Wikipedia writes: The railroad
became one of the most profitable in
the world, charging up to $25 per
passenger to travel over 47 miles
(76 km) of hard-laid track. Upon
completion, the railway was
proclaimed an engineering marvel of
the era. Until the opening of the
Panama Canal, it carried the
heaviest volume of freight per unit
length of any railroad in the world.
The existence of the railway was one
of the keys to the selection of
Panama as the site of the canal.
In 1881 the French Compagnie Universelle du Canal Interocéanique purchased controlling interest in the Panama Railway Company. In 1904, the US government under Theodore Roosevelt purchased the railway from the French canal company. At the time, railway assets included some 75 miles (121 km) of track, 35 locomotives, 30 passenger cars, and 900 freight cars. Much of this equipment was worn out or obsolete and had to be scrapped.