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ITHACA. N. Y. 14583 


^(2fe^ y. 

£,^ .,_// ^^<U*di^ vJT 

No. 658. Miscellaneous Series. 





April, 1907. 

red. 3284 — 2.] Price Three llalfpenee. 

Cornell University 

The original of tiiis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 

No. 658 Miscellaneous Series. 




Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty, 
APRIL, 1907. 




And to be purchased either directly or through any BooltseUer, from 

WYMAN AND SONS, Ltd., Fetter Lake, E.G.; and 

32, Abingdon Street, "Westminster, S.W. ; or 

OLIVER AND BOYD, Edineueoh ; or 
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[Cd. 3284 — 2."] Price Three Halfpence. 

No. 658. Miscellaneous Series. 

Beport on the Mexican Isthmus {Tehuantepec) Eaihvay hy Mr. W. 
Max Miiller, Secretary to His Majesty's Legation at Mexico. 

In the first monti. of the present year a new factor entered 
into the handling of trans-continental trafiic between the Atlantic 
and Pacific Oceans. The Tehuantepec National Eailway, or the 
Mexican Isthmus Railway as it is ofiicially called, and the terminal 
harbours of Coatzacoalcos and Sahna Cruz were thrown open to 
commerce and the first real test of this ocean to ocean high- 
way was begun. Should this test be successful, and there can be no 
reason for doubting its success, this route may well become the most 
favoured of aU trans-continental lines. 

I had left Mexico before the public inauguration, but shortly 
before I had the advantage of accompanying Mr. Body, the 
Managing Director in the country of the firm of Messrs. Pearson 
and Son, on one of his periodical inspection trips of the railway and 
of the terminal ports of SaUna Cruz and Coatzacoalcos. To my mind 
this railway connecting the two oceans is the most important 
British enterprise in Mexico, and is likely not only to prove 
of great benefit to the country itself but also to influence the high- 
ways of the commerce of the entire world. 

Under these circumstances a short report on the subject of the 
Tehuantepec Railway and the two terminal ports may perhaps 
prove of interest. 

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec proper hes between the parallels 
of latitude 16° and 18° north, and the meridians of longitude 94° 
and 96° west. The Coatzacoalcos River, which rises at the foothills 
of the Sierra Madre, empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and at its 
mouth a natural harbour is formed, which is obstructed by a bar. 
On the Pacific coast at Salina Cruz there is no natural shelter, 
nothing but an open ocean roadstead. The Tehuantepec Railway 
joins these two points. As the bird flies it is about 125 miles across 
the isthmus from ocean to ocean, but by the route which the railway 
is compelled to follow the distance is 190 miles. With the exception 
of the Panama Railroad, it is the shortest trans-continental route. 

From the very earliest times the advantages of the isthmus 

as a line of communication between the two oceans would appear 

to have appealed to the minds of travellers and explorers. Hernan 

Cortes, who ascended the River Coatzacoalcos in the hopes of finding 

(11) A 2 


a waterway to the East Indies, declared in a report that the isthmus 
must in time become the great highway of the world's trans - 
continental commerce. Humboldt designated the Isthmus of 
Tehuantepec as the " bridge of the world's commerce." 

The actual project of constructing some line of communication 
across the isthmus dates back nearly half a century. Long before 
Captain James Eads planned his ship-railway across the isthmus, 
attempts were made both at building ordinary railroads and at 
digging a canal. From 1857 until 1882 various concessions were 
granted, generally to American citizens or corporations, and were 
invariably forfeited owing to the inability of the concessionnaires to 
fulfil theic obUgations. In 1882 the Mexican Government deter- 
mined to build the railway themselves, and entered into a contract 
with Mr. Delfin Sanchez for the construction of the road. This 
arrangement also proved unsatisfactory and in 1888 it was rescinded, 
but on advantageous terms for Mr. Sanchez, who received 
562,910 dol. for material and work done and 170,224 dol. as indem- 
nity for the profits that he would have made. About 67 miles of 
railway were now completed. 

In 1888 a loan of 2,70O,00OL, carrying 5 per cent, interest and 
guaranteed by a mortgage on the railway property, was issued in 
London, Berlin and Amsterdam. The sjmdicated bankers bought 
the loan at about 70 per cent. The proceeds of the loan were to be 
devoted to the construction of the Tehuantepec Railway. As a con- 
sequence of this loan a contract was made in 1888 with Colonel 
McMurdo, who will be remembered as the concessionnaire of the 
Lorenzo Marquez Railway, for the re-construction of the 67 miles 
of the line, which previous concessionnaires had bmlt in a hurried and 
unsatisfactory manner, as well as the completion of the line, some 
142 miles more. The contractor, who had at his disposal the entire 
proceeds of the above loan, undertook to finish the work in 30 months, 
but in 1890 he died, and the Government rescinded the contract, in 
agreement with Mrs. McMurdo, the Colonel's widow. 

The contract was then let to J. H. Hampson, Chandos S. Stanhope 
and B. L. CortheU, who, under date of February, 1892, undertook 
to commence construction not later than one month from that date, 
and to complete the line in 15 months coimted from the inception of 
the work. The funds provided for the purpose from the loan of the 
2,700,000Z. proved insufficient however, and the contract was cancelled 
by mutual agreement. 

