Photo: Florida Railroad Museum Facebook
At the Pumpkin Patch in the Florida Railroad Museum, children are invited to pick their pumpkin from the patch to take home. This popular trip takes you to our patch of pumpkins. Everyone is also invited to participate in the hayride, Lincoln log building, crafts, and other activities.
Located in Parrish, Florida, the Florida Railroad Museum began when Railroads first came to Florida in the 1860s with a line running from Fernandina Beach to Cedar Key. However, real development arrived after the Civil War with lines eventually becoming Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad and Henry Plant’s Plant System.
Henry Plant took over the Jacksonville, Tampa, and Key West Railroad and expanded into Tampa to connect with his steamship lines running to Cuba and other destinations. He also built hotels and key locations along this line in the 1890s.
Later, the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line railroads built their tracks through Central Florida to the Gulf Coast. In the panhandle, Seaboard built a line west from Jacksonville to River Junction in Chattahoochee, where it connected with the Louisville & Nashville Railroad west through Pensacola into Alabama. Also, the Southern Railway System pushed south from Valdosta, Georgia, into Jacksonville.
In 1900, Henry Plant died and his railroad interests were soon purchased by the Atlantic Coast Line, along with several other acquisitions in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. The Atlantic Coast Line made Tampa its major destination on the West Coast with maintenance shops, yards and shipping facilities. The ACL Florida mainline ran from Jacksonville to Tampa via Orlando, Lakeland, and Plant City.
The first railroad to appear in Florida ran from Tallahassee to Port Leon, near the Gulf of Mexico. Construction began in 1834 and when completed, mules pulled cartloads of cotton from Tallahassee to the ocean-going ships at Port Leon. The Lake Wimico and St. Joseph Canal and Railroad was Florida’s first steam powered railroad train and began operations serving Port St. Joe in 1836.
The “Tallahassee RailRoad” began operations the next year, connecting Tallahassee to the Gulf at St. Marks. The Pensacola and Georgia Railroad, chartered on January 8, 1852, to build east from Pensacola, but started at Tallahassee. In 1855 the Pensacola and Georgia bought the Tallahassee RailRoad.
Today the Florida Railroad Museum runs as a non-profit under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Its main goal when it started was to preserve Florida’s railroad history. To achieve its goal of operating equipment and recreating the sights and sounds of Florida railroading, the Museum operates on a six mile line between Parrish and Willow, Florida in rural Manatee County.
This railroad line was the first railroad to be built in Manatee County. Each weekend diesel locomotives pull equipment consisting of open window coaches, a covered gondola, and an air-conditioned coach. Trains are operated entirely by Museum volunteer members.
The Museum is open and operates train rides year-round every Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM, excluding a two-week break for Christmas and New Years. Trains operate rain or shine and depart from our station on 83rd Street East in Parrish just behind the old Post Office. This year’s event will be held at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 17th and Sunday the 18th and Saturday, October 24th and Sunday the 25th.
To purchase tickets and learn more, please visit the Florida Railroad Museum website.
Chris began his writing as a hobby while attending Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida. Today he and his wife live in the Orlando area with their three children and dog.