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Panama Railroad Rail and Tie
Below are examples of cut sections of early rail from the Panama Railroad mounted on cut cross-sectional pieces of the original 1853 ties made from lignum-vitae, a very heavy tropical hardwood. (The third example also includes a six-inch long threaded “spike” used to attach the track to the ties.) While most of the material for the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad was delivered to California by ship around the tip of South America, urgently needed material was also transported at great expense across the isthmus via the Panama Railroad. Chief Engineer Theodore D. Judah died shortly after arriving in New York due to “Panama Fever” contracted while crossing the Isthmus via the Panama Railroad in late October, 1863.
Lewis Metzler Clement's wife, Charlotte Crysler (1835-1883), [married, 1858] rode across the rail and tie shown above while crossing Panama by rail to reach her husband who was building the Central Pacific Railroad in California.
Digital photography courtesy Bruce C. Cooper.
Screw Spike, 1910.
Courtesy Susan & Jim Hamm Collection.
"The screw type spike was developed and used during the early construction period of the Panama Canal. At that time, guaiacum or lignum vitae was used for the railroad ties. The July, 1911 issue of the Canal Record, a weekly paper, states: "On account of the hardness of the wood, the ties have to be bored for the spike. A special boring and gaining machine is used which adzes the two parallel faces to form the seat for the tie plate and bores a hole to recieve the spike are used. This equipment holds the rails to absolute gauge and guards against a tendency for the rails to spread."
Courtesy of an inquirer.