Setbacks and Derailments

Rail transportation has always had risks, both in terms of investment and safety. Florida railways have witnessed numerous train wrecks and other disasters, sometimes with tragic loss of life.

Seaboard Air Line Railway train wreck (1905)

Seaboard Air Line Railway train wreck (1905)

Image number: N038568

The wreck occurred at McDonald, north of Plymouth in Orange County, Florida.

Train wreck on a bridge in Tampa (1906)

Train wreck on a bridge in Tampa (1906)

Image number: N038646

Wreck of engine 92 at De Land (191-)

Wreck of engine 92 at DeLand (191-)

Image number: PR09122

Built in 1894 by Baldwin Locomotive Works, it was scrapped on May 1, 1934.

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (1935)

Rescue train swept off the tracks by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane (1935)

Image number: N041488

The hurricane washed this eleven car special train off the track soon after reaching the stricken area. The train was trying to rescue 683 World War I veterans in a rehabilitation camp. More than 200 veterans died as a result of the hurricane.

The veterans, a remnant of the Bonus Army that marched on Washington, were employed for highway construction in the federal work relief project.

Wreck at Delray Beach (1961)

Wreck at Delray Beach (1961)

Image number: PR09188

The railroad was part of the Florida East Coast Railway line.

Aerial view showing train derailment in Crestview, Florida (ca. 1979)

Aerial view showing train derailment in Crestview, Florida (ca. 1979)

Image number: DND0896

End of an Era, Rails to the Future

Trains helped to establish new towns and cities in Florida. Trains connected distant areas of the state and were integral parts of Florida’s expanding industries such as lumber, phosphate, tourist, manufacturing and agriculture.

The diesel-electric locomotive had almost replaced steam engines entirely by the 1940s. Other forms of transportation—first automobiles, then aircraft—became popular alternatives to train travel. By the 1960s, Florida’s railroads were almost exclusively used for freight and industrial shipments.

Beginning in the 1980s, Florida citizens, politicians, and business communities debated the development of high-speed railways to make travel between Florida's major cities easier and less expensive. Meanwhile, some Florida cities began planning light rail systems to combat traffic congestion in downtown areas.

Nighttime view of the Spaceship Earth geosphere and monorail at the Walt Disney World Resort's EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida

Nighttime view of the Spaceship Earth geosphere and monorail at the Walt Disney World Resort's EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida

Image number: COM03908