The Florida Southern Railway Route

This simplified map shows the Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line Railway and Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway mainline tracks to Charlotte County and beyond in 1911, when the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway was still an independent railroad company. The ACL line (red on the map) was the successor of the 1886 Florida Southern Railway line to Punta Gorda. The Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railway (blue line on the map) was created by Peter B. Bradley in 1905.

 
Florida Southern Railway
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The Florida Southern Railway, a Plant System subsidiary, had built a narrow gauge line southward from Bartow to the Peace River area, reaching Arcadia in March of 1886.The Florida Southern line was extended to Trabue (soon renamed Punta Gorda) in July of that year. The early trains carried passengers, and freight largely consisted of fresh fish caught in nearby waterways. The Plant System converted the Florida Southern line to standard gauge (4 feet, 8.5 inches) in 1892.

Commercial grade bone phosphates of lime had been found in pebbles along the Peace River in 1881, and the first shipments of pebble phosphate were sent by barge to docks at Charlotte Harbor for transport by ship to fertilizer factories in May 1888. However, when the dry season prevented barges from navigating the river, the phosphate was transported by Florida Southern Railway trains to docks at Punta Gorda.

The Peace River Phosphate Mining Company built a private rail line that connected to the Florida Southern line at Arcadia in 1899. Following the 1902 ACL takeover, Charlotte Harbor port phosphate operations were expanded (this had been discouraged by previous owner Plant to protect his Tampa operations).

In 1902, the ACL secured property in Ft. Myers for a depot and river wharf complex, and extended a line from Punta Gorda to Ft. Myers in 1903. Once the ACL route extension was completed to Ft. Myers and beyond, the focus of ACL new operations shifted farther south.

In 1996, after private ownership of the former Punta Gorda depot changed hands several times, the depot was donated to the Old Punta Gorda History Foundation for use as an antique mall. All the former ACL track from Arcadia north to Bowling Green was pulled up by 2007.


See more images of the Florida Southern Railway,


Recommended Reading

Hensley, Donald R. Jr., Boca Grande Route, www.taplines.net, 2008

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

Tampa Bay Lines South
 

 
 
 
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