PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - Salvage workers raised a French locomotive from
the depths of the Panama Canal on Monday, more than a century after the
French bid to forge a path between the seas foundered amid national
scandal and financial ruin.
Workers from the Panama Canal Authority's (PCA) Industrial and Dredging Divisions used a heavy-duty Goliath crane to haul the mud-caked steam engine from 45 feet (14 meters) of water in Gatun Lake.
The train, along with 15 carriages previously salvaged, will form part of an exhibition celebrating the checkered history, and ultimate triumph, of attempts to push a canal across Panama.
"It's a real gem, a treasure. It's part of our history, and we think that all Panamanians have a right to see them and learn more about the French legacy," Canal Minister Ricardo Martinelli said.
The move to build a canal linking key Pacific and Atlantic trade routes was first considered by Spanish conquerors in the 1600s, but it was not until the 1880s that "digging the ditch" was first attempted.
Fresh from triumph at Suez, French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps promised millions of French investors he could build a sea level canal across Panama, but was defeated by landslides and yellow fever.
The 50-mile (80 km) Panama Canal was finally opened by U.S. engineers in 1914, inundating rich traces of the French construction era with the waters of Lake Gatun.
I have SCUBA dived on this wonderful old
locomotive many times. Can you imagine that this piece of equipment
hasn't seen daylight and fresh air since the Gatun Lake was flooded. The
long line of dirt dump cars attached to this locomotive looked great
sitting on the track underwater. I have a video of one of our dives on
the locomotive and cars. I hope to capture some of the images off the
video and post them. The thing I liked the most about diving on
the old locomotive was sticking your regulator in the front boiler door
and watch the bubbles come out of the smoke stack.
The following depicts the recovery of
railroad cars and engines brought to the Canal by the French towards the
end of the 19th century used during the construction days of the Panama
Canal and abandoned in place. The equipment was recovered at the bottom
of Gatun Lake, submerged in 85 feet of water. The recovery of this
equipment of historical value will be refurbished by the Panama Canal
Authority and displayed in key places in the Republic of Panama. Rolando Winberg
Photos below also by Rolando Winberg
Click a thumbnail to view a larger image
The floating crane
"Goliath" lifts the old French locomotive for a breath of
fresh air after 90 years underwater. Photo taken by La Prensa -
Unloading at Mount Hope 6/1/00
|I have been told there is a big fight down in Panama concerning the preservation of these items. It seems ACP doesn't have a plan on how to maintain or preserve these wonderful old relics. They just said they would like to put them on a park !!!|
Preserved Locomotive and Cars on
Photos of equipment while in use.
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