Florida Central Railroad (current)
The west end of the Florida Central's north line to Winter Garden
|Locale||northwest and west from Orlando, Florida|
|Dates of operation||1986–|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Florida Central Railroad (reporting mark FCEN) is one of several short line railroads run by the Pinsly Railroad Company. Its only interchange point is with CSX in downtown Orlando, Florida; it has trackage rights from there south to Taft Yard. The railroad is based out of the Plymouth freight station.
The main route of the Florida Central Railroad from Tavares to Orlando was originally built by the Tavares, Orlando and Atlantic Railroad. It was incorporated in 1883, and built as an extension of the Leesburg and Indian River Railroad, which branched off the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad in Wildwood and ran through Leesburg to Tavares. The FC&P leased the line in 1891, which became part of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad in 1900. This line west of Tavares west was abandoned in the 1970s. A wye on the CSX S Line (former Seaboard main line) near Wildwood Yard is what remains of the connection.
The Florida Central Railroad branch from Tavares to Umatilla was originally part of the St. Johns & Lake Eustis Railway. The branch from Tavares to Sorrento was part of the Sanford and Lake Eustis Railroad. Both of those line became part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. The branch from Toronto to Forest City and Winter Garden was made up of segments of the Orange Belt Railway and the Florida Midland Railway (not to be confused with Pinsly's Florida Midland Railroad). Those lines would also become part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad.
The Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads merged in 1967 which brought all of the trackage under a single owner, the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, which would become CSX Transportation in the 1980s.
On November 21, 1986, the newly formed Florida Central Railroad Company, Incorporated leased the lines from CSX from Toronto west and each of the branches. The line from Toronto southeast to Orlando was still run by CSX until September 28, 1990, when the Florida Central Railroad leased the rest of the line from Toronto to the CSX A Line (now the Central Florida Rail Corridor) in Orlando.
On October 1, 1998, an agreement was signed between the railroad and other affected parties to abandon the line between Ocoee and Winter Garden west of Boyd Street, and the line to Diamond R Fertilizer west of 9th St, and build a new connector east of Winter Garden. This would eliminate grade crossings in downtown Winter Garden; trains had to go to the west end of downtown and then reverse direction along the other track to reach Diamond R Fertilizer. As the West Orange Trail was built before this, there is a fence separating it from the former railroad east of downtown Winter Garden.
On November 24, 2003, the Florida Central Railroad was granted an easement for a new connector track in the northwest corner at Toronto. Once this was built, the track crossing the mainline was removed, and the Forest City Branch was abandoned.
Renovations to 57 miles between the CSX connection in Orlando, and the terminus in Umatilla, Florida, began in September, 2013. The $18.4 million project received funding from various counties, the Florida Department of Transportation, FCEN itself, as well as a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Rail Line Relocation program. The upgrades, which include replacing the current track with continuously welded rail, improving the bridge over the Dora Canal, improving grade crossings and tie replacement, as well as increase the speed limit of the line, from 10 mph to 25 mph. Upgrades to the line are in hopes of future commuter rail use, connecting Apopka, Tavares, and Orlando along FCEN track.
- "Wildwood to Tavares". Abandoned Rails. Retrieved January 10, 2017.
- Lelis, Ludmilla (12 May 2013). "Track upgrade may pave way for SunRail link to Lake". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 10 January 2017.