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The New York Times, December 3, 1851, p.4:|
SOUTH AMERICA. Letter from Peru--The Route Thither-
The Panama Railroad--Its Condition and Prospects...
Correspondence of The New-York Daily Times.
LIMA, Peru, Tuesday, June 26, 1855.
Your Washington Correspondent addresses you from the far-famed "City of Kings..."
The trip from New-York to Peru is probably one of the pleasantest which can be made anywhere by sea; and now that the narrow Isthmus is spanned by the Panama Railroad, connecting the two oceans within a few hours at most, there is none involving less risk to health.
I say the Panama Railroad--and be assured I realize the important fact that the great work is actually a fait accompli,--a thing done, and not something only talked of in the future, as some of our doubting Wall-street friends seemed still to suspect when I left New-York.
In the Fall of 1850 I made a flying trip to California by the way of Panama, and experienced all the delights of the Isthmus transit during the rainy seasons, spending one night in the pestilential miasms of Chagres and Gatun, four additional nights and days in ascending the river to Gorgona in an open canoe, taking the benefit of a drenching shower bath from the clouds about every half hour, and that in company with some half dozen ladies and children, whose pitiable plight may be painted, perhaps by readers of vivid imagination,--others may save themselves the trouble of attempting it.
During all this time we found little or nothing fit to eat, had no sleep except such naps as we might catch between showers, and while sitting bolt upright on the baggage in the bottom of our "dug out," and with the confident assurance that one rascally native boatman (whom we were compelled to pay some dollars per passenger, in advance,) would desert us on the river bank at the first convenient opportunity.
Arrived at Gorgona, we obtained a night's rest under a roof, and with bare sacking-bottomed cots under us. In the morning we started for Panama, 18 miles distant, which we reached in two long days of hard traveling on mules, (for which we paid, with our baggage transportation, about $30 each,) through mud and water, over a road such as imagination cannot picture, where the mule and man necessarily alternated in holding the uppermost position, and the risk of suffocation in mire or of breaking one's neck seemed constantly imminent.
Such was a trip across the Isthmus during the rainy season of 1850. About three weeks ago, also during the rainy season, I crossed from ocean to ocean, in comfortable railroad cars, in four hours, the expense of transit being $25 only, instead of about $60 as before. Don't you think I can appreciate the Panama Railroad under such circumstances?
...Nowhere in the United States have I traveled over a railroad which is smoother, or which appears to be more substantially laid, or more solid. It is well known that several miles of the route lay through low swamps and marshes, and the road here was built upon piles driven in the mud. All of these places have now been filled in with stone and gravel, and are a solid as any part of the road bed. I saw nothing which did not indicate that the road is finished from Aspinwall [Colón] to Panama [Panama City], with all its requisite buildings and furniture, except the dépôt at the latter place, which is now erecting.
I had feared the road would always be subject to serious and frequent damage by swollen and rapid streams; but upon examination I found its liability to such drawbacks far less than almost any other railroad on which I ever traveled. Skillful engineering has located the road bed so as to avoid contact with the streams, except in a few instances, most of which are insignificant; and wherever a stream is crossed, no matter how small, the guards against damage by freshet [flood] are certainly well planned, and calculated for successful resistance to much severer trial than they are ever likely to encounter.
In a word, I have no hesitation in expressing the conviction that in point of solidity and durability the Panama Railroad will compare most favorably with any road in New-York or New-England.
I am told by friends who reside at Panama that the local travel and traffic between the terminal of the road are daily increasing, and that the facilities for the transportation of merchandise by railroad are daily more and more availed of by merchants trading between Europe and North and South America. I had not time to get accurate data in relation to the business of the road during the interval between the arrival of steamers from New-York, New-Orleans and San Francisco; but the number who crossed the road the same day with us, and the day before, was about thirteen hundred. These, at $25 per head, foot up $32,500. It would be safe to add to this $1,500 more for express freight and extra baggage--making a total of $34,000, as the proceeds of a single steamer connection.
There is one thing which ought to be done at Panama, and which must be done before the road can reach its highest point of success, by attracting a large and valuable freighting business,--it must be extended in some direction to deep water, so that vessels may load and discharge without incurring the at present enormous expenses of porterage and lighterage...
