Tag Archives: florida

The historic marker at Fort Mose

The historic narrative of Fort Mose highlight the multiracial reality of Florida.


July 22, 2016 at 1:12:58 PM EDT

How Trains Impacted Winter Park

Throughout Winter Park’s History, railroads played an important role in development. Winter Park grew from a small outpost to a bustling town because of railroad development in the region. Even to this day, railroads in Florida still play an important role with Winter Park for passenger service provided by Amtrak and SunRail and freight service with CSX.
The first railroad to reach Winter Park was the South Florida Railroad. This railroad was owned by Henry Plant, who played a very important role in Florida’s railroad development. The South Florida Railroad was originally independent, but by 1883 Henry Plant acquired the railroad, which at the time connected Sanford to Orlando via Winter Park. He later extended the line all the way to Tampa. At the end of his life, Henry Plant’s empire stretched from Charleston, South Carolina all the way to Punta Gorda, Florida. After his death, the Plant System, which by then had 2,200 miles of track, was sold to the Atlantic Coast Line railroad for $46.5 million dollars in 1902.
By the early 20th Century, Florida was dominated by three major railroads, The Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Airline, and the Florida East Coast Railway. Winter Park was served by the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Airline. The Atlantic Coast Line served Winter Park with their mainline from Jacksonville to Tampa. The Seaboard Airline served Winter Park, after they took over the Orlando and Winter Park Railway. The Atlantic Coast Line had a much larger presence in the area since major New York to Florida trains, like the Champion, directly served it while the Seaboard Airline’s route was more like a branch line. In 1967 the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Airline merged to create the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) which became a giant 9,600-mile Railroad that connected various major cities in the South East. The SCL still continued to advertise their New York to Miami service heavily, but they did get rid of unprofitable local passenger service trains. In 1971 Amtrak took over their passenger operations. With their freight operations, even with competition from trucking, they did well compared to other US railroads. The SCL in Orlando, for example, invested in creating a 535-acre industrial park. It benefited from the Sun Belt boom that was bringing people and businesses to the South East and specifically to Florida. In 1980, the merger between the SCL and Chessie System was approved, creating CSX. That merger and the Staggers Act allowed CSX sell off or abandon redundant lines and to be able to invest into new services. For example in Orlando, CSX started offering intermodal service from Orlando to Wilmington, Delaware.
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Originally to get to Winter Park a person had to go by horse and wagon for the last few miles after riding on a steamboat down the St. John’s River from Jacksonville. The South Florida Railroad, especially after Henry Plant acquired it, was a game changer because it connected Winter Park with the rest of the country’s growing Railroad infrastructure. One of the industries that benefited was the tourist industry. In the decades after the Railroad connection, many new hotels were built because of the rise of Northern tourists coming down to Florida for the winter months. Examples of hotels built after the railroad came through include the Hamilton Hotel and Alabama Hotel. Out of the hotels built in this era, the Hamilton Hotel still exists, but it is called the Park Plaza Hotel.
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Outside of tourism, agriculture in Winter Park benefited heavily from being connected to rail lines that would allow locally grown agriculture products, like oranges, to ship to Northern Markets. By the end of the 19th century, Winter Park had over 850 acres of orange groves and two major packinghouses. Growing oranges was the most popular, but other citrus fruits, like lemons and grape fruit, were popular too. Outside of that Winter Park did not really have that much industry. But because of the boom in tourism, Winter Park developed a bustling downtown area by the early 20th century. Many people in Hannibal Square worked for the railroad as Pullman Porters. Park Avenue was lined with various businesses, restaurants, and hotels that benefited from the population growth and increased tourism. Winter Park was an anomaly for Florida, because its downtown area did not go into a decline because of suburbanization.
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After years of battle, on July 01, 2011, SunRail, a commuter rail line in Central Florida, was officially approved by the state. Part of this deal included buying 61 miles CSX’s A line through Central Florida. Funding came from local communities, the state of Florida, and the Federal government. Most of the CSX’s freight traffic would be rerouted on S line which is CSX’s other mainline through Florida. CSX continued to serve Orlando, kept a major yard in South Orlando, and built a new Intermodal facility in Winter Haven. In the first two years of SunRail’s service, on average 3,600 people used SunRail daily. This was slightly below the average they wanted, but this ridership was only with the 1st stage of SunRail open. The second stage to Kissimmee construction has started which will give South Orlando residents easier access to Downtown and Winter Park.
Railroads have played an important role for Winter Park’s development through out its existence. Overtime rail service to the area has changed and some lines like Orlando and Winter Park Railway were abandoned because it was a redundant line that was outdated. Parts of the Orlando and Winter Park Railway have been turned into bike trails and the location of the old station is now a recreational facility for the city. The old freight depot was converted to a Farmer’s Market in 1979. The building was not really useful for modern freight traffic which includes container and autorack traffic. New York to Miami service, like under the Atlantic Coast Line, still exists under Amtrak even though amenities like the dinning car have been threatened to be cut because of budget constraints. SunRail was the first major commuter rail project for the region, and Winter Park has one of the best stations of the system because it is located near all the restaurants and shops of Park Avenue. As Winter Park continues to evolve, railroads will continue to play an important role for the city.
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Works Cited
Norris, Jim. Images of America: Winter Park. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2015.
Ruiter, Jason. “SunRail marks 2nd anniversary with plans for growth.” Orlando Sentinel, April 29, 2016, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-sunrail-2nd-anniversary-20160428-story.html (accessed May 1, 2014)
Turner, Gregg. A Short History of Florida Railroads. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Gregg Turner, A Short History of Florida Railroads, (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003), 60.
Ibid, 60.
Ibid, 66.
Ibid, 66.
Jason Ruiter,“SunRail marks 2nd anniversary with plans for growth,” Orlando Sentinel, April 29, 2016, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-sunrail-2nd-anniversary-20160428-story.html (accessed May 1, 2014).
Jim, Norris. Images of America: Winter Park, (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2015)
Gregg Turner, A Short History of Florida Railroads, (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2003)148
Ibid, 148.
Ibid, 149.
Ibid, 150.
Ibid, 150.
Jim, Norris. Images of America: Winter Park, (Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2015) 17.
Ibid, 38.
Ibid, 54.
Ibid, 21.
Ibid, 44.
Jason Ruiter,“SunRail marks 2nd anniversary with plans for growth,” Orlando Sentinel, April 29, 2016, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-sunrail-2nd-anniversary-20160428-story.html (accessed May 1, 2014).