The Florida East Coast Railway originally had its beginnings in 1895, on
September 7th to be exact as that was the date when the FEC was
officially dedicated by its most prominent and original owner, Henry
Flagler (who is known not only for his wealth, but also for a number of
successful businesses, such as partnering with John Rockefeller of
Standard Oil fame), who purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine &
Halifax River Railway and renamed it (because this railroad began the
FEC “empire” for many years, until just recently when it moved to
Jacksonville, the railroad’s headquarters were located in St.
Augustine). However, the railroad actually had its beginnings much
earlier than that, as its predecessor railroads date all the way back to
1858 with the narrow-gauge St. John’s Railway, which operated, between
Tocoi and St. Augustine, Florida.
With the newly created FEC Flagler quickly
expanded it, not only to grow the business but also to bring much needed
infrastructure to eastern Florida which, hard to believe by today's
situation, was still very undeveloped during the late 19th century.
Aside from the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Halifax River Railway,
which began the FEC Flagler, he also purchased the St. John's Railway,
the St. Augustine and Palatka Railway, and the St. Johns and Halifax
River Railway which connected the railroad from Jacksonville to Daytona
From this point forward, however, the rest of the FEC was built entirely
from new railroad, which stretched from Daytona Beach to Miami (which
it reached a year after the railroad was officially incorporated in
1896) and continues to serve as part of the railroad’s
Jacksonville-Miami main line. Perhaps what the FEC is best recognized
for is its ambitious plan to connect the Florida Keys with the state’s mainland, the Key West Extension. Construction
of the project was completed in 1905 and finished in 1912 with
Flagler’s ultimate goal of using the line as a link for traffic coming
to and from the Panama Canal, whose construction had also begun in 1905.
Hailed as an engineering masterpiece upon completion the line saw a mere 23 years of active service before being destroyed by the massive
Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 and the railroad never sought to rebuild
the line (partly because its intended use never came to fruition).
However, the line was so well built that much of the remaining pier
infrastructure was used for Highway 1, which now connects the entire Key
West island system to the state’s mainland. The Florida East Coast
Railway of today continues to operate almost all of its original
railroad lines, although a few segments here and there have been
abandoned over the years. For many years the company also held Class I
status until one of the more recent class changes bumped the railroad to
a Class II, or Regional. Passenger train service on the railroad ended
in 1968 although there is a likelihood that the southern end of its
main line will see state commuter rail operations commence at some point
in the future.
The railroad is and has always been an independent company
(although it did have a few brief skirts with receivership and
bankruptcy during its lifetime), and today is under the holding company
known as Fortress Investment Group,
LLC, which oversees the railroad and other businesses. This company
also owned the RailAmerica company of shortline railroads for a number
of years and in March 2008 RA was designated operator of the line.
Sadly, this designation for a time cost the FEC much of its identity as
equipment was repainted in RA's standard red, white and blue livery.
However, not long after this announcement Fortress reversed its stance
and kept the FEC as a separate, independent portfolio outside of the
FEC. Today with the emergence of rail once again as a highly demanded
form of transportation, coupled with an excellent management team, the
FEC's future looks as bright as the Florida sun. Of note, in July of
2012 it was announced that
Genesee & Wyoming was purchasing the entirety of RA's shortline
family. It will be interesting to see what becomes of the FEC in this regard although it is believed that Fortress will retain
ownership of the regional at this time.
Diesel Locomotive Roster
Electro-Motive Corporation/Electro-Motive Division
|A trio of FEC Geeps with GP40 #401 up front head southbound at Bunnell, Florida on December 1, 2001 with an intermodal freight.|
Steam Locomotive Roster
|301, 401, 801||Mountain||4-8-2|
|Seen here is one of the FEC's newest units, SD70M-2 #100 as it leads train #101 through Pineada, Florida on March 13, 2009.|