Object of the Day

Panama Canal Railroad: Passenger train

During the construction of the Panama Canal, the main purpose of the train was to move construction materials and earth to and from the construction site but it also was used as a passenger train.


Were you a passenger on the Panama Canal Railroad? How was your experience with it?

Please share with us in the comments section below!


  • Robert Dixon Gordon

    Back in 1958 I can remember that my mother used to take me to colon on the train, to visit families there. At that time the tickets were very cheap, and the panama canal company was in charge of said service. As I remembered quite well, that when the canal was turned over to Panama, the railroad was turned over in good standing. everything worked. As time went by, the train stopped its current operation and was totally abandoned. During this time, I used to patrol the banks of the canal on the east side, and I noticed or saw baggage cars abandoned on what was left, on the railroad tracks mainly between Paraiso and Gamboa reach, since I was assigned to check the ship markers or targets, placed on both banks. The actual train operating there is alien, and all they does, is mainly move containers back and forth on both sides of the isthmus. While at the canal protection division as a sector supervisor, I saw the entire renovation from it started. At times while I conducted explosives escorts from the Gamboa Dredging division, departing the Cerro Pelado Complex, in route to the Mamei reach located north of Gamboa, I noticed the train, while it made it’s way towards us as we proceeded north, on such a narrow path ( the tracks, the trail we drove on, and the water. (Canal). I documented incident reports regarding the situation and I started to personally notify the dispatcher at the train station in Corozal before future escorts was conducted in order to stop the train from approaching our area of operation until the explosives escort was finalized.. I must state, that the situation mentioned above is quite dangerous, and I must also note that the supervisors at station 10, canal protection division, including the managers at the Dredging division is not well trained. I am retired now, after almost 43 years of total service to the Panama Canal, and I hope they have learned from my experience while I was there. Much of my contributions while in the Canal Protection Division, is placed on facebook. (robertdixon_65@yahoo.com

  • carolyn rowley dillon

    Gatun train station – my old stomping grounds. How many times I took the train from Gatun to the “Pacific Side” and back! The station remained unchanged from the time of this photo until I was grown. The building part (left) was torn down sometime in the ’60s. There was an apartment in the upper level of that building. I remember a girl my age who lived there, but can’t say what her father did that accounted for that. Something with the railroad no doubt. My husband grew up down the track almost an hour in Gamboa. Though there was a elementary school there, he and his fellow Gamboaites had to take the train to Balboa to attend High School.

  • Cheryl Russell

    My dad worked as a conductor on the train in the late 50’s/60’s whenever there was a special event…like a football jamboree at Cristobal or Balboa. I also remember our family riding the train from Balboa to Cristobal with lot of other people who were going to get on the Panama Line ship (SS Cristobal, SS Ancon, or SS Panama) to travel on home leave to the states.

  • James "Jimmy" Steele

    Having been born in Panama City and moving to Gatun in the late 30s, I remember many trips to the “other side” to visit friends from this station. I remember the ground shaking as the locomotive passed by. I have a section of the original “Bridge Style” rail that my dad, Dr. Russell Steele, used as an anvil in his workshop.

  • Dale Nulik

    My first day in Panama in November 1970. We 6 Navy took the freight mixed train from Balboa to Gutun. I believe it cost 85 cents, the passenger trains were slightly higher $1.25?we rode both trains several times back and forth. The trains were nice. I was stationed at Coco Solo NSGA.

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