The present place of embarkation is a low sandy beach, distant some two or three miles from good anchorage; and the cost and risks of lighterage of merchandise are so ruinous as to almost prohibit the transportation of anything over the Railroad except for Isthmian consumption. Run the Railroad out so that ships can moor alongside of it, and an immense trade in merchandise to and from distant points must be the almost immediate result.
It was formerly proposed, I believe, to run the track along the beach some five or six miles down the bay, to the site of Old Panama, but that project was long since abandoned. The present project is to carry the track some nine or twelve hundred rods directly through the City of Panama, across the beach, through the surf, and out to some little islands,--two of which connected would give the Company twenty or thirty acres of land for dépôt purposes, but leave nothing for lot speculations.
Here is sufficient depth of water for the largest vessels. Careful surveys show the work to be entirely practicable,--and the stockholders will act the part of wisdom if they take the earliest measures for its accomplishment...
On the way from Panama to Callao, our steamer ran up the Guayaquil River to Guayaquil, the capital of Ecuador, and the seaport for Quito. We saw nothing there of special interest, and heard nothing, except that the very last FLORES expedition had "burst up," and that the country is now considered in a state of quiet.
We reached this city about two weeks since, at night, and were grandly saluted at 4 o'clock the next morning by a shock of earthquake, which continued its vibrations for about four minutes, creating some commotion among the crockery, but no consternation, so far as I can learn, among the people, who seem to have settled down in the comfortable conviction that Peruvian earthquakes, in this century, are "no great shakes" after all... I must reserve for future communications, however, my description of the city and its "institutions," including earthquakes and fleas...
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All of Panama is one
time zone at GMT-5, with
no Daylight Savings Time
The Republic of Panama is located on a narrow strip of land, the Isthmus of Panama, which connects North America to South America. Panama is bounded by Costa Rica in the west and Colombia in the east, and by the Caribbean Sea (part of the Atlantic Ocean) to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. Panama is about 480 miles (770 km) long, but only 31 miles wide at its most narrow point. The capital is Panama City. The area of Panama is 29,157 square miles (75,517 square km), including almost 450 sq mi of coastal islands. The estimated population of Panama for July, 2007 is 3,242,173. The official language is Spanish; about 25% of Panamanians also speak English.
In the 1530s the Spanish used Panama as a base for their conquest of the Inca empire. For 300 years it was a depot for gold and silver awaiting shipment to Spain.
In the 1880s a French company tried unsuccessfully to dig a sea-level canal across the narrow isthmus, in the process losing (at that time) about $400,000,000 and thousands of lives. Panama was then a province of Colombia.
With US backing, Panama seceded from Colombia in 1903 and promptly signed a treaty with the US allowing for the construction of a canal and US sovereignty over a strip of land on either side of the structure (the Panama Canal Zone). The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914.
On 7 September 1977, an agreement was signed for the complete transfer of the Canal from the US to Panama by the end of 1999. Certain portions of the Zone and increasing responsibility over the Canal were turned over in the intervening years.
With US help, dictator Manuel NORIEGA was deposed in 1989.
The entire Panama Canal, the area supporting the Canal, and remaining US military bases were transferred to Panama by the end of 1999. In October 2006, Panamanians approved an ambitious plan to expand the Canal. The project, which is to begin in 2007 and could double the Canal's capacity, is expected to be completed in 2014-15.
CIA World Factbook: Panama
Panama Reference Articles and Links
Wikipedia: Panama - History of Panama
Panama Canal - Panama Railroad
LOC: Panama Country Study - profile, 20pp .pdf
BBC Country Profile: Panama
US State Department: Panama Profile
Embassy of Panama, Washington, D.C.
US Embassy, Panama City
Governments on the WWW
Panama News Websites
Epasa in Spanish
El Siglo in Spanish
Noti News in Spanish
Panactual in Spanish
La Estrella in Spanish
La Prensa in Spanish
Capital Financiero in Spanish
The Panama News
WN: Panama Post
ABYZ: Panama News Links
Panama Internet Directories
LatinOL in Spanish
Yahoo!: Panama directory
Google Panama search
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