In December, 1893, a fresh contract was entered into with 
Chandos S. Stanhope for the construction of the 37 miles then re- 
naaining to be completed, Mr. Stanhope undertaking to complete 
his work by September 6, 1894, receiving as contract price the sum 
of 1,113,035 dol. 

The railroad was actually completed from ocean to ocean in 
1894, but no sooner was that done than defects in construction, 
as well as want of suitable harbour facilities on both the Gulf and 
Pacific coasts, made it necessary to begin work over again. 


Much remained to be done in order to adapt the line to heavy 
traffic, and, recognising that in its then condition the railway was 
to all intents and purposes a valueless property, the Mexican Govern- 
ment began to devise means for rendering the hne of some practical 
utility as a route for trans-continental traffic. With this object 
in view they entered into negotiations with the fiim of 
S. Pearson and Son, Limited, whose head, Sir Weetman Pearson, 
had abeady gained a great name in Mexico through the successful 
construction of the drainage canal of the Valley of Mexico and of the 
port works at Vera Cruz. 

The outcome of these negotiations was a series of contracts 
between the Mexican Government and the firm of S. Pearson and 
Son. The first contracts were concluded in 1898 and 1899, and dealt 
with the improvement and administration of the railway and the 
construction of the two terminal ports. These contracts were 
modified and extended in 1902, when the Mexican Government 
entered into a partnership agreement with the British firm for 
the joint exploitation of the railway. This fiuaal contract was 
concluded in May, 1902, and approved by Presidential decree of 
June 4 of the same year, with modifications arranged on May 20, 
1904, and approved by decree of May 31, 1904. 

Under these various contracts the firm of S. Pearson and Son 
enjoyed, so to speak, a dual character, vis-d-vis the Mexican Govern- 
ment, -viz., of contractors for the construction of the two harbours, 
and of partners in the exploitation of the railway and the ports 
when completed. This is, I believe, the first instance on record 
where a national government have taken a private firm into partner- 
ship, and speaks volumes for the high reputation for efficiency and 
integrity which Sir Weetman Pearson had acquired in his earlier 
dealings with the Mexican Government. 

The first contract for the construction of the ports and the 
administration of the railway had been entered iato in April, 1898, 
but work had not actually been begun until December, 16, 1899. 
The cost of the improvement of the railway, which finally involved 
its practical reconstruction, has been borne entirely by the Mexican 
Government, the actual work being carried out by the Pearson firm, 
not as contractors, but as agents, i.e., at cost price. The Govern- 
ment made a first appropriation of 8OO,000Z. and in 1901, a further 
appropriation of 500,000^., and up to date have certainly spent not 
less than 1,500,000Z. in bringing the railroad to its present efficient 

The original agreement with Messrs. S. Pearson and Son also gave 
them the contract for the construction of the ports at Sahna Cruz 
and Coatzacoalcos, and the specifications contained therein have 
been in general adhered to with such shght alterations as have 
proved necessary with the progress of the works, e.g., the construc- 
tion of a second breakwater at Salina Cruz. No general contract 
price was fiLxed for the whole works, only a schedule of prices of 
units of work was adopted. The Mexican Government continued 



to advance sums from tlie reserve fund of the Treasury as tlie 
work of construction progressed. In fact, it was not till June of 
last year that the Government fixed a limit to the expenditure that 
they were prepared to incur on the two ports, i.e., 6,500,000i!. 
This last, however, can hardly be called a contract price, as Sir 
Weetman Pearson refused on his side to enter into any agreement 
to finish the works according to the accepted plans for that amount. 

On December 10, 1906, Senor Limantour requested Congress 
to authorise a further appropriation of 20,000,000 dol. for the works 
at the two ports, and on that occasion he made the following remarks 
in regard to the capital outlay on their construction : — 

" The contracts, which are being executed in the ports of Salina 
Cruz and Coatzacoalcos, were signed five years ago and involve the 
expenditure of more than 65,000,000 dol. Of the 65,000,000 dol. 
of works which are included in existing contracts there have already 
been finished works to the value of nearly 40,000,000 dol. ; so that 
of the authorisations which have been sohcited from this Chamber 
at different times all the available money has been employed in 
prosecuting the work at these ports in order that the large lines of 
steamers might have absolutely perfect service. 

" There remains to be expended 25,000,000 dol., more or less, 
and of this sum we ask of you 20,000,000 dol. out of the Treasury 

As the works have progressed certain additional constructions 
have proved necessary ; at present, for instance, the jetties at 
Coatzacoalcos are being lengthened, so that before the work of con- 
struction at both ports is entirely concluded the estimate of 
6,500,000L is sure to be exceeded. 

Under the terms of the contracts of May 16, 1902, and May 20, 
1904, Messrs. S. Pearson and Son, Limited, entered into a contract 
of partnership with the Mexican Government for the purpose of 
exploiting the Tehuantepec EaUway and the ports of Coatzacoalcos 
and Salina Cruz, such partnership to be called the Tehuantepec 
National Railway Company. The agreement holds good for a 
period of 51 years, commencing July 1, 1902. The corporate 
working capital was 7,000,000 dol., to be furnished in equal shares 
by the two partners, whereof each of the partners has paid in 
1,000,000 dol. ; the balance, until the sum of 7,000,000 dol. shall 
have been completed, is to be paid up as and when required. This 
capital cannot be used for the improvement of the railway, but merely 
for running and operating expenses. 

