Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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Trains, Trains, Trains June 30, 2009


Flagler with his first wife Mary (back) and her sister Isabelle in the 1850s

Flagler with his first wife Mary (back) and her sister Isabelle in the 1850's

In my previous post I wrote a little bit about the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and how it destroyed the Miami/Key West line of his railroad.

December 31, 1885: Flagler purchased railroad between Jacksonville and St. Augustine.

1892: Charter from the State of Florida to allow building of railroad to Miami

May 28, 1892: Incorporated the Florida Coast and Gulf Railway

March 22, 1894: Railroad reaches Lake Worth

April 2, 1894: Railroad completed to West Palm Beach

September 13, 1895: Railroad name changed to Florida East Coast Railway

April 16, 1896: Railroad completed to Miami

January 22, 1912: First official train arrives in Key West Florida

September 2, 1935: Labor Day category 5 hurricane rips through the keys destroying the Miami/Key West line of the Florida East Coast Railway.

1935: Florida East Coast Railway sells railway to state in order recoup losses from theĀ  unrepairableĀ  rail line. It was later converted to a bridge for car travel and then shut down when the Overland Highway was built.

Flagler died a year after the Miami/Key West was completed and so never learned of the destruction the hurricane caused and the subsequent selling off of his company to the state. If you want to learn more about Henry Morrison Flagler beyond the railroad you can go here.

Now you can take a tour of Flagler’s Florida by visiting Sarasota History Alive. They have a postcard slide show which follows the Florida East Coast Railway from Jacksonville, Florida all the way to Key West. It ends with a map of the railway. Each postcard slide has a short but informative captions explaining what is in each postcard and the view it is taken from.

Want to ride a real train? Check out these places to take a tour and ride a real train:

*1. Seminole Gulf Railway: Home of Florida’s Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Ft. Myers, Florida

2. Inland Lakes Railway Florida in Eustis, Florida

3. Conch Tour Train in Key West, Florida while it’s not an actual train it is a nice way to tour the island.

Not interested in taking a train ride. Try visiting a railroad museum:

1. Boca Express Train Museum in Boca Raton, Florida

2. Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, Florida

3. South Florida Railway Museum in Deerfield Beach, Florida

4. Whitehall Flagler Museum in Palm Beach, Florida.

*With the exception of the Conch Tour Train I have never been on any on any of these tours or museums. The last time I was on the Conch Tour Train I was around 6 years old. Drop a line if you’ve been on any of these tours and if they are worth it or if you know of any other Florida train tours. This is not an exhaustive list of museums or tours just a little something to get you interested. If you do go or have been on any of these tours or visited any of these museums drop a line and let me know if you enjoyed it.