Florida West Shore Railway

The following map shows rail routes of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in the Sarasota area at the time of their merger in 1967. The SAL line (green on the map) to Bradenton, Sarasota, and Venice and the ACL line (red on the map) to Bradenton and Sarasota were always considered direct extensions of Tampa service - southbound passenger trains had to first come through Tampa Union Station, and trains headed to northern cities also had to pass through Tampa Union Station.
Florida West Shore Railway route
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In 1892, the-Arcadia Gulf Coast & Lakeland RR was organized, and built a line from Bradentown (later Bradenton) to Sarasota. The line would struggle financially until it could be connected to a mainline from Tampa.

The U.S. & West Indies Railroad, a subsidiary of the SAL, completed a line to Bradentown from the SAL mainline at Durant in March of 1903. Some of the route used the roadbed of the old Arcadia Gulf Coast & Lakeland Railroad. Renamed the Florida West Shore Railway in 1903, the SAL subsidiary extended the line to Sarasota, reaching the Fruitville district in July of 1905. The SAL absorbed the Florida West Shore Railway in 1909. The line was extended to Venice in 1911, and the SAL completed a brick depot in Sarasota in 1912. The SAL also completed a brick depot in Venice in March of 1927.

The East and West Coast Railway, another SAL subsidiary, was incorporated in 1913 to build and operate a railroad from a point at or near Bradentown to a point at or near Arcadia.

Due to all the SAL's borrowing for Florida route expansions, the company was severely impacted by the 1929 stock market crash, and went into receivership in 1930. When the Seaboard Air Line Railway finally emerged from receivership in 1946, it changed its name to the Seaboard Air Line Railroad.

The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus moved its winter home to the Venice airport area from Sarasota in 1960, and began constructing permanent buildings there in 1961.

The SAL merged with the ACL in July 1967 to form the Seaboard Coast Line, and consolidation of operations soon followed. The SCL was observed using the ex-SAL Doodlebug in Tampa to Venice passenger service. Sections of the South Wind and Silver Meteor ran on this line.

But, passenger service to Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice ended on May 1, 1971 when Amtrak decided to service major routes only. The SCL continued its freight operations, with the company eventually evolving into the CSX.

By 1986, the CSX took up the tracks north of Willow, and the former Bradenton SAL depot was demolished in the 1980s. The abandoned Parrish depot, heavily damaged by tropical storms in the 1990s, was demolished soon after.

The short line Seminole Gulf Railway took over some former CSX track southward from Oneco in 1988.

See more images of Railroad Lines South to Sarasota and Bradenton.

Recommended Reading

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

Tampa Bay Lines South

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