Railroads Change Florida


Civil War

Florida had only a few railroads when the Civil War began. Union attacks destroyed some sections of the Florida railroads. Florida's Confederate government temporarily removed tracks in other locations to prevent Union forces from using the railroads.

The Confederate government also moved to seize existing rails to reuse the iron for new rail lines to transport troops and supplies.

Governor John Milton vs. David Yulee, 1863

"I have respectfully urged upon you as President of the road, to yield the iron from certain parts of the road.."

Governor Milton recommends seizing iron rails from the Florida Railroad Company to build new rail lines to transport troops and supplies. David L. Yulee, president of the Florida Railroad Company, disagrees.

View the letters »


Florida East Coast Railway
Florida East Coast Railway Map, 1917

During the 1880s and 1890s, Henry Flagler built the Florida East Coast Railway from Jacksonville down the East coast to Miami. He began the Overseas Extension in 1906 to connect Miami to Key West.

View the map »

The Plant System, 1901
Map of the Plant System, ca. 1901

Henry Plant expanded train lines to Tampa and the West coast.

View the map »

The Seaboad Air Line Railroad
Maps of the Seaboard Air Line System

The Seaboard Air Line Railway Company bought up smaller railroads connecting the east and west coasts of Florida.

View the maps »

Railroad Documents

Tallahassee Rail Road Company Scrip
Tallahassee Rail Road Company Scrip

"Receivable in payment of all our dues."

The Tallahassee Rail Company issued its own scrip, which could be used for goods or services provided by the company. Although not legal tender, it was printed by the American Bank Note Company and commonly used as currency. These notes are dated 1866 and 1870.

View the scrip »

Engineer's Report
Engineer's Report, 1893

"[T]he work of continuing the said Railroad towards Carrabelle is now actively and satisfactorily in progress."

In this letter written in 1893, engineer Frank P. Dawson certifies the completion of a section of railroad between Carrabelle and Tallahassee.

View the letter »

Henry M. Flagler

Henry Flagler began building up a system of railroads on Florida’s Atlantic coast in 1885. He purchased several existing lines and built new tracks leading as far south as Miami by 1896. By 1912, Flagler had extended his road across the Florida Keys to Key West.

Letter from Henry Flagler to Ellen Call Long
Letter from Henry Flagler (1902)

"What the future will be, no one can foretell, but I have unbounded faith in the resources of the State and its citizens."

In this letter written in 1902, Henry Flagler describes coming to Florida and deciding to invest in the state.

View the letter »

Building the Rails

Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston Singing Traditional Railroad Lining Rhythms

These chants were sung by workers to keep their pace as they built railroad tracks across Florida. Hurston talks about the process for lining railroad tracks and about the significance of the chants.

Listen to the audio »