Messrs. S. Pearson and Son were, under the terms of the con- 
tract, to be the administrators or managers of the corporate 
property : " To administrate all the business connected with the 
partnership ; to make use of the corporate signature and to re- 
present the railway company in all matters and business of what- 
soever nature they may be ; together with all the rights conferred 
by this contract and the obligations which it imposes." 

The Mexican Government merely retained the right of 


inspecting the material and technical part of the railway and 
ports, as well as all matters relating to the administration and 
book-keeping. Plans of new works and periodical statements of 
accounts were to be submitted for the approval of the Ministry of 
Communications. The railway company boimd itself to maintain 
the railway and ports in good condition, effecting ordinary repairs 
and replacing works, materials and machinery destroyed by use, 
and to return them to the Mexican Government in good condition 
at the expiration of the contract. 

The annual earnings were to be apportioned as follows : — 

(1) Payment of the operating expenses, maintenance of track, 
&c., and formation of a reserve fund for repairs. 

(2) Payment of interest on loans. 

(3) Payment to the two partners of an interest of 5 per cent, on 
the capital furnished by them. 

(4) Refundment of losses in previous years which had been 
charged to capital. 

(5) Payment of interest of 5 per cent, per annum after seven years 
on the capital devoted to the Coatzacoalcos port works for the 
special purpose of securing an additional depth of 1 metre over the 
9 metres originally projected, making 33 feet in all. 

(6) The surplus to be divisible between the Government and the 
contractors as follows : — -During the first 36 years 65 per cent, to 
the Government and 35 per cent, to the contractors ; during the 
next five years 68J per cent, to the Government and the balance to 
the contractors.; during the next five years 72| per cent, to the 
Government and the balance to the contractors ; and in the last 
five years 76J per cent, to the Government and the balance to the 

In May, 1904, the railway company, duly authorised by the 
Mexican Government, issued a loan of 1,250,000Z. at 5 per cent., 
guaranteed on the proceeds of the road and ports. This loan 
was taken by the Dresdener Bank and, together with a later issue 
of 175,00OZ., was used to re-imburse the Government and Messrs. 
Pearson and Son the advances they had made for the construction 
of the road. The railway company is authorised to increase the 
amount of its loans to 2,000,000?. if necessary. 

It is calculated that since the first work was done on the Tehuan- 
tepec route about 10,000,000Z. have been expended, and before the 
harbour works are perfected about 1,000,000Z. will probably have to 
be expended in addition to the 2,000,000Z. just appropriated by 
Congress, making a total capital expenditure on the railway and ports 
of about 13,000,000L 

The work both on the railway and at the ports seems, so far as 
an amateur can judge, to have been carried out with the thorough- 
ness that characterises the enterprises of Messrs. S. Pearson and Son. 
The works at the ports were, at the time of my visit, not yet completed 
though they were sufficiently advanced to permit of the commence- 
ment of the inter-oceanic traffic. The railway, however, was prac- 


tically completed, with tlie exception of a few deviations, and 
it certainly was a delightful sensation to be rusliing througli the 
tropical forest at a rate which sometimes exceeded 56 miles per 
hour, and so smoothly that even during meals one was_ not 
incommoded by the speed. I wish travellers could experience 
such a sensation on the other lines of Mexico. 

Many difficulties were encountered by the contractors in the 
initial periods of the reconstruction of the railway, arising chiefly 
from the heavy rainfall during the rainy season, the exuberant 
vegetation and other tropical conditions, and also on account of the 
difficulty in obtaining labour, caused principally by the fears of 
yellow fever. These difficulties have now been triumphantly 
overcome, and the raUroad is in excellent structural condition, with 
a good roadbed of rock ballast and new steel bridges, and the 
management appears to be thoroughly capable and efficient. In 
the reconstruction of the road many of the heaviest gradients have 
been reduced and the curves eliminated, and this work was still 
proceeding when I was on the isthmus. 

The engineering conditions for the railway construction require 
a gradual ascent from the mouth of the Coatzacoalcos River, crossing 
many affluents of that river till the Cordillera of the Sierra Madre 
is reached. There is a depression at the Jaltepec River, 79 miles 
from Coatzacoalcos. This river is spaimed by a steel bridge of six 
spans, 560 feet in length. Between this point and the Atlantic the 
gradients are about 60 feet to the nule. The real gradient, however, 
may be said to begin at the point known as Santa Lucrecia, where the 
Jaltepec River is crossed. The Malatengo Canyon is entered about 
38 miles beyond Santa Lucrecia. Here the route is through rock 
cuts and chasms, which are bridged, gradually climbing upward to 
Rincon Ajitonio, where the railway company has estabhshed its 
yard and shops. A short distance beyond Rincon Antonio the 
Chivela Pass is entered and crossed at a height of 735 feet above sea- 
level. At Chivela the construction of two horseshoe curves and one 
tunnel was necessary. From this, the highest point, the descent 
to the Pacific is abrupt and the steepest gradiente are encountered. 
Through the Chivela Pass the gradients reach 116 feet to the nule. 
On the Pacific slope the route follows for some distance the course 
of the Tehuantepec River, but leaves it before the terminus of 
Salina Cruz is reached. 

The maia line, which, as I have said, is 190 miles long, is supple- 
mented by a branch about 18 miles long connecting Juile and San 
Juan EvangeUsta. 

