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Railways in the

Florida Keys

The Keys are administratively part of the State of Florida, and hence of the mainland United States of America. However, the railway that once served them is of sufficient interest to warrant this separate page.

The Keys are a chain of islands extending from the southern tip of Florida into the Caribbean Sea, Key West being at their furthest extremity, some 128 miles (206 km) from the Florida mainland.

Map of Florida East Coast Railway

A railway serving the Keys was first envisioned towards the end of the 19th century. As well as a tourist destination, the Keys were are that time an important source of traffic in their own right, with fishing, sponge harvesting and cigar making being among the industries then active.

Work started of the Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension in 1905, and the first train rolled into Key West to great acclaim on 22 January, 1912.

Train on Long Key Viaduct
Express train on Long Key Viaduct, circa 1926

Traffic gradually declined over the years, partly owing to the decline of local industry but also to competition from a new road that paralleled the line for most of its length. However, the line continued to serve the Keys well until 2 September, 1935 - the Labor Day holiday that year - when a disastrous hurricane struck the Keys, severely damaging the railway. It never reopened. Parts of the alignment were used to improve the existing roadway, including bridging some parts that had previously been served by ferry. The new road opened in 1938.

A miniature railway, the Key Western Railroad, was active on Key West in the 1980s.

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Map image: source unknown, possibly Whitehall Flagler Museum
Photo Image from the Florida Photgraphic Collection
US flag image from CIA World Factbook
Florida flag image from Wikipedia