Rail transport in Panama

Rail transport in Panama

As of 2006, the only functioning railroad in Panama is Panama Canal Railway Company, successor of Panama Railway - the oldest transcontinental railroad in the world. It provides passenger and freight service between Panama City and Colón. Historically, there were also narrow gauge railroads in Chiriquí Province (Ferrocarril de Chiriquí); they have however been abandoned in the late twentieth century [http://ediciones.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/2003/02/21/hoy/nacionales/884959.html] .

Panama Canal Railway Company

During the first half of the nineteenth century, travel across the Isthmus of Panama was difficult and dangerous. The need for a more reliable interoceanic communication grew stronger after the acquisition of California by the United States. The construction of a transcontinental railroad started in 1850 and the first train from coast to coast passed on January 28, 1855. However, more than twelve thousand workers probably died during the construction.

The railway greatly assisted in the building of Panama Canal, which closely paralleled and in some places took over the rail line. Parts of the rail route were moved during the building of the canal, and considerable additions were made to the rail system. The rebuilt and improved Panama Railway beside the canal was completed in 1912.

In 1979, the US government handed over control to the government of Panama. On 19 June 1998, the government of Panama turned over control to the private Panama Canal Railway Company ("PCRC"). The Panama Railway was originally RailGauge|1524 broad gauge (Russian gauge), but when it was rebuilt in 2000, the gauge was changed to RailGauge|1435 so as to use standard gauge equipment.

As of 2006, Panama Canal Railway Company runs both passenger and freight trains between Panama City and Colón [http://www.panarail.com/en/passenger/index-01.html Timetable and fares] .

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. ( [http://www.alonsoroy.com/era/era13.html Dr. Alonso Roy] )

Edwards Rail Car company reports an [http://www.edwardsrailcar.com/Kudos.html 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 ( [http://home.att.net/~Berliner-Ultrasonics/boxcabge.html#chiriqui] ).

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 [http://ediciones.prensa.com/mensual/contenido/2003/02/21/hoy/nacionales/884959.html La Prensa February 21, 2003] .


The FERISTSA Railway would connect Mexico with Panama with 1435mm gauge but would bypass Belize unless a branch were built. [ [http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/FERISTSA Reference.com/Encyclopedia/FERISTSA ] ]

See also

* Panama
* Transport in Panama
* Panama Railway
* Rail transport by country


* [http://www.panarail.com/ Panama Canal Railway Company]
* [http://www.alonsoroy.com/era/era13.html Inauguration of Ferrocarril de Chiriquí (Alonso Roy, Spanish)]
* [http://www.pavelj.net/pruplav.mpg Video] from [http://amerika.pavelj.net/ Pája's Travelogue] featuring a train ride along Panama Railway and engines (mules) of Panama Canal (narrative in Czech)

Central America topic|Rail transport in

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