At Santa Lucrecia connection is made with the Vera Cruz and 
Pacific Railroad, over which trains run to Vera Cruz and Cordoba 
on the Mexican Railway, thus giving uninterrupted access to 
Mexico City and all parts of the RepubHc, and also to the United 
States. At San Geronimo is the junction with the new Pan-American 
line, which will give, in the future, direct railway access to the 
Repubhcs of Central America. 



The equipment of the Tehuantepec road is of the most modern 
description. The gauge is of the standard one of 4 feet 8J inches ; 
the numerous bridges are of steel, with solid masonry abutments ; 
culverts of adequate capacity have been put in wherever required 
m soHd masonry ; nearly the entire road is now laid with 80-lb. 
rails, and is ballasted with crushed rock or gravel ; the ties are of 
creosoted pine, native hardwood and California redwood, and are 
provided with heavy steel tie-plates. 

One of the many problems which had to be solved was presented 
by the luxuriant vegetation, which, if left to itself, would soon over- 
grow the track and stop the trains. Manual labour is constantly 
employed to remove the rapid growth and figures for a considerable 
sum in the annual maintenance of the road, but in addition the 
company has to make use of an ingenious device for sprinkling the 
roadbed with crude oil, heated to 210° Fahr., from their oilfields 
on the Coachapa Eiver, a tributary of the Coatzacoalcos, which 
destroys even the roots of the plants, and has the additional ad- 
vantage of laying the dust, thus adding to the comfort of traveUing 
in a hot climate. 

The Tehuantepec route will at first be worked -with a single, track, 
and it is calculated that 10 freight trains, carrying 300 tons net, 
can be despatched in each direction every 24 hours. It is claimed 
that freight can be transferred across the isthmus within 30 hours 
after a vessel enters the harbour at the other terminus, and the 
company promise a freight train service of 12 hours from ocean to 
ocean. If, however, the movement of freight proves to be as great 
as is expected, the line will doubtless shortly have to be double- 

The rolling-stock is of the most substantial and modern descrip- 
tion, and is more numerous in proportion to the mileage of the line 
than that of any other railway in the Republic, but, nevertheless, 
provision has been made for further increase in the equipment, if the 
needs of the traffic require it. 

The following is a statement of the rolling-stock at present in 
use, or ready for use, and an increase of 20 per cent, is actually on 
order : — 




Passenger coaelies 


Private cars 


Baggage cars 


Box oars 


Flat cars .... 


Stock cars .... 


Tank cars .... 


Q-uards' yans 


AU the locomotives burn oil fuel, which is at present imported 
from Texas in tank-steamers, and unloaded into three large storage 


tanks at Coatzacoalcos, each with a capacity of 6,000 tons. Very 
shortly, however, Messrs. S. Pearson and Son's oilfields at San Cristo- 
bal on the Coachapa will be in a position to supply oil. A pipe 
line is already laid from the oilfields to the refinery now building at 
Minatitlan, a distance of 20 miles, and a track-line is being laid direct 
from Minatitlan to a point on the main railroad, 18 miles from 
Coatzacoalcos. This will enable the oil to be deUvered to the engines 
cheaply and expeditiously ; but the consumption of oil fuel in the 
locomotives, besides the advantage for the company, has a great 
advantage for the persons travelling by the line in the freedom from 
smoke and coal dust, as anyone who has travelled behind an oil- 
burning engine will know. 

The box cars have a very ingenious arrangement for expediting 
the loading and unloading of freight at the wharves. The roofs 
are so constructed that about one-half can be pulled back and the 
loads can be hfted by the cranes direct from the hold of the ship and 
dropped into the interior of the car, and vice-versd. 

The general offices and shops, company's hospital, &c., are estab- 
lished at Eincon Antonio, a healthy spot at an elevation of 900 feet, 
and at a distance of 125 miles from Coatzacoalcos. The climate 
there is pleasant and salubrious, and the heat is tempered by the 
winds that are constantly blowing across the isthmus. The general 
offices are quite a model in their way, and are especially adapted 
for the heat of the tropics. The shops are equipped with the most 
modern machinery and appUances for every possible repair to the 
roUing-stock and engines in use on the hue. Here, as at Sahna 
Cruz and Coatzacoalcos, every bit of machinery is direct-driven by 
electricity, generated by a steam plant, crude oil being used for 
fuel. Here, as at all other places where Messrs. S. Pearson and Son 
have large works, every care has been taken to make life as agreeable 
and homehke as possible to the officers and employes. Comfortable 
modern houses have been erected for the general manager and 
superior officials, whilst the subordinate officials are lodged in ex- 
cellent staff-houses. A commodious club house has been built 
and quarters provided for a Cathohc Chapel and a masonic lodge. 
Special attention has been given to the question of a pure and abun- 
dant water supply. 

As I before said, the two terminal ports are still far from being 
completed, though the works at both ends are sufficiently advanced 
to admit of the entrance of large ships and of the speedy handUng of 

At Coatzacoalcos Uttle remains to be done beyond deeper 
dredging of the channel on the bar, and the building of further 
wharves and warehouses, but at Salina Cruz there is still much to be 
done in dredging out more space in the inner harbour, building 
wharves and warehouses, and finishing the dry dock. The 
last bit of work on the harbours will probably not be done 
before 1909. 

