Railroads Change Florida

The first train to operate in Florida was the Lake Wimico & St. Joseph line that connected the boomtown of St. Joseph to the Apalachicola River in 1836.

During the 1880s, Henry Plant expanded train lines to Tampa and the West coast. Henry Flagler expanded train lines through Jacksonville and down the East coast. By 1912, his Florida East Coast Railway Company had completed the first railroad connecting Key West with the mainland.

Florida East Coast Railway steam engine #153: Miami, Florida

In the early decades of the 20th century, trains such as the Florida Special and the Orange Blossom Special brought tourists all the way to Miami and beyond.

Trains helped to establish new towns and cities in Florida, and served the lumber, phosphate, tourist, manufacturing and agricultural industries.

This unit provides an introduction to Florida's railroad history through photographs, lesson plans, and exercises. It connects teachers and students to resources from the State Library and Archives, as well as other sites that help foster a deeper understanding of the changes that railroads brought to Florida's landscape.