Seaboard-All Florida Railway
|Locale||East and West Coasts of Florida|
|Successor||Seaboard Air Line Railroad|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
The Seaboard-All Florida Railway was a subsidiary of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad that oversaw two major extensions of the system in the early 1920s to southern Florida on each coast during the land boom. One line extended the Seaboard's tracks on the east coast from West Palm Beach down to Miami (and later, Homestead), while the other extension on the west coast extended the tracks from Fort Ogden south to Fort Myers and Naples, with branches from Fort Myers to LaBelle and Punta Rassa. These two extensions were heavily championed by Seaboard president S. Davies Warfield (who died months after its completion), and were constructed by Foley Brothers railroad contractors. Both extensions also allowed the Seaboard to better compete with the Florida East Coast Railway and the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, who already served the lower east and west coasts of Florida respectively.
Today, only the east coast route survives and is now the state-owned South Florida Rail Corridor (which notably hosts Tri-Rail and Amtrak service for South Florida) and CSX's Homestead Subdivision. The west coast route was removed in 1952 though a few related structures from the line still stand.
Grand opening celebration
The Seaboard All-Florida Railway's west coast route commenced operation on January 7, 1927, and the east coast route began service the following day. On each opening day, President S. Davies Warfield rode aboard a special section of the Seaboard's Orange Blossom Special with a number of special guests and dignitaries including Florida Governor John W. Martin. Dorothy Walker Bush, mother of U.S. President George H. W. Bush was also aboard the first train to Miami. The train stopped at points along the lines for public ovation with nearly 20,000 people attending. The two-day celebration is considered to be one of the largest public relations events in the history of American railroads.
Route and history
East Coast Route
The east coast route began in West Palm Beach at the terminus of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad's recently completed Florida Western and Northern Railroad which originated at the Seaboard main line in Coleman. From West Palm Beach, the extension proceeded south, paralleling the Florida East Coast Railway which operated a short distance closer to the coast, through Delray Beach, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale.
South of Fort Lauderdale, the line shifted farther inland, passing through Opa-locka, and Hialeah and then southeast into Downtown Miami, terminating at a now-severed connection with the Florida East Coast Railway. The original Miami passenger depot was built at 2206 NW 7th Ave in the Allapattah neighborhood. A later extension branched off the line in Hialeah (near Miami International Airport) southwest towards Homestead, which was completed in 1927. Some of the north end of Homestead extension was realigned in 1951 to accommodate the expansion of Miami International Airport.
In more recent history, the Florida Department of Transportation purchased the east coast line from West Palm Beach to Miami International Airport from CSX Transportation (Seaboard's corporate successor through various mergers) in 1988 for $264 million, and is today the South Florida Rail Corridor. Prior to the sale, the line was part of CSX's Miami Subdivision (a name which still applies to CSX's track north of the SFRC up to a point near North Palm Beach County Airport). FDOT bought the line, which closely parallels Interstate 95, to establish Tri-Rail, South Florida's commuter rail service, after an unsuccessful attempt to establish it on the Florida East Coast Railway. After the sale, CSX continued to maintain and provide dispatching for the line. In 2015, FDOT took over maintenance and dispatching, while CSX continues to have freight trackage rights. CSX still owns the line south of the airport (at Oleander Junction) to Homestead, which is their Homestead Subdivision. The Homestead Subdivision is the southernmost trackage of the entire CSX network. Amtrak operates the Silver Meteor and Silver Star service from New York City to Miami over the line, both of which are former Seaboard passenger services. The original southern end of the line from Hialeah to Downtown Miami is now CSX's Downtown Spur.
Today, the original 1920s Seaboard stations are used by Amtrak and Tri-Rail for service at West Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. Though no longer in use, the Seaboard stations at Delray Beach, Opa-locka, Hialeah, and Homestead are still standing.
