Seminole Gulf Railway
|Seminole Gulf Railway|
An EMD GP9 of the Seminole Gulf Railway — Fort Myers, Florida.
|Dates of operation||1987–|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)|
|Headquarters||Fort Myers, FL|
The company's main line runs from Arcadia to Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, and Bonita Springs before terminating just south of the Lee/Collier County boundary in North Naples (CSX's former Fort Myers Subdivision). The company also runs a separate line from Oneco south to Sarasota terminating just south of Sarasota at Palmer Ranch. A short branch from downtown Sarasota north to Matoaka also exists on this line.
Seminole Gulf began operating the lines in late 1987. The main line and Sarasota lines each interchange with CSX in Arcadia (with the Brewster Subdivision) and Oneco (with the Palmetto Subdivision), respectively. The Seminole Gulf Railway has a commonly owned affiliated company, the Bay Colony Railroad Corp. (reporting mark BCLR), which is based in southeastern Massachusetts.
Freight transported by Seminole Gulf Railway includes a significant amount of building materials for the region as well as other commodities including newsprint, propane, stone, steel, and recycled materials.
Murder Mystery Dinner Train
In addition to carrying freight, Seminole Gulf Railway has operated a popular Murder Mystery Dinner Train from Fort Myers since 1991. The dinner train runs year-round from a station at Colonial Boulevard and generally goes north to a point just south of Punta Gorda before returning utilizing a fleet of 1930s-era vintage rail cars named "Sanibel", "Captiva", "Gasparilla", and "Marco" (named after nearby barrier islands). The train includes a five-course dinner and has featured over 80 different murder mystery productions throughout its history.
Arcadia to North Naples Line
The first segment of the main line between Arcadia and Punta Gorda was completed in 1886 by the Florida Southern Railroad, which was part of Henry Plant's Plant System of railroads. It was an extension of their line running from Lakeland and Bartow, which made Punta Gorda the southernmost point of the Plant System.
The Plant System was acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1902 shortly after Henry Plant's death. The Atlantic Coast Line then extended the line to Fort Myers in 1904, which was the Coast Line's first expansion of the former Plant System.
The line was further extended to Bonita Springs, Naples, and Marco Island in the early 1920s during the land boom through a partnership with local entrepreneur Barron Collier. At the same time, the Coast Line's competitor, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, built a parallel route from Fort Ogden to Fort Myers and Naples.
The line only went to Marco Island until 1944, when the Atlantic Coast Line acquired the Seaboard's recently abandoned route into downtown Naples (along the current route of Goodlette-Frank Road), and began serving their passenger depot on Fifth Avenue South. The track was connected to the Coast Line's track at Vanderbilt Beach, and their original line and passenger depot (located near Naples Municipal Airport) were abandoned.
The line was truncated to its current terminus just south of the Lee/Collier County Line in the mid 1980s, shortly before Seminole Gulf gained control of the line from CSX.
The John Yarbrough Linear Park trail runs along the line's right-of-way just south of Fort Myers.
The Sarasota line was mostly operated by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, although the branch to Matoaka and the portion of the mainline between downtown Sarasota to just south of Fruitville Road were built by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (via their Tampa Southern Railroad subsidiary). The Seaboard portions were built in phases between Sarasota and Venice from 1903 to 1911 and originally ran through downtown Sarasota along Lemon Avenue, Pineapple Avenue, and Alderman Street. The Atlantic Coast Line came later in 1924, which up until 1949 continued southeast to Southfort, where it merged with the Coast Line's route to Fort Myers (Seminole Gulf's current Arcadia to North Naples line coincidentally).
In the early 2000s, SGLR abandoned the little-used southern portion of the line between Palmer Ranch and Venice, which most notably carried the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus up until 1992. The line's former right of way is now part of the Legacy Trail.
- "About Us". Seminole Gulf Railway. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
- Turner, Gregg M. (December 1, 1999). Railroads of Southwest Florida. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing.
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