The Florida Central Railroad (FCEN), based in Plymouth, Florida, is a division of the Pinsly Railroad Company and has been in operation since 1986 when it took over ex-CSX trackage in the Sunshine State. The railroad currently operates over 60 miles of track and serves over 65 customers in central Florida, including Orlando. The Florida Central was the first of Pinsly's properties in the state as it would later add two other lines soon afterward the Florida Midland and Florida Northern. Both of these railroads also operated over former CSX trackage with the latter being Pinsly's largest operating two unconnected sections of track north of the Florida Central system.
Between the three railroads they operate well over 100 miles of ex-CSX trackage and serve some 100+ customers along their particular areas of operation. Traffic includes everything from food and chemicals to lumber and fly ash. The Pinsly Railroad Company, based out of Massachusetts, itself has been in the railroading business for nearly 70 years focusing on short line operations, which it continues to do even today. Overall the company operates seven shortlines. Along with the three Florida systems they include the Arkansas Midland, Pioneer Valley, Prescott & Northwestern, and Warren & Saline River. Except for the Pioneer Valley these railroads are located in either Arkansas or Florida.
The Florida Central Railroad operates over trackage once owned by the Atlantic Coast Line. Essentially a branch, this line diverges northwest from Orlando (and a connection with CSX) to connect town such as Winter Garden, Lake Jem, Sorrento, and Umatilla. Under ACL ownership this line reached as far north as Altoona and did not end at Winter Garden as it does now. Instead, the trackage continued westward to Trilby where it connected with the railroad's western Florida main line (which is still in use by CSX). After the formation of CSX Transportation in the mid-1980s the new carrier cut back the route to Winter Garden and also abandoned a few spurs to the north and south near the town (which served Howey and Phillips).
The deeper history of these lines dates back to before Atlantic Coast Line ownership when it they were known as The Plant System. This railroad was controlled by Henry B. Plant for which it was named and its beginnings dating to 1879 when he purchased the bankrupt Charleston & Savannah Railroad and renamed it as the Savannah, Florida & Western Railway. A few years later he incorporated the Plant Investment Company, which was meant to oversee ownership of the numerous railroads Plant would come to either own or charter himself.
There are far too many of these companies to list and describe in detail here so to keep things brief the Plant
System would continue to grow through the late 19th century connecting
to cities such as Tampa, Orlando, St. Petersburg, and Tallahassee by the
1890s. The Atlantic Coast Line gained control of the railroad in 1902
and until the end Plant was still looking to expand his system, mostly
by merging them into his Savannah, Florida & Western Railway. The
ACL connected to the Plant System at Savannah and much of the lines it came to operate south of the city, through Florida, were all once part of the Plant empire.
Florida Central Railroad Diesel Locomotive Roster
|Builder||Model Type||Road Number||Notes||Quantity|
|EMD||CF7||47-50, 53, 56, 63-65||Ex-AT&SF||9|
|EMD||GP7u||55, 57||Ex-AT&SF GP7||2|
In the mid-1980s, not long after CSX's creation it began to shed large amounts of what it considered redundant trackage all across its system between Pennsylvania and Florida. This included former ACL and SAL branch lines in the Sunshine State and in 1986 it sold much of the trackage to the Florida Central Railroad that it now operates. In 1990 the railroad added about 8 miles of additional track from CSX although it cut back a few miles of line near Winter Garden in 1998 to reduce congestion the busy downtown area. Currently the Florida Central Railroad has a locomotive fleet consisting entirely of EMDs (of note, the locomotives operate among all three railroads and are lettered for their respective railroad).
Check out the website's digital book (E-book), An Atlas To Classic Short Lines, which features system maps and a brief background of 46 different historic railroads. To learn more please click on the image below.