First Railroads in Tampa

Tampa Bay area railroading begins in 1884

Tampa Bay area railroading begins in 1884
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The first trains came to Tampa in 1883-84 from Sanford via Plant City, and belonged to Henry Plant's South Florida Railroad. The line came in along Ybor City's Sixth Avenue, then curved southwest to run along downtown Tampa's Polk Street. A passenger and freight depot was built near the Hillsborough River on Ashley Street, and the first rails extended along the river wharves to the north and south of Madison Street. The map is simplified to show major tracks as a single line, but a complex of spur lines quickly began to expand the system.
 

Tampa's second railroad and other progress in 1899

Tampa's second railroad and other progress in 1899
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A second railroad company entered Tampa via Plant City in 1890. These were the trains of the Florida Central & Peninsular Railway, a predecessor of the later Seaboard Air Line Railway. The line came in along First Avenue, then curved southwest to run along downtown Tampa's Whiting Street. A passenger and freight depot was built near the Hillsborough River at the corner of Franklin Street, and the first rails extended southward along the river wharves.

At this time, the Plant System was using the name of its flagship Savannah Florida & Western Railway. The downtown Tampa depot became accessible by the new Lafayette Street bridge across the river. A depot was added at 16th Street in Ybor City. A railroad bridge near Cass Street carried the Plant System line to Port Tampa, which was developed starting in 1885. Plant's luxurious Tampa Bay Hotel, built in 1888-91, also featured a rail connection to the Plant System. The map is simplified to show major tracks as a single line.
 

A third railroad and more changes in 1915

A third railroad and more changes in 1915
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A third railroad company came to Tampa when the Tampa Northern Railroad was created in 1906. By 1915, there were many other changes to the downtown Tampa area. The Plant System became part of the Atlantic Coast Line in 1902, and the old Florida Central & Peninsular Railway had been absorbed into the Seaboard Air Line railway (the Tampa Northern would join the SAL soon after). Tampa Union Station, opened in 1912, allowed Tampa's railroad companies to consolidate passenger operations at the eastern edge of downtown (their former waterfront depots were then used only for freight). The city's southern waterfront was being dredged and filled to allow for the development of more maritime facilities, starting with the SAL terminals on Seddon Island.

The Tampa Northern Railroad's Gary Shops were located near 30th Street, and their maritime facilities were concentrated at Hooker's Point. Their line extended along 30th Street toward the Brooksville area, with a depot at Sulfur Springs, north of the city. The map is simplified to show major tracks as a single line.
 
 
 
 
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