Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19

Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19

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Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner Soft Cover 19
 
Images of America Railroads of Southwest Florida by Gregg M Turner
Soft Cover
Copyright 1999 128 pages
Rails to Charlotte Harbor
Around Sarasota and Venice
Finally Fort Myers
The cold hungry and naked
From highlands to lowlands
The Boom
The pursuit of business
Mergers and survivors
Railroads achieved almost overnight success because they supplied the traveler and shipper with a new and much-needed service: fast, regular, dependable, all-weather transportation. In the process they became America's first big business.
Their story in Florida proved both decisive and historic. Railroads conquered the state's vast interior, linked population centers, brought in tourists, and carried off the wealth of mines, factories, forests, and agriculture. New life sprang up at almost every railroad stopping place; energy, enterprise, and progress followed their course. As historian Oliver Jensen reminds Americans, "Behind the chuffing locomotives and little wooden cars followed the farmer, the miner, the merchant, the immigrant, and all that adventurous company who laid the rails, filled the empty lands, and made the desert . . . blossom like a garden."
Southwest Florida-land of tropical flowers and royal palms-was actually one of the last regions in the South to get railroad service. When, in fact, the first Iron Horse arrived in the region at Charlotte Harbor in 1886, nearly 150,000 miles of railroads existed in America. The transcontinental route to the Pacific was open; the Westinghouse air brake was in use; and Pullman sleeping cars were making long distance travel pleasurable. Area citizens and communities wanted railroads sooner, but a sparse population and lack of big freight markets retarded their arrival. And from a railroad point of view, it was in freight traffic that the real money was made.
Another impediment had been the state itself. Since 1855 trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund had dispensed free land grants for railroad construction, and they endorsed railroad bonds. But most of Florida's railroads were in bankruptcy after the Civil War. To extricate itself, the state tried to sell huge tracts of land to redeem the Fund and make good on the defaulted securities. Efforts though were proving futile, until a white knight stepped across the stage.
Hamilton Disston was a wealthy young industrialist from Philadelphia who came to Florida to fish and hunt. Governor William Bloxham learned of this and joined Disston at one of his outings. There, he pitched the state's dilemma-that if certain tracts could be sold, then the indebtedness of the Fund could be erased and the land grants resumed. Miraculously, Disston saw great potential in the so-called swamp and overflow lands, and, in 1881, his syndicate purchased some four million acres-at 25each! The sale refreshed the state treasury, bankruptcy was averted, and the land grants resumed at record levels. The resources of Florida then attracted two spectacular developers: Henry Bradley Plant and Henry Morrison Flagler. Thanks to Plant, the Iron Horse came to Charlotte Harbor.

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