The same thing almost happened in Canada one fall, though conditions were aggravated by the coal strike.
Now, then, where does Panama come into this story? What if the railroads did not carry the crop two thousand four hundred miles to seaboard in order to ship forward to Liverpool? What if they carried some of the big crops only six hundred miles west to sea-board on the Pacific? They would have four times as many cars available to handle the crop, or they could make just four times as many trips to Vancouver with the same cars as to the Atlantic seaboard after the close of navigation in the East. It is apparent now why the Pacific ports have gone mad over the possibilities from Panama and are preparing for enormous traffic. Of course there are features of this diversion of traffic to new channels which the lay mind will miss and only the traffic specialist appreciate. For instance, there is the question of grade over the mountains. The Canadian Pacific Railroad meets this difficulty with its long tunnel through Mount Stephen. The Grand Trunk declares that it has the lowest mountain grade of all the transcontinentals. The Great Northern uses electric power for its tunnels, and Los Angeles will tell you how its new diagonal San Pedro road up through Nevada puts it in touch with the inland empire of the mountain states by running up parallel with the mountains and not crossing a divide at all.
Take a look at the subject from another angle! At the present rate of homesteading in the West, within twenty years the three prairie provinces will be producing seven to nine hundred million bushels of wheat a year. Possibly they will not do so well as that, but suppose they do; the three grain provinces of Canada will be producing as much as the wheat produced in all the United States. Now, the United States to take care of its crop has practically seven transcontinentals and a host of allied trunk lines like the Illinois Central, the New York Central and the Pennsylvania; but when a big crop comes, the United States roads are paralyzed from a shortage of cars. Canada has only three big transcontinentals and no big trunk lines to take care of a crop that may be as large as the whole United States crop. Panama promises, not a menace, but the one possible avenue of relief to the railroads.