West Palm Beach passenger depot at north end of the line. It is now used by Amtrak and Tri-Rail
Former Hialeah passenger depot
Route and history
The west coast route began in Fort Ogden, branching off of the Seaboard's recently acquired Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railway, and proceeded directly south in a nearly straight trajectory to Fort Myers. It crossed the Atlantic Coast Line's competing route twice en route to Fort Myers. Some of the former right of way is now a dirt road through the Fred C. Babcock/Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area in southeastern Charlotte County. As the line approached Fort Myers, it crossed the Caloosahatchee River on a long drawbridge just downstream of the original Tamiami Trail Bridge. The pier at Riverside Park in East Fort Myers is located where the bridge crossed the river.
In Fort Myers, the passenger depot (which survives today) was located just south of the river at the intersection of Palm Beach Boulevard (State Road 80) and East Riverside Drive. A separate freight depot (which also survives) was located a short distance south of the passenger depot on Michigan Avenue. Today, Seaboard Street (eastbound State Road 80) travels along the former right of way. From Fort Myers, the line continued south out of the city along Palm Avenue and the west side of the Ten Mile Canal, closely paralleling the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's competing route (operated today by Seminole Gulf Railway) on the other side of the canal.
At Mullock Creek, another subsidiary, the Naples, Seaboard, and Gulf Railway, continued the line the rest of the way to Naples. From the creek, it headed southeast through Estero (just west of the Koreshan State Historic Site) to Bonita Springs. In Bonita Springs, it turned south again before crossing the Imperial River. A passenger depot existed on the south side of Bonita Beach Road (near the site of First Presbyterian Church). The line then joined the current route of Goodlette-Frank Road near Vanderbilt Beach and headed into downtown Naples, terminating at the Naples passenger depot on Fifth Avenue South. President Warfield had hoped to build a deep-water port in Naples, which was never built. Today, a FPL transmission line runs on most the former route from Mullock Creek to just north of Downtown Naples.
In addition to the main route, two branches existed from Fort Myers to LaBelle and Punta Rassa. The thirty-mile LaBelle branch began just south of the Fort Myers freight depot and ran just south of Michigan Avenue before turning northeast and continuing just south of and parallel to State Road 80. It terminated in downtown LaBelle at a depot at Main Street and Seminole Avenue. In the 1940s, a seven-mile spur was built from the LaBelle branch southeast to Buckingham Army Airfield. The 8-mile Punta Rassa branch departed the main line just south of Fort Myers near the Six Mile Cypress Slough. Despite its name, the branch never fully reached Punta Rassa, where President Warfield had also hoped to establish a deep-water port. It actually terminated in Truckland near Iona, just two miles short of Punta Rassa. The branch ran from the main route west along the current route of Six Mile Cypress Parkway, through the center of today's Lakes Park (south of and parallel to the park's scenic boardwalk), then southwest along the current routes of Summerlin Road and Pine Ridge Road before turning back north slightly to its terminus at McGregor Boulevard in Truckland. The Punta Rassa branch ended up mostly serving agricultural land and gladiolus fields near Biggar. Power transmission line easements run on some of the former right of way of both the Labelle and Punta Rassa Branches.
Unlike the east coast route, the west coast route was not as successful and would exist for less than thirty years. The Seaboard Air Line went bankrupt in 1930 after the collapse of the land boom and discontinued service to Naples in 1942. Track was then removed from Vanderbilt Beach north to Punta Rassa Junction (located at present-day Six Mile Cypress Parkway's crossing of the Ten Mile Canal). The southernmost 7 miles of the line from Vanderbilt Beach to downtown Naples and the Naples depot ended up being sold to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, who connected it to their parallel line and made it their main route into Naples. This segment would remain in service until 1979.
The rest of the west coast route was abandoned and removed by 1952. The Coast Line also reconstructed the first mile and a half of the Punta Rassa branch from their main line in the 1960s to briefly serve a rock mine just east of the Tamiami Trail (US 41) (site of Lakes Park).
Today, a few structures from the line remain. The Naples depot on Fifth Avenue South is now the home of a historical museum. The Fort Myers passenger depot most recently housed the Reilly Brothers Construction company, but the building is currently vacant. The Fort Myers freight depot on Michigan Avenue is now home to Gully's Discount Store Fixtures (the name "Ft. Myers Seaboard Freight Station" is faintly engraved on the side of the building). The John Yarbrough Linear Park also runs near some of the line's former right of way south of Fort Myers next to the Ten Mile Canal.
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