1912: The Start of Regular Operations for Florida’s Overseas Railroad

January 23, 1912

Regular service began on the Overseas Railroad, a 156-mile (251.1-kilometer)-long extension of the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West (located beyond the end of the Florida peninsula). This service was launched the day after Henry Flagler, a founder of Standard Oil and the developer of Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), arrived in Key West to great fanfare aboard his private railcar “Rambler.”

The origins of the Overseas Railroad can be traced to a couple of decades earlier, when Flagler established resort hotels along Florida’s eastern peninsula and in the process created what became the FEC to serve those ventures. By the late 1890s, Flagler had started eyeing the string of islands that comprises the Florida Keys just beyond the mainland. He strongly appreciated how the location of Key West, the outermost key, made possible unrivaled opportunities for trade and tourism with Latin America and in particular Cuba.

Construction on the Overseas Railroad began in 1905. At the time of its opening, this new route — described in one newspaper account as “[an] unusual achievement in railroad construction” — started transporting passengers all the way to Key West. These passengers could then board steamers and ferries for Havana. 

The FEC continued to serve the Florida Keys region until the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane destroyed much of that line. The Overseas Highway was subsequently built on the foundation of that railroad bed.   

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Overseas Railroad, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overseas_Railroad

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