Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, September 01, 1912, Page 8, Image 8

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Workings of the Great Locks of Panama Canal
(Copyright, 1912. by Frank G. Carpenter.)
IRA FLO RES, Canal Zone, Pan-
m j -a ma. i am writing mese nuies
jVI I tn' bright Sunday morning In
I am within eight miles of
Wd water in the racfflo
ocean and at the two first great steps up
which the. steamers will cUmb on their
way across the the Atlantic Beyond this
Is Miraflores lake and at Its end the lock
of Pedro Miguel, which, with its boost of
thirty feet, shoves the vessels to the level
of the Culebra cut, where the canal will
be eighty-five feet above tae surface of
the sea below.
It Is quiet here today, for Uncle Bam
keeps the Sabbath. The men have stopped
work, the mighty cranes loaded with
spoil stand on the tracks. That steam
shovel down there to the right is black 1
and dirty and It gives no indication of
the work It has done the last week. (
Sow hot the awn is and how'daaxllng!
The concrete which walls, the lock Is
toade of white sand and where It
the rays It Is blinding. How high the
walls aref I am In a mighty chamber in
which you could drop tw-o city blocks
of six-story houses and there would, be
till room to spare.
'.I walk over to one side and look up
jwlth my chin touching the concrete wall.
(The whole earth is shut off and the wall
teaches the sky. It looks like a smooth
white sandstone put together in blocks
bigger than those of the pyramids, but
far smoother and more closely laid. It Is
solid wall and was molded as such, the
appearance of blocks coming from the
Joints in the molds. Midway in the wall Is
an iron ladder about two feet in width. I
taborously climb to the top and it seems
as though the ladder would never end.
The Locks of the Canal.
"Tbee locks are about the most interest
lag features of Uncle Barn's mighty Pan
ama works. The ditch Itself Is wonder
fill, but its construction has been merely
K matter of blasting out earth and rock
and carrying them into the hollows or
Sown to the Wa, The locks are remark
able creations in that here man tries to
imitate nature and he has built these gl
gantlo rock masres, molding sand, ce
ment and rock Into stone.
There are six great locks on the canal.
Jl doe not sound big as I writ It, but
these locks contain content-by the mil
lions of barrels. They have; shiploads of
sand which has been brought from the
Atlantlo and Pacific, and mountains of
ock have been blasted out and crushed
'to form their concrete. The materials
are now so united that they are one solid
'atone. Let me give you some Idea of
Je extent of the concrete alone. They
contain over 4.000.CO0 cubic yards, or
enough of this artificial rock to make
a solid ' wall fifty feet high, ten feet
(thick and over fifty miles long. Such a
wall would reach from Washington to
Baltimore and have ten miles to spare.
"Each of these locks has a twin. The
jwhole consists of two mighty chant
hers, the side walls of whloh are about
Iflfty feet wide at the bottom and grow
Narrower and narrower as they come to
'the top, where the width Is eight feet
hey are about eighty feet hlgli. There
another wall In the middle which Is
felxty feet wld, and within these walls
'are the two mighty chambers which are
jelosed at each end by the gates.
.' Salt Water In the Canal.
So much for the outlines of the struc
ture. The foundations of the looks are
as complicated as a catacomb. They have
tunnels and galleries running this way
and that, and In their floors are many
great holes as big as a Hour barrel where
the water comes into the chamber so
jfaat that they can be filled or emptied
In ! the space of eight minutes. The
.water Is admitted by mighty culverts
lor conduits which run along the. side.
fThese are tunnels through the concrete
construction and they will carry river
trcnt Lake Gatun to lift and lower the
' Tou often hear it said that we are
bringing the waters of the Atlantlo and
the( Paclflo together. This Is so only
figuratively speaking. There will be no
Walt water In the canal except at the
jenAs. The locks will be filled with fresh
water from Lake Qatun and It will b
jthe Chagres which we shall harness and
"mske pull up and let down the steamers
; 'from ocean to ocean.
But let me tell you more about these
', jblg tunnels. Into which the water first
'flows. They are so huge that you could
(drive a caravan of elephants and giraffes
through them, and the elephants might
jwalk four abreast and not touch the
.sides, while a monkey seated on the head
jf one of the giraffes would not reach the
jcelllng. They would easily hold a Pull
iman train, ind a brakeman might stand
Ton top and not ruffle his hair,
jt These great tunnels or culverts are con
nected by pipes which run down to the
4bed or floor of the look chamber, and
whlch are so arranged that when the
prater Is let In It rushes up through the
Openings and fills the chamber, the water
.being held In by the gate.
There are only two locks here at Mlra
Iflores. The steamer cornea straight In
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from the Pacific when the water in the
lock Is at sea level. This water is salt.
Then the gate at the Pacific end is closed,
and In from the tunnel comes the water
from the Qatun lake, having passed
through the Culebra cut end Miraflores
lake. It fills the lock, raising as It does
so the ship to the level of the water In
the lock above.