At its mouth the Coatzacoalcos River is 2,000 feet wide 


and forms a natural harbour of almost imlimited capacity, witli 
an average depth of 50 feet. The problem, therefore, which the 
engineers in charge of the port works had to solve was merely the 
removal of the bar in order to prevent it from forming anew. This 
has been met by following the plan adopted at the mouth of the 
Mississippi and at Tampico. Two converging jetties have been 
built, extending from the mouth of the river into the sea, so as to 
confine the current within as narrow hmits as possible, and compel 
it to scour the channel across the bar. These jetties are each over 
4,000 feet long, and built of rock and rubble ; both are practically 
completed with the exception of the protecting blocks at the extremi- 
ties. The normal bar is M feet on the crest, and the channel is to 
be 33 feet deep and 656 feet wide. The current having proved 
rather slower in scouring out the channel than was anticipated, 
and it being necessary to attain a proper depth before the trans- 
continental traffic could be successfully inaugurated, the work of 
the current has lately been supplemented by two dredgers. 

The harbour at Coatzacoalcos, as well as that at Salina Cruz, 
will have a depth of 33 feet at low water. 

At Coatzacoalcos, as at Sahna Cruz, elaborate preparations have 
been made for the expeditious handling of freight. The total 
frontage of the wharfage will extend 1 kilom. (-| mile). There will 
be eight steel wharves, 136 yards long, and eight iron warehouses, 
136 yards long by 36 yards wide, each with a holding capacity of 
6,000 tons ; four of these are already completed and two are under 
construction. There is also a timber wharf 216 yards long. Each 
ship loading or unloading will occupy a separate wharf. AU the 
quays are provided with travelhng electric cranes of great power, 
four to each wharf, with a reach from vessels to warehouses or cars 
of 86 feet, and with numerous capstans. An electric plant of 
1,500 kilowatts furnishes the necessary energy for the crane and cap- 
stans and for other purposes. Warehouses and cars are equipped 
with removable roofs to permit the handling of freight in a single 
operation, working the cranes directly between the vessels and the 
cars or warehouses. 

At Salina Cruz, on the Pacific, the engineering problem was 
much more serious than on the Gulf. The " Northers " which sweep 
across the isthmus beat the surf out to sea, and, since there is no 
natural shelter, it was necessary to construct both an outer, or 
refuge harbour, and an inner harbour with wharves and dry dock. 
Enormous breakwaters have been built far out into the sea, ending 
in a depth of 70 feet, with the convex side turned seaward, and 
form the outer harbour. The entrance to this harbour is 656 feet 
across. The east breakwater is 1 kilom. (| mile) long. It extends 
out for 1,200 feet in a straight line from the shore, then bends for 
825 feet in a curve with a radius of about 1,900 feet, and then con- 
tinues in a straight line for about 1,235 feet. The west breakwater 
is about 1,900 feet long, extending in a straight line for 850 feet, 
and then curving for about 370 feet on a radius of 325 feet, and 


continuing in a straight Une fo/680 feet. The method of construc- 
tion adopted for the breakwaters is as follows :— A rubble lo^^a- 
tion is laid up to 33 feet below low water, 87 yards wide at the base 
and graduaHy narrowing to 54 yards at the top. On this foundation 
huge blocks of concrete or rocks weighing up to 40 tons are dropped 
at random from steam cranes. Then a smooth surface is made, 
and on it are placed two rows of concrete blocks of 50 tons weight ; 
they are carefully fitted together and have a joint width of 33 
by 6J feet high. On the surface thus formed, which is about 18 feet 
above low water, a stone parapet will be buUt 19| feet wide by 6| feet 
high. The outer harbour thus formed covers an area of something 
like 150 acres. 

Across the rear of the protected area a line of wharfage extends 
opening into the interior basin. On this line of wharfage there will 
be six steel warehouses similar in all respects to those at Coatza- 
coalcos, equipped with similar electric cranes and capstans, and 
driven from a generating plant of 1,500 kilowatts. Four of the 
warehouses are already completed. 

The inner harbour is the result of dredging, and wiU eventually 
be 3,280 feet long by 925 feet wide, with a depth of water alongside 
the wharves of 33 feet. More than half of this inner harbour is now 
dug out, and for the next two years dredgers will be removing the 
remaining portion of the basin. The entrance from the outer to the 
inner harbour will be 100 feet wide, and will be spanned by two 
swing bridges. 

The outer wall of the inner harbour, which is to form the wharves, 
is a most ingenious bit of engineering. As there was no solid 
foundation to build on, the following device was adopted. Enormous 
concrete monoHths, with three large holes, are built on the sand. 
Through these holes, which are large enough to contain several men, 
the sand and mud is gradually dug up, partly by suction and partly 
by manual labour. When the concrete monolith is sunk sufficiently 
deep another similar section is made in situ upon it, and a similar 
process is gone through. Before the wharf can be built a foundation 
of these monoliths will be laid to a depth of 65 feet, and the holes 
and interstices filled up with concrete after the monoliths have been 
sunk to their final destination. The whole wiU be backed up with 
masonry and form a wharf 76 yards wide. 

At both Coatzacoalcos and Sahna Cruz, in addition to the berths 
at the quays, provision has been made for additional slips, and at 
Sahna Cruz one of the finest dry docks in the world, and to-day the 
largest on the Pacific coast, is being built. This will be 610 by 
89 feet, with a depth on sUl at low water of 28 feet. 

