Setbacks and Derailments

Rail transportation has always had risks, both in terms of investment and safety. Florida railways have witnessed numerous train wrecks and other disasters, sometimes with tragic loss of life.

Seaboard Air Line Railway train wreck (1905)

Seaboard Air Line Railway train wreck (1905)

Image number: N038568

The wreck occurred at McDonald, north of Plymouth in Orange County, Florida.

Train wreck on a bridge in Tampa (1906)

Train wreck on a bridge in Tampa (1906)

Image number: N038646

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (1935)

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (1935)

Image number: N041488

The hurricane washed this eleven car special train off the track soon after reaching the stricken area. The train was trying to rescue 683 World War I veterans in a rehabilitation camp. More than 200 veterans died as a result of the hurricane.

The veterans, a remnant of the Bonus Army that marched on Washington, were employed for highway construction in the federal work relief project.

Wreck of engine 92 at De Land (191-)

Wreck of engine 92 at DeLand (191-)

Image number: PR09122

Built in 1894 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, it was scrapped on May 1, 1934.

Wreck at Delray Beach (1961)

Wreck at Delray Beach (1961)

Image number: PR09188

The railroad was part of the Florida East Coast Railway line.

Aerial view showing train derailment in Crestview, Florida (ca. 1979)

Aerial view showing train derailment in Crestview, Florida (ca. 1979)

Image number: DND0896

End of an Era, Rails to the Future

Trains helped to establish new towns and cities in Florida. Trains connected distant areas of the state and were integral parts of Florida’s expanding industries such as lumber, phosphate, tourist, manufacturing and agriculture.

The diesel-electric locomotive had almost replaced steam engines entirely by the 1940s. Other forms of transportation—first automobiles, then aircraft—became popular alternatives to train travel. The era of frequent rail travel in Florida had already ended by the 1960s.

Beginning in the 1980s, Florida citizens, politicians, and business communities debated the development of high-speed railways to make travel between Florida's major cities easier and less expensive. Meanwhile, some Florida cities began planning light-rail systems to combat traffic congestion in downtown areas.

View showing monorail near Disney's Contemporary Resort hotel at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida (after 1971)

View showing monorail near Disney's Contemporary Resort hotel at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida (after 1971)

Image number: COM03540

The monorail system opened in 1971 with two routes and with Mark IV monorail trains, expanded to three lines in 1982, and switched to Mark VI trains in 1989.

Robert Blanchette, President of TGV of Florida, Inc presents his proposal for the Bullet Train : Tallahassee, Florida (1988)

Robert Blanchette, President of TGV of Florida, Inc. presents his proposal for the Bullet Train: Tallahassee, Florida (1988)

Image number: MF0020

Accompanying note: "Robert Blanchette, President of TGV of Florida, Inc., gives the thumbs up sign at the end of his presentation Monday as he presented his bullet train proposal to the Florida High Speed Rail Transportation Commission. TGV was one of four who presented proposals. The chart at left shows TGV's route proposals."

Akio Makiyama, Chairman of Maglev Transit, Inc (right)presents a check to Governor Bob Martinez (left) and Chairman Malcolm Kirschenbaum (center right): Tallahassee, Florida (1988)

Akio Makiyama, Chairman of Maglev Transit, Inc (right) presents a check to Governor Bob Martinez (left) and Chairman Malcolm Kirschenbaum (center right): Tallahassee, Florida (1988)

Image number: MF0021

Accompanying note: "Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, left, along with Fla High Speed Rail Transportation Comission Chairman Malcolm Kirschenbaum, center right, accept a $500,000.00 check from Maglev's high speed train model. The one-half million investment by Maglev covers the commission's cost to review their application to begin the process toward Florida's irst high speed rail system, proposed first for the Orlando area."