The vessel then passes Into that lock,
through the gatet facing the Pacific, and
It Is raised to the level of the Miraflores
lake and steams through It untll It
reaches the lock of Pedro Miguel. Here
in the same way It Is boosted thirty feet
higher to the eighty-five-foot level of
the Culebra cut. The ship now has a
dean, clear steaming way of thirty-one
miles, Including the cut and the Qatun
lake, before It comes to the Qatun dam
and to the three series of locks which
drop it down to the level of the Atlantic.
The matter Is simple enough. It Is
merely like putting a block of wood in a
tub and pouring in water to meke it
rise to the top, or like opening a spigot
In the bottom and letting it drop as the
water runs out. .The only difference Is
that the block Is small and it weighs
but a few pounds, while the ship which
will go through, these gigantic lock tubs
may be as long as waa the Titanic or
longer and It may weigh tens of thou
sands of tons. The Olympic, for in
stance, has a gross tonnage of 60,000,
and, I am told, It could easily pass
through. The actual dimensions of each
of the chambers are 1,000 feet long, 110
feet wide and more than eighty feet
Gates Which Cost Five Million.,,
; The gates to these chambers are even
more wonderful than the chambers them
selves. The chambers are of concrete.
The gates are of steel, and that In thou
sands, yes, millions of pieces, put to
gether so tightly that they will hold these
huge vats of water and raise and lower
within them vessels worth millions of
dollars. '
But first as to the cost. I have said
15,000,000. The actual sum is more than
that. The contract for making them was
let by competitive bids in which the
United States Steel trust and four others
of the chief steel manufacturing com
panies of the Untted States submitted of
fers. Each had to put up checks for sev
eral hundred thousand dollars as a guar
antee that It would carry out Its bids.
but these sums were returned to those
who failed. The lowest bidder was the
McCUntic-Marshall Construction company
of Pittsburgh and Ha offer was $5,375,000,
This was for the making of forty-six
gates, being on an average almost of
$117,000 apleoe.
The sum seems great until one realises
just what It covers. It Includes alto
gether something like 68.000 tons of steel
made up of tens of thousands of pieces,
some so big that It takes a mighty steam
crane to handle thera and others as
small as a pin or a needle. For Instance,
there are more than 400,000 pounds of steel
bolts and pins and 50O,vO0 pounds of
nickel steel pins. ; There are millions of
pounds of riveted structural steel, over
8,000,000 pounds of carbon steel castings
and hundreds of thousands of pounds of
Vanadium steel, made up in an infinite
variety of parts. , '(
Soma Interesting Items. .
I have before me the Items whloh
formed a part of the bid. They Include
twenty gates for the Qatun locks, twelve
for the locks at Pedro Miguel, and four
teen for those here -at Miraflores. Gome
of the gates are seventy-seven feet high
and some as lew as forty-seven feet
four Inches. Each la made in two leaves
or doors which swing back and forth.
Think of a door as tall as an eight-
story house. Make It about fifty-five feet
In width and you may get some idea of
these mighty doors, each containing Its
myriad parts of steed, put together like
a watch, which have been made at Pitts
burgh and shipped In pieces down to the
canal. The weight of the biggest leaves
Is something like 600 tons, or . enough to
form a good load for a dosen freight
Think of hanging gates of that kind
in such a way that they can swing back
and forth at a speed that will not affect
the waters which flow In and out, and
at the same time quickly enoufh to allow
ships to go through these locks within
eight or ten minutes, and you havo some
Idea of the difficulties of their construc
tion. The Locks la Mlnlntnra.
The government has made a working
model of these gates In the shops at Qor
gona, and It will be on exhibition at the
great fair at San Francisco. It Is made
on a scale of a half Inch to a foot, and
It shows not only the construction of the
lock chambers, but the method of operat
ing the gates and other machinery. This
model la only six feet, four inches long
and eight and one-half feet In width. It
look exactly like a lock In miniature
with the gates at the end.. The gates are
perfect Imitations, having pins for every
rivet and in all about 110,000 pins on the
sheet copper which covers them. They
are operated, by a one-fifteenth horse
power motor and are equipped with such
devices that the operation Is automatic
ally controlled just as It will be In the
great locks here at Miraflores and else
where. ,
How the Ships Go Through.
The vessels are not allowed to move
from one lock to another by steam. They
are towed by electric locomotives, and
there are a number of protective devices
to see that they do not injure the locks
or themselves on their way through.
There are four towing locomotives,
which run upon tracks on each side of
the lock. Two of them are fastened to
the front of a vessel, moving It onward,
and the other two are on the tracks at
the rear holding It back so that it can
go only so fast. The rate fixed Is to
be two miles an hour and the locomo
tives will prevent it being more or less
than this.
