The Panama Canal Locomotives Then and Now

From Wikipedia: "From the outset, it was considered an important safety feature that ships be guided though the lock chambers
by electric locomotives,  known as mulas (mules, named after the animals traditionally used to cross the isthmus of Panama),
running on the lock walls. These mules are used for side-to-side and braking control in the locks,
which are narrow relative to modern-day ships. Forward motion into and through the locks is actually provided
by the ship's engines and not the mules. A ship approaching the locks first pulls up to the guide wall,
which is an extension of the center wall of the locks, where it is taken under control by the mules on the wall
before proceeding into the lock. As it moves forward, additional lines are taken to mules on the other wall.
With large ships, there are two mules on each side at the bow, and two each side at the stern,
eight in total, allowing for precise control of the ship.

The mules themselves run on rack tracks with broad gauge, 5 ft (1,524 mm),[4] to which they are geared.
Traction is by electric power, supplied through a third rail laid below surface level on the land side.
Each mule has a powerful winch, operated by the driver; these are used to take two cables in or pay them out
in order to keep the ship centered in the lock while moving it from chamber to chamber.
With as little as 2 ft (60 cm) of clearance on each side of a ship, considerable skill is required on the part of the operators.

Smaller vessels, such as small tour boats and private yachts, are taken as hand line transits,
where mooring lines to the lock walls are handled manually by line handlers on the ship."

Note: The new locks in the new Panama Canal expansion will not use any mulas (or locomotives)
anymore the plan is to use tug boats one in front and one behind the ships in order to maintain the ships in line,
however there are many concerns of the feasibility of this new approach as the huge ships
will be hard to keep in line because of a variety of factors.

Below wee see the old locomotives in black made in the US by General Electric
and new ones used nowadays made in Japan by Mistubishi Corporation.
The last image shows the hard work they have to accomplish here
keeping in balance a huge panamax container cargo ship.

The Panama Canal Locomotives Then and Now

The Panama Canal Locomotives Then and Now

The Panama Canal Locomotives Then and Now
Image Source:

1914 - 2014 100th Anniversary Panama Canal
This website is dedicated to all men and women who have and will work at or for the Panama Canal
and made the heroic dream of over 400 years come true. Honoring the past by building the future.