The trackage at both Coatzacoalcos and Sahna Cruz includes 
many mUes of fines, 26 miles at the former and 22 miles at the latter 
port, and the arrangement is such that there can be but httle diffi- 
culty in handling freight and shunting cars. 

At Coatzacoalcos an old town already existed, but this is being 
modernised, with every attention to hygiene. Large offices have been 


built on the river bank, and houses have been built on the hill for 
the stafE and employes. The pestilential fever-breeding swamps, 
which rendered Coatzacoalcos a hotbed of yellow fever and other 
diseases, have been almost entirely filled in. 

At SaUna Cruz there was nothing but a small Indian village 
on the site now occupied by the railroad works. A new town has 
been laid out on higher and more healthy ground, in accordance with 
modern ideas and sanitary principles, and adequate provision has 
been made here, as at Rincon Antonio, and at Coatzacoalcos, for 
the comfort and welfare of officers and workmen. 

It will be seen that preparations have been made for handhng 
this Mexican isthmus route as an essentially trans-continental 
freight proposition, though the local business, both passenger and 
freight, is no neghgible quantity. When I was on the isthmus 
the company was handling a large volume of local freight, and the 
two passenger trains it was working seemed to be well filled. 

However, the principal object of the fine is to serve as a connect- 
ing Hnk between ships on the Atlantic and ships on the Pacific, 
and it is to be anticipated that the principal trans-Atlantic and trans- 
Pacific steamship companies wiU avail themselves of the facihties 
offered for this purpose. 

Already one contract has been entered into with the American- 
Hawaiian Steamship Company for the carrying of sugar from 
Hawaii to New York. 

From the commencement of the present year this company 
abandoned the route to the Far Bast via the Straits of Magellan, 
and began a regular service between New York, Hawaii and 
the Far East, via the Mexican isthmus route. At first, it is stated, 
there wiU be a monthly service between SaUna Cruz and the Far East, 
a 10-day service between Sahna Gruz and Hawaii, calhng at San 
Francisco on the way out, and a weekly service between Coatza- 
coalcos, New Orleans, Philadelphia and New York. If the needs 
of the traffic require it these services will be proportionately 

As at present arranged six 12,000-ton ships will be used on the 
Far East and Honolulu lines, and four 8,000-ton ships on the Atlantic 
line, while smaller vessels of 6,000 tons will be used for a coast ser- 
vice between Salina Cruz, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle and 

The above arrangements are provisional, and I only give the in- 
formation for what it is worth, and would beg that persons desiring 
to make practical use of this Une would not place too much rehance 
on them, but would make inquiries at headquarters. 

At the present time the joint service established by the Leyland 
and Harrison Lines makes three calls a month at Coatzacoalcos. 
The Cuban Steamship Company (Cayo Line) calls every three weeks, 
and the Canadian Steamship Line once or twice a month. The 
Mexican Navigation Company already touches there, and it is prob- 
able that the -Royal Mail Steamship Navigation Company and the 


Grerman and French lines, which have a service between European 
and Mexican ports, may also find it profitable to call at Coatzacoalcos. 
Besides this, no doubt, tramp steamers will touch there m 
increased numbers. 

At Sahna Cruz, besides the ships of the American-Hawauan 
Company, the following lines will have a regular service :— The 
Pacific Steam Navigation Company, twice a month; the new 
Canadian Line from Vancouver, once a month ; the German Kosmos 
Line, once a month. It is also understood that there will be a more 
regular service between AustraUan ports and Salina Cruz by the 
vessels which bring coal. The Pacific Mail Company is reported to 
have the intention of making regular calhngs at SaUna Cruz in its 
San Francisco to Panama service, but as this Hue is controlled by 
the interests governing the trans-continental service of the Southern 
Pacific Raih'oad, there is at present some doubt as to whether their 
ships will really make Sahna Cruz a port of call. 

It is beheved that other steamship companies now running 
vessels via the Cape Horn, Panama and the Suez Canal routes will 
divert some of their ships to the Mexican isthmus route if the 
facilities for handling freight prove as efificient and expeditious as 
anticipated. How much of Asiatic commerce and how much of 
European shipments to Asia will go by this route still remains to be 
seen, but there is little doubt of the capacity of the Tehuantepec 
Railway to command a sufficient share, at least, of what the other 
routes have been enjoying. 

At the beginning of my report I stated that the opening of the 
Tehuantepec National Railway to trans-continental trafiic would 
be Hkely to influence the highways of the world's commerce, and I 
will now add a few words in explanation of this statement. 

The geographical effects of the Une upon commerce are easily 
measurable. It will compete under advantageous conditions for 
traffic between European and American ports on the Atlantic on 
the one hand, and ports in the Far East and Aujstralasia and on the 
Pacific coast of the American Continent on the other. This traffic 
is now moving by vessels round Cape Horn, or through the Straits 
of Magellan, or by the Suez Canal, or by land over the trans-con- 
tinental fines of North America. 

The officials of the company informed me that they were already 
assured of 600,000 tons of freight for the year 1907, and had over 
1,000,000 tons in sight for 1908. In fact, the prospects of freight 
were so large that they were afraid to properly advertise their route 
for fear of not being able to comply with the demands of the traffic. 

