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The history of the following locomotive may give a compelling answer to your question:

This is a locomotive type 130 of French maker Cail, bought for the Panama Canal construction in 1889, and put to service there as No. 2296. Later, it became Porto Rico railways No. 15:

According to a French source, it was the loco to pull the first train on the island, and it was after the US took the island that it was converted from coal-burner to wood-burner. In 1929, Henry Ford purchased it for his museum in Dearborn. From there, after diverse troubles, it came to Chemin de Fer de la Baie de Somme, a French museum railway that restored it and runs it since 2003 as No. 2.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 07:39:05 AM EST
Thank you! That's exactly what I was looking for.
by asdf on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 02:00:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In theory, it is not entirely impossible that the Panama Canal construction company ran both coal and wood burners, say if there were different subcontractors or different work groups within the same company that made separate orders for different uses. But if coal was imported for one anyway... Also, methinks they must have used some steam-powered digging machinery, too, so coal might have been needed anyway.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 02:46:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It can be noted that coal was in the same era imported to California from Oregon and Australia (It think Hughes mentions it in Networks of Power). So longdistance would not be anything new.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Dec 15th, 2007 at 03:07:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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