The Keys

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The Keys

Postby TCurtin » Wed Mar 23, 2011 9:02 am

MY wife and I just visited the keys for the first time ever, so I saw some of the visible remnants of the FEC Key West extension that once operated there. We spent our time between Largo and Marathon --- did not to all the way to Key West (in order to avoid college spring breakers and "bikers") It appeared most (maybe all?) of the original bridges between Lower Matecumbe Key and Bahia Honda are intact as "fishing bridges." Can I assume they really are the original bridges?

Also, I have always understood that what's now called the "Old Highway" was constructed right on the FEC ROW. That road is in use as a local street throught most of Islamorada, and very visible in most places (with some scattered spots in use) between there and Marathon. Is that really all on the old FEC ROW? Just wondering . . .
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Re: The Keys

Postby JasW » Wed Mar 23, 2011 10:44 am

TCurtin wrote:MY wife and I just visited the keys for the first time ever, so I saw some of the visible remnants of the FEC Key West extension that once operated there. We spent our time between Largo and Marathon --- did not to all the way to Key West (in order to avoid college spring breakers and "bikers") It appeared most (maybe all?) of the original bridges between Lower Matecumbe Key and Bahia Honda are intact as "fishing bridges." Can I assume they really are the original bridges?

Also, I have always understood that what's now called the "Old Highway" was constructed right on the FEC ROW. That road is in use as a local street throught most of Islamorada, and very visible in most places (with some scattered spots in use) between there and Marathon. Is that really all on the old FEC ROW? Just wondering . . .


Yes, those are the original bridges, though they were obviously modified for auto traffic in the 30s and thereafter. With the exception of the Seven Mile and Bahia Honda bridges, U.S. 1 is still more or less on the original FEC ROW through the Keys, including through Islamorada and Marathon -- U.S. 1 didn't exist until after the hurricane put the KW extension out of business. (Also, the Long Key bridge/viaduct and a couple of adjacent shorter bridges are side by side with the original bridges, so they are not technically on the original ROW.)
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Re: The Keys

Postby JasW » Mon Apr 25, 2011 7:57 am

FWIW, I stumbled across this map of Key West a few weeks ago from a 1912 FEC booklet announcing the extension, which shows the ROW in Key West itself. There's no trace of it left today from the point where US 1 enters the island. The site of the original station, rail dock for the boats to Cuba, and yard are all contained within the Coast Guard station. (The tourist site "Flagler Station," a few blocks south, is a reconstruction.)

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Re: The Keys

Postby JasW » Tue Apr 26, 2011 9:51 am

As long as I'm mindlessly throwing up stuff I've stumbled across, here's a 1930 aerial view of the Key West yard, station, and docks.

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Re: The Keys

Postby workextra » Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:00 pm

If the railroad were restored along US1 back to Key West would there be any ridership today? With Higher gas prices and greener means of travel would the Line have a place for Tri Rail service in Today's commuter market?
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Re: The Keys

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:17 pm

workextra wrote:If the railroad were restored along US1 back to Key West would there be any ridership today? With Higher gas prices and greener means of travel would the Line have a place for Tri Rail service in Today's commuter market?


While a lot of us down here would like to see this happen the truth is NO. The bridges are still there and pretty solid to look at but after 75 plus years of absolutely no maintenance for railroad use, portions of most of them have been removed to keep folks off them and to allow clearance for boating the presence of US-1 which has all new bridges and the lack of general population would doom any hope for having railroad service in the keys again. Running a line through the keys today would be pretty costly today as well and probably beyond private enterprise. We would just like to get passenger trains running on the main line of the Florida East Coast again and even that is proving to be extremely difficult at least at this time.
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Re: The Keys

Postby Gilbert B Norman » Wed Mar 13, 2013 6:56 am

Likely, http://maps.google.com/maps?q=key+west& ... 01.87,,2,0 is the transportation highlight of Key West. I haven't been down there since 2001, but I made it my business to find this marker.

Otherwise, airfans will enjoy driving past the Marathon airport, where, to my best knowledge, there are still flight certified DC-3's available for charter. When I last "went down", they were in scheduled airline service.

Mr. Curtin, I hope you and Eileen enjoyed your drive down there; On the several times I've done it in the past, I always found it to be "arduous".

Finally, it was somewhere around 1981, that the FEC bridges and causeways were ceased to be used for the highway and became their present fishing piers.
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Re: The Keys

Postby joshg1 » Sat Apr 20, 2013 3:08 pm

Preface- I just saw a photo of one of the former Flagler Folly bridges (viaducts?) and thought the whole enterprise to be so expensive as to be pointless. A little research shows the ~150 mile route as costing $13 billion in today's money, very busy and very quiet at the same time, and that unions are bad- from an Ayn Rand fan.

I imagine someone has done a case study for some business course about this route. Expensive to build, not sure about maintenance, only lasted 20 years, not helped by FEC entering bankruptcy in '31(?) Does anyone have any figures, even not adjusted for inflation? I'm inspired by other threads about dud and never-lived-up-to-expectation lines in NE/NY.

And an aside- where did the steam engines get their water? I have no idea how long a tender filled on the mainland would last.
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Re: The Keys

Postby Noel Weaver » Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:24 pm

joshg1 wrote:Preface- I just saw a photo of one of the former Flagler Folly bridges (viaducts?) and thought the whole enterprise to be so expensive as to be pointless. A little research shows the ~150 mile route as costing $13 billion in today's money, very busy and very quiet at the same time, and that unions are bad- from an Ayn Rand fan.

I imagine someone has done a case study for some business course about this route. Expensive to build, not sure about maintenance, only lasted 20 years, not helped by FEC entering bankruptcy in '31(?) Does anyone have any figures, even not adjusted for inflation? I'm inspired by other threads about dud and never-lived-up-to-expectation lines in NE/NY.

And an aside- where did the steam engines get their water? I have no idea how long a tender filled on the mainland would last.


During the rail period I believe all the water for the keys and Key West was shipped by rail in freight trains. The book "Speedway to Sunshine" has stuff about this in its pages.
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Re: The Keys

Postby Noel Weaver » Wed Sep 02, 2015 2:28 pm

Eighty (80) years ago this week marked the time of the 1935 hurreicane which literally destroyed the Key West Extension. I would not go so far as to say that it shouldn't have been built but it did not reach its potential. We can't really get to what could of or would of have happened after September of 1935 because the railroad never ran after that time, at least not in revenue service.
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Re: The Keys

Postby amtrakhogger » Wed Sep 02, 2015 3:33 pm

The hurricane destroyed trackage on land, the bridges escaped largely unscathed. Ironically, the rail on the original bridges were reused as railing/guard rails when the bridges were converted to highway use and can still been seen today.
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