Mr. John F. Wallace, former chief engineer of the Panama Canal 
in giving evidence before the United States Senate Committee 
on Inter-oceanic Canals, made the following statements as to the 
advantages of the Tehuantepec route over the Panama route ■ 

"I do not think that you can over-appreciate the importance 
of protecting our future trade by heading off the possible develop- 
ment of the route by way of Tehuantepec. It goes without saying 


that it is much easier to told a line of traffic than to get it away 
from somebody else after they get it once. I do not think that there 
are very many people that appreciate what the Tehuantepec route 
means if they get it estabhshed once. 

" The Tehuantepec route to all Pacific ports of the United States, 
the Orient and Australasia is much shorter than the Panama 
route. The distance from New York to Hong-Kong, for instance, 
by way of the Tehuantepec Kailway is 1,351 miles nearer than by 
way of Panama. Freights are worth on an average of 1 dol. per ton 
for 1,000 miles. That means that the Tehuantepec route would be 

1 dol. 35 c. plus the rate over the railroad, which, say, might be 

2 or 3 dol. a ton — ^granting it is about 3 dol. now — which would 
make it 4 dol. 35 c. a ton. Any less sum than that could be charged 
by the Tehuantepec Eailroad, and make money out of it, and also 
save five days in time. i 

" The distance from New York to San Francisco by that Hne 
is about 1,200 miles shorter than by way of Panama. There you 
have 1 dol. 20 c, plus the toll across the isthmus of 3 dol., or whatever 
it will be, and the saving in time of about four or five days. That 
holds good all through here — ^I mean in varying proportions — but 
they have the advantage. That is partly, of course, compensated 
by the fact that they have 175 miles to haul the stuff, and it will 
cost them the same to handle their stuff on the wharves that it does 
at Panama and Colon, and it will cost them about three times as 
much to handle it over the railroad, providing of course the Panama 
road is rebuilt and re-equipped. And there is a reverse advantage 
to us in that fact, which we can overcome by a low flat charge at 
Panama now, if we fix it up, and we can keep the business for a less 
cost than we can ever get it back again." 

Mr. WaUace attached such importance to the competition of the 
Tehuantepec Railroad and the probable diversion of traffic from 
the Panama route that he even urged the operation of the Panama 
Railway at a loss, during the period of the construction of the Canal. 

The following table of comparative distances of the various 
routes from the principal ports of Europe and the United States 
to ports on the Pacific shows that in every case the advantage in 
point of distance lies with the Tehuantepec route :-^ 



Eoute from — 


Excess over 



"New York to Hong-Kong, via — 
Cape Horn 
Cape of Good Hope .... 

Suez Canal 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tetuantepee 

New York to Yokohama, vi3, — 
Cape Horn 
Cape of G-ood Hope 

Suez Canal 
Panama Railroad 
Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
New York to Auckland, New Zealand, Ti4— 
Suez Canal 

Cape of Good Hope 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
New York to Melbourne, via — 

Cape Horn 

Suez Canal 

Cape of Good Hope 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
New York to Honolulu, vi4 — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 

New York to San Francisco, vil — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
Liverpool to Hong-Kong, vid — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Cape of Good Hope 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
Liverpool to Yokohama, via — 

Cape Horn 

Cape of Good Hope 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
Liverpool to Auckland, New Zealand, via — 

Cape of Good Hope .... 

Suez Canal 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
Liverpool to San Francisco, via — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepec 
New Orleans to Hong-Kong, vi4 — 

Cape Horn 

Cape of Good Hope .... 

Suez Canal 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepeo 
New Orleans to Yokohama, vi4 — 

Cape Horn 

Cape of Good Hope 








































Route from- 

New Orleans to Yolrohama, yii — continued- 
Suez Oanal .... 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepeo 
NewOrleans to Auckland, New Zealand, yid- 

Suez Canal 

Cape of Grood Hope 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Istlimus of Tehuantepeo 

New Orleans to Melbourne, viS. — 

Suez Canal 

Cape Horn 

Cape of G-ood Hope 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepeo 

New Orleans to Honolulu, viS — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuautepec 
New Orleans to San Francisco, 7ia — 

Cape Horn 

Panama Railroad 

Isthmus of Tehuantepeo 














Excess orer 










The average saving in distance by the Tehuantepeo route over 
Panama to all places on the Atlantic coast of the United States 
and Europe is, say, about 1,250 miles. The ordinary freight 
steamer makes about 10 miles an hour, or, say, 250 nules a day, 
requiring five days longer via Panama, assuming the time of crossing 
the two isthmuses to be the same. It will take a steamer about 
one day to pass through the Panama Canal and the freight about 
two days to pass over Tehuantepeo from ship to ship, leaving still 
four days to the advantage of Tehuantepeo. The extra cost of the 
four days to a steamer, say 2,000 dol. plus the Canal toUs, would 
make a 5,000- ton cargo about 10,000 dol. via Panama. No doubt the 
cost via Tehuantepeo would be no greater, as a matter of fact it 
would certainly be less, and there would be the saving in time of 
four days, which, to quick freight, is of great importance in this age 
of rapid transportation. 

The same holds good for distances from New York to places in 

the Far East and Austraha as compared with the route via the Suez 

Canal, but I wiUnot go into this question in fmrther detail, as a glajice 

"-at-tETcomparative Hst of distances given above will go further to 

prove the geographical advantages of the Tehuantepeo route than 

any words of miue. . 

