Photo of the Week
April 30. 2006 

CZ Images contributor Mauro Martinez sent me this super aerial photo taken of the old Fort Randolph area.  It appears that the area is slatted for development into a resort of some kind.  What you see here in this photo is the last image of a very historical defense site for the Panama Canal.  This photo only shows half of the Fort Randolph base.  It appears that parts of it on the far upper right of the photo have already gone under ground breaking.

When I was a youth, I spent a summer camp in Fort Sherman and we visited Fort Randolph.  At that time, it was still a military base with all the old wooden barracks and buildings still in place and active.

I am providing a really great site plan map of Fort Randolph to give you an idea of what it consisted of during the coastal defense days.  (Click here to see the .pdf image map).  The narration below and .pdf map are from Charles S. Small's book Military Railroads on the Panama Canal Zone.


Margarita Island was roughly 1/2 a mile wide and about as long. It was surrounded by a coral reef. The track layout was very simple. It consisted of an incomplete loop although probably while the initial construction was in progress the loop was closed. The line which branched off near the entrance served the storehouses. There is no record of locomotives being stationed at Fort Randolph. Service both during construction and later when the garrison was in place was provided by the Panama Rail Road. There was one siding for a rail mounted searchlight No. 4 and access was gained by a switch back arrangement. Other searchlights were installed on islands to the east.

During the period before everyone owned their own motor car, the Panama Rail Road provided three passenger trains per day plus a late evening train for liberty parties returning to base over the Margarita Railroad.

Before the military construction was completed and while the I. C. C. was still in existence it was decided to complete the protection of Colon harbor by a breakwater on the east side of the canal entrance.

During 1913 the preliminary work was started. A connection between the root of the breakwater at Coco Solo Point and the Margarita Island railroad was built. Auxiliary lines and sidings were built at Coco Solo Point. A siding, and a wye, were built along the Margarita Island line. A new connection with the Panama Rail Road and a cut-off connection through the old Mt. Hope quarry were made. The railroad line to Margarita point was repaired and ballasted. In all, 5. 2 miles of new track were installed.

Work commenced on February 1, 1914 and by this time the I. C. C. was about to go out of business so the work was transferred to the successor, the Panama Canal's division of terminal construction.

Studies had shown that there was no suitable rock on the Atlantic side. The Porto Bello quarry was closed. It was decided to haul the rock from the Pacific side from the Sosa Hill quarry, a distance of just over 50 miles. Rock would be brought over by 30 car trains. About 2850 train loads would be required.

By February 8 ,1915 the trestle out on Limon Bay had reached the length of 9498 feet.  That the breakwater was needed was proved that day when a tropical storm came roaring out of the north.  By the time it had dissipated on February 10th, 6000 feet of the trestle had been torn out.

The trestle was rebuilt.  Rock was only plowed off the 5290 feet of the outer end.  The line from the shore to the beginning of the breakwater was 5693 feet long.  The breakwater was completed mid-1016 after 4,000,000 odd tons of rock had crossed the Isthmus and traveled over the Margarita Point Railroad.

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