These locomotives will run on a level
excepting where they pass from one lock
to another, where they will climb up or
down heavy grades. Between the lower
and intermediate locks at Gatun, for ex
ample, the difference in elevation is over
twenty-nine feet
There are to be two systems of tracks,
one for towing and the other for the re
turn of the locomotives when not towing.
The towing tracks will have a center
rack and the locomotives will always op
erate on this rack. On the return track
there will bo also a rack on the Incline
between the locks, but elsewhere the cars
will run by friction.
The motive power for running these lo
comotives will be electricity, generated
by the spillway of the Qatun dam. This,
It Is believed, will furnish enough elec
tricity not only for all the machinery of
the canal, but possibly enough to run the
trains of the Panama railroad.
Chains to Hold the Ships Back.
In addition to the locomotives, the locks
have other means of keeping the steam
ers from striking the gates or going too
fast. Among these are chains which run
across the lock chambers from one side
to the other.
These chains' are so powerful that they
could stop a 10,000-ton vessel going at a rate
of four miles an hour within a distance
of sixty feet without injuring either the
ship or the chain. The chains run across
from lock wall to lock wall and from the
approaches passing down Into holes In
the walls in such a way that they play
out gradually when struck by the ves
sels, retarding them and bringing them
to a stop. The chains are also so arranged
that they can be lowered and dropped
down Into a groove in the bottom of
the lock floor so that the vessel steams
out over their tops.
These chains are enormous. Bach link
will be oval In shape. Its longest diam
eter will be as big as the largest dinner
plate, and the steel of the link will be
about as thick as your wrist. In addition
the gates will be double, the upper gate
acting as a protection to the lower, so
that both would have to break before
any damage could come to the lock.
In addition to all these there are to be
emergency dams at the upper end of
each set of locks which will work some
thing like a drawbridge and thus protect
the locks.
The Water for the Canal.
One of the live questions In connection
with the locks is whether the Chagres
river can furnish enough water to keep
them full and still accommodate all the
traffic that will pass through the canal.
The engineers say that it can. The Gatun
lake is now filling and when the canal
Is completed we will have 164 square miles
of water held back by the dam, and this
in addition to the regular flow of the
Chagres. We shall also have something
like two square miles of water In the
Miraflores lake.
Engineer Roufscau says tl"at the water
supply will amount to more than SO.Ott),
OCO tons per annum,, and Colonel Goethals
says that there will be plenty to accom
modate fifty-eight vessels a day, going
through the canal, and that this wouid
be more than could pass through in tho
space of twenty-four hours. It is' doubt
ful whether such a traffic will ever arise.
Even forty vessels a day on the average
for 300 days of the year would mean
12,000 vessels, and this is about threa
times the number which Is now going
through the Suez canal. The number
there amounts to something like 4,0)0
and the tonnage is in the neighborhood
of 20,00 per annum, which is just
about haif the gross tonnage pass'ng
through our canal at Sault Ste. Marie.
L'ncle Sam's Ntn Lake.
And just here I would like to say
something about Uncle Sam's new lake
which is now rising out of the jungle.
The Gatun dam will soon be finished and
it will hold back the Chagres, formins
one of the most beautiful Bheets of water
on earth; The steamers will enter it from
the yeidure-clad mountains at Culebra
cut, or from the mai-sive locks at Gatun
and will move for twenty -odd miles
through scenery as beautiful as that of
the inland sea of Japan, or of the Thou
sand Islands of the St. Lawrence. The
canal channel runs in and out among
islands covered with tropical plants ani
trees which will then be the home of
monkeys, birds, deer and other wild
game, for the idea is to drive man from
the canal zone and make it one great
game preserve. These Islands are well
fitted for that as far as aquatic creatures
are concerned. Wild ducks are already
beginning to come, and we shall have
parrots and paroquets and possibly the
gorgeously plumed macaw of the Ama
zon, The Gatun lake will drain a baein big
ger than Rhode Island. It will have an
area equal to 500 quarter-section farms,
and over this the water is fast rising.
Much of the bed is still covered with
vegetation and with forests half sunken
In the waters. -
Uncle Sam Plnyingi Nosh.
One of the Interesting features of mak
ing this lake is Uncle Sam's attempt to
play Noah. He has warned the inhabi
tants of the basin to come out, and has
asked them to get on his ark, by which
he means .the highlands outside. The
natives, however, refuse to believe in the
deluge. They say that the French
threatened them with the same fate, and
that nothing came. Some of them havt;
stayed in their homes until the. steam
shovels have lifted their front door
steps, and, others until the water has
covered their floors. Now they all have
boats tied to their houses and there will
be no loss of life as the flood comes. ,.
The government has already torn down
and carried away all the heavy canal
structures out of the lake bed. A num
ber of the towns have disappeared, and
masses of ruins He along what was once
the main railroad track. Old Bohlo ha
been swallowed, and the same is true of
other towns. In tearing down the houses
one was found which was built of solid
mahogany. The lumber of this has been
saved and remade into furniture.
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