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Through Swamps and Sawgrass

Railroads opened Florida to new industry, expanded the tourist economy, and allowed for rapid development of residential and commercial areas.

The first rail development authorized in Florida was the Tallahassee–St. Marks line, chartered in 1834. The first train to operate, however, was the Lake Wimico line that connected the boomtown of St. Joseph to the Apalachicola River in 1836.

The Tallahassee–St. Marks train, which was initially mule–drawn, connected the highly productive cotton fields of Leon and Jefferson counties with the port city of St. Marks. These early efforts only hinted at the profound impact that railroads, passenger lines, and freight trains would have on Florida's history.

Logging train pulling out for the coast: near Pensacola, Florida (19--)

Logging train pulling out for the coast: near Pensacola, Florida

Image number: PC2030

View from cotton gin: Madison, Florida (188-)

View from cotton gin: Madison, Florida (188-)

Image number: N046662

Looking East from Ingless cotton gin toward the Ingless home in the back center.

Boys and crew posed with Florida Railway and Navigation Company engine number 16

Boys and crew posed with Florida Railway and Navigation Company engine number 16 (ca. 1886)

Image number: HA00076

Family using a railroad car of the Tavares & Gulf Railroad as a home: Tavares, Florida (ca. 191-)

Family using a railroad car of the Tavares and Gulf Railroad as a home: Tavares, Florida

Image number: RC10646

Trolleys

Trolleys were usually lighter than trains and ran on tracks built into city streets.

Tallahassee Railroad Company's mule drawn car proceeding south between Pensacola Street and Jefferson: Tallahassee, Florida (1894)

Tallahassee Railroad Company's mule drawn car proceeding south between Pensacola Street and Jefferson: Tallahassee, Florida (1894)

Image number: RC08644

Billy Bowlegs III and the street railway of Arcadia (1889)

Billy Bowlegs III and the street railway of Arcadia (1889)

Image number: PR02655

Connecting the Cities

With state support, railroad developers began piece-meal projects to link East and West Florida. Senator David L. Yulee became the president of the Florida Railroad, completed in 1860, that connected the port cities of Fernandina on the northeast coast and Cedar Key on the Gulf.

The Civil War disrupted the railway system. Union attacks destroyed sections of the Florida railroad. Florida's Confederate government temporarily removed tracks in other locations to prevent Union forces from using the railroads. The Confederate government also took the iron rails from existing railways to make new railroads to transport troops and supplies.

During the 1880s, Henry Flagler expanded train lines through Jacksonville and down the East coast. Henry Plant expanded train lines to Tampa and the West coast. Railroads connected Florida's developing industrial centers, luxury destinations, agricultural sectors and growing communities.

Car being loaded onto a train at De Leon Springs for a trip to Buffalo, New York (1912)

Car being loaded onto a train at De Leon Springs for a trip to Buffalo, New York (1912)

Image number: PR13139

Geronimo and fellow Apache Indian prisoners on their way to Florida by train (1886)

Geronimo and fellow Apache Indian prisoners on their way to Florida by train (1886)

Image number: RC02773

Geronimo is on the front row, third from the right.

Pensacola and Andalusia Railroad Company train unloading logs into Escambia River (189-)

Pensacola and Andalusia Railroad Company train unloading logs into Escambia River

Image number: RC11103

The logs floated to the Skinner Manufacturing Company mill.

Moving the tomato crop (1921)

Moving the tomato crop (1921)

Image number: N048843

The Moore Haven and Clewiston Railway (M.H. & C. Ry) was acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company (ACL) on July 1, 1925.

Men standing by Barnum & Bailey circus railroad car

Men standing by Barnum & Bailey Circus railroad car

Image number: FP82435a

Florida East Coast Railway station: Fort Pierce (19--)

Florida East Coast Railway station: Fort Pierce

Image number: PR00824

Gulf, Florida, and Alabama Railroad Company engine number 8 (ca. 1920)

Gulf, Florida, and Alabama Railroad Company engine number 8 (ca. 1920)

Image number: N038597

Left to right: Victor Hutchins, conductor; Athon Hicks, fireman; Ivan Leonard, Engineer for Gulf, Florida and Alabama Railway Company, E.W. Shaw, Engine 8's engineer; Louise Leonard, station agent.

Falco was the end of the 26-mile line of the Gulf, Florida, and Alabama Railroad Company between Galliver, Florida and Falco, Alabama. Engine 8 was used for the Gulf, Florida, and Alabama Railroad Company and Louisville and Nashville's Pensacola and Atlantic Division line.