narrow gauge find in Panama. I know there's an undocumented 2-8-0 engine in the fairgrounds of David, Chiriqui, that should be in the lists of preserved steam locomotives.

Author:  technoty [ Fri Jan 19, 2018 2:55 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hidden narrow gauge find in Panama

One of the Ferrocarril de Chiriqui motor railcar bodies (appearing abandoned) is in a rural area that's not the site of the linked image. I can't find out if another railroad had any of these small cars. Who could be the builder?


Concerning the abandoned railroad in Almirante, they have a locomotive and tanker on display next to the site of the former workshop I once visited.

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