Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway

The Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway was created by phosphate mining company executive Peter B. Bradley in July of 1905. The C H & N began by building a wharf, a power plant and a depot at South Boca Grande on Gasparilla Island. Then it started construction of a route north (see blue line on map) that would include the Peace River Phosphate Mining Company's 1899 connection to the Florida Southern Railway (by then ACL) track at Arcadia.

After the Seaboard Airline Railway took over the Plant City, Arcadia & Gulf railroad in 1905, the SAL started building a line south and east from Plant City (it would eventually meet the C H & N at Bradley Junction in 1910).

By July of 1907, the-C H & N had built additional depots and opened passenger service via the ACL track at Arcadia. In 1909, the C H & N finally built the handsome Boca Grande rail station at Park and 4th Streets (the building still stands today).

In 1910, the C H & N started a track extension to Bradley Junction (and to the phosphate mines near Mulberry), and made the connection to the SAL line from Valrico. By 1911, the C H & N had also completed a new connection at Pierce to the ACL line near Mulberry.

A 9-bay section was added to the original 12-bay section of the station at Park and 4th in 1913. The number of C H & N daily passenger trains increased to four daily by 1915.

After president S. Davies Warfield took majority control of the SAL in 1912, the company began planning aggressive route expansions in Florida, especially after the 1918 end of the First World War. In 1926, the C H & N agreed to lease their Boca Grande line to the SAL, but the SAL had to wait a few more years before the Interstate Commerce Commission finally granted approval. The C H & N was soon purchased outright by the SAL.

SAL also extended track from Fort Ogden to the Ft. Myers area in 1926.

On April 25, 1959, after years of weaker business prospects and the consequences of having been in receivership, the SAL withdrew passenger service from Boca Grande.

By the late 1970s, the merged Seaboard Coast Line petitioned the ICC to remove some lines in southwest Florida. With phosphate traffic mainly going to the new Rockport facility near Tampa, the phosphate port of South Boca Grande was abandoned, and tracks were taken up. One of the pioneer paved recreational trails developed from old rail bed, the Gasparilla-Boca Grande trail opened up along the entire length of Gasparilla Island in February of 1985. The Boca Grande depot building was sold and converted to office and retail space, but the old rail trestles and bridges across the nearby bays were abandoned, and today some still continue to be damaged by numerous storms.

See more images of the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway.

Recommended Reading

Hensley, Donald R. Jr., Boca Grande Route,, 2008

Turner, Gregg M., Railroads of Southwest Florida, Arcadia Publishing, 1999

Tampa Bay Lines South

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