Photo of the Week
May 29, 2000

What a great old photo!!  I recently purchased this wonderful old "Foto Flatau" post card.  Here the Dredging Division is situated on the bank of Culebra Cut at Paraiso.  The aircraft carrier is the "USS Ranger (CV-4)" is in transit.  I found this old photo to be a must for my collection because it has both the floating cranes "Hercules" and "Ajax" side by side.  You can see one of the dipper dredges behind the cranes.  But...most interesting is a ferry boat at dock in the foreground  and sandwiched between a scow (barge) and the shore.  This was probably part of the Thatcher Ferry Fleet.  Another interesting item is all the railroad track on shore.  This same area was part of a massive locomotive shop area during the construction days and these tracks could be a carry over from those days.  In fact, the cross over railroad bridge that connected the East and West banks before and after the flooding was in this area.  What a great piece of Canal history....(I will have some more information pertaining to the aircraft carrier in the near future....could prove very interesting)  I love it when a good photo surfaces and offers so much information!!  See contributor information below:

Note about the USS Ranger from Andrew Fraser and Lew Taber :

The Ranger (CV-4) was the first carrier designed and built as a fleet fast carrier from the keel up. Unusual features in her design were: bow arresting gear, a small island, and the smoke stacks on either side of the stern,  hitch could be rotated to the horizontal position during flight landing operations. The Ranger was commissioned on 4 June 1934, survived the war and was decommissioned on 31 January 1947 and was scrapped.

More info submitted by Lance Terrell (CHS 1958):

I would like to comment on your Photo of the Week for 29 May 2000 (photo number 107), showing the USS "Ranger" at the Dredging Division site at Paraiso while transiting the Canal. Regardless of the post mark date of the mid 1940's which you have stated in the photo's caption, this photo was actually taken on 7 April 1935, with the carrier enroute to San Diego from Norfolk. She departed Norfolk on 28 March 1935 and arrived at San Diego on 15 April. This was her first long cruise after her  initial shakedown training cruise off the east coast of South America in 1934. Once in the Pacific after the Canal transit, she stayed there for four years, returning to the Caribbean and the Atlantic, via the Canal, in 1939. During World War 2, she served the majority of her time in the Atlantic, participating in the North African invasion (Operation Torch) in November 1942, participating in raids on Norway in 1943, and performing duties as an aircraft ferry at various times.  

In early 1944, she officially became a training ship. She transited the Canal for the Pacific a second time on 16 July 1944 and conducted night carrier training in the Hawaiian area for the next three months, and then air squadron and group training at San Diego until the end of the war. She transited the Canal for the last time in October 1945, on her way to the Gulf of Mexico and Norfolk. She was decommissioned at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard on 19 October 1946 and sold for scrap on 28 January 1947. The "Ranger" never served in the Pacific war. All of her combat time was in the Atlantic, and for this she received two battle stars. A part of her time she was attached to the British Home Fleet. 

The "Ranger" was not successful as an aircraft carrier because of design and construction sacrifices made to her under the Washington naval treaty limitations of the 1920's and 30's. These sacrifices reduced her combat efficiency as a first-line unit, plus she pitched too much for flying operations. 

 The PC ferry boat in the photo is either the "President Roosevelt" or the "Presidente Amador". Both boats were built at the Mechanical Division at Balboa and were commissioned in July 1931. 

The Dredging Division moved from Paraiso to Gamboa in 1936, when Gamboa was established. The main reason for the move, which was initially proposed in 1923, was to avoid the possibility of having dredging equipment isolated from the spoil disposal dump sites in Gatun Lake in case of blockage in Gaillard Cut by earth slides. A secondary reason was that the narrowness of the Canal channel at Paraiso presented a potentially hazardous situation to marine traffic and to the Division's floating equipment moored here, resulting from increased Canal traffic and the increasing size of ships. 

Lance Terrell
CHS 1958

Home/Back to Photo Room/Photo of the Week Archives