One immediate commercial effect of the opening of this route 
will be the diversion of several hundred thousand tons of sugar at 
present shipped by the Cape Horn route from Hawaii to Atlantic 

(11) » 


ports on the sliips of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company. 
Mr. Body informs me that his company guarantee 6 per cent, 
interest on the value of these shipments of sugar from Hawaii for 
every day over 30 days from Hawaii to New York or Philadelphia. 

Another effect will be a re-adjustment of ocean and trans-con- 
tinental freight rates owing to the opening of a shorter and cheaper 
route. This will especially affect all the railroads in the United 
States and in Canada which participate in trans-continental traffic. 

The opening up of this route will be of special benefit to the middle 
west of the United States, and will offer advantages over all others 
for traffic between places in the Mississippi Valley vi§, the Gulf 
ports of New Orleans, Galveston, &c., and the United States, Mexican, 
Central American and South American ports on the Pacific Ocean. 

The traffic to which I have referred wiU naturally be more or 
less governed by competitive conditions, but there are other effects 
independent of such conditions, one of which is the influence which 
this line to the Pacific will have on the Mexican national develop- 
ment. The opening of the Tehuantepec route, with its ports in 
full operation, must bring about a large increase in the exchange of 
products between Mexican and Central American ports on the 
Atlantic and Pacific Oceans respectively, and also between the 
interior sections of Mexico and the Pacific States. The cost of trans- 
portation will be greatly reduced by the Tehuantepec route, as 
compared with the long hauls over railway Unes at present. To-day 
traffic between Mexico City and Mexican ports on the Pacific moves 
via the Mexican and United States railways over the frontier of the 
Eio Grande, and thence by rail to Guaymas. The natural route 
for this traffic is by way of SaUna Cruz and the Tehuantepec Rail- 
road, at all events till the projected lines from Guadalajara to 
Manzanillo and Tepic are completed. 

In connection with the Mexican national development the 
Tehuantepec Railway should be considered not only as a line across 
the isthmus, but as the basis for feeding lines from other parts of 
the RepubUc. From the Pacific coast port to the railway junction 
at Santa Lucrecia is 109 miles, and from thence to Cordova 213 miles. 
The distance from Cordova to Mexico City is 198 miles, so that the 
capital, where all the railway lines of the Republic centre, is by these 
routes only 520 miles from Salina Cruz. The Vera Cruz and Pacific 
Railway, which by means of the junction of two branches at the 
point kiaown as Tierra Blanca, brings both Mexico City and Vera Cruz 
into communication with the Pacific coast, is practically owned by 
the Government. The roadbed, however, is through a tropical 
country, in which the rains are very destructive to railway property, 
and at the present time the whole line is in a very poor condition 
and is certainly not fit to cope with heavy freight or rapid passenger 
traffic. Steps, however, have been taken for improving it by sub- 
stituting new steel bridges for the old ones, which were unable to 
mthstand the floods, by ballasting the roadbed, and by substituting 
new ties for the old decayed ones. That it is possible to construe^ 


a perfect railway under exactly similar climatic conditions Sir 
Weetman Pearson has proved on the isthmus, and we may hope that, 
if the prospects of traffic warrant the expenditure, the line of the 
Vera Cruz and Pacific Eailway may be put into similar good order, 
in which case there ought to be no difficulty in carrying passengers 
from Mexico City to Salina Cruz in 24 hours. 

It is always dangerous to prophesy, but if pluck and perseverance 
are to have their reward certainly the Mexican isthmus route should 
be a success. The object which the Government and the contractors 
have had before them has been to handle freight at the lowest possible 
cost by preparing to do it on the largest scale practicable with 
modern machinery, and to attain this object neither money nor labour 
have been spared. To those who, Uke myself, have only seen the 
almost completed results it is difficult to reaUse the conditions that 
existed on the isthmus five years ago, when death and 'disease 
played havoc with the lives and constitutions of the men employed, 
when Nature was continually undoing the work done, and when the 
financial prospects appeared gloomy. I have Uttle doubt that the 
optimistic forecasts of the Mexican Government as to the future of 
the Tehuantepec route will be reahsed, but in any case the railway 
Kwill remain as a monument to the enhghtened and progressive poUcy y 
\ lof General Diaz and to the pluck and efficiency of the British firm j 
who have carried through the great work to such a successful ' 
^ conclusion. 

As I before said, the formal opening of the Tehuantepec Eailway 
and of the two ports of Salina Cruz and Coatzacoalcos to trans- 
continental traffic was celebrated towards the end of January in 
the presence of President Diaz, the members of his Government, 
the Diplomatic Corps resident in Mexico, and other persons, including 
Sir Weetman Pearson. Those present on that occasion witnessed 
the realisation of a dream the origin of which was in the brain of 
Hernan Cortes, though it is doubtful if the " Conquistador " would 
recognise in the iron road and the magnificent facilities for 
handling freight at the ports the fulfilment of his dream of a highway 
from Spain to the East Indies. 


Printed for His Majesty's Stationery Office, 


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(Wt. 5105 1500 5 I 07— H & S 1537) 


The following Reports from Ilia, Majesty's Representatives abroad, 
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656 Bel9ium.--Eievoit on the Precautions&en to Combat Ankylostomiasis 

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657 United States.-^ef ort on Liquor Traffic Legislation of the United 

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Cornell University Library 

Mexico ireport on the Mexican Isthmus (T 

3 1924 010 453 102 








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