Over the years there have been several books written which highlight the Florida East Coast Railway's Key West Extension. However, only The Greatest Railroad Story Ever Told presented by noted FEC historian Seth H. Bramson provides a vivid account of the railroad's daily operations on this most historic and magnificent line, which was also known as the Florida Overseas Railroad (officially the railroad knew it as its Southern Division). Mr. Bramson, himself, has published more than one book detailing the FEC's history (most notable of which is Speedway To Sunshine) and his vast knowledge of the company can be seen in his latest title which was released in 2011 just ahead of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the extension's completion set for January, 2012. I have read many railroad books over the years covering various subjects. However, The Greatest Railroad Story Ever Told is without question one of the most fascinating due to the subject covered, the railroad which quite literally went to sea.
If you are interested in a book which details either the Florida East Coast's history or how the Key West Extension was constructed The Greatest Railroad Story Ever Told is not it (if that is the case then pick up a copy of Speedway To Sunshine). While Mr. Bramson's book does provide a general background of the company and the extension's construction its primary focus is to highlight its every day operations. For instance, in the introduction and first chapter you will learn about Henry M. Flagler, the FEC's legendary creator and prominent promoter of Florida as well as how the extension came into being. Another key point in these opening chapters which Mr. Bramson makes quite obvious is the Florida of the early 1900s was far different from today.
Back in that era the state was primarily still a wilderness and even today's popular metropolis's like Miami were then nothing more than, literally, small outposts. Surprisingly, the largest city in all of Florida at the time was Key West. You will learn how at first the FEC had hoped to reach Coral Sable, not Key West, an idea that Flagler himself put forward in 1902 after it was learned the Panama Canal would be constructed. It was this project that put the idea into motion, as Flagler believed ships would need the closest deepwater port to resupply. However, the Coral Sable idea was abandoned when it was learned constructing a line there would be an almost impossible proposition. Thus, the plan to Key West was initiated and proven to be viable. In chapters three and four you learn how the plan was laid out as well as the task of actually building the Key West Extension.