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The Havana Special

The Florida East Coast Railway is fondly remembered for the numerous streamliners it either owned and operated itself (like the Dixie Flagler) or those which it ferried to cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale (such as the City of Miami, Silver Meteor, Champion, and many others). However, its most exotic train was not even a streamliner at all and is usually forgotten, the fabled Havana Special. This train offered passengers to the most tropical region in the continental United States as well as the most southern point in the country, and it was only possible because of the vastly expensive Key West Extension the FEC had constructed during the early 20th century. Unfortunately, the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed the extension as well as rail service to the islands. However, it's likely a safe assumption that had the line survived into the streamliner era, those trains mentioned above would have continued further south than Miami.

The Florida East Coast's Havana Special has a history that is directly tied to its Key West Extension, also known as the Florida Overseas Railroad. The idea of the FEC's president, Henry Flagler, to construct such a massive project was not for passenger services to the island chain but freight. In 1905 it was announced by the United States that a new canal would be constructed in Panama to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, thus opening a new trade route. Flager thus hoped to tap shipments head to and from the canal via a new port in Key West as well as to Cuba and Latin America. Seven years after that announcement, Seth Bramson notes in his book, "Speedway To Sunshine: The Story Of The Florida East Coast Railway," the first train, carrying Mr. Flagler, arrived in Key West on January 22, 1912 and the great extension was officially opened for service soon afterwards.  In conjunction with this event, the railroad launched the Havana Special, at first a local train serving the FEC's home territory.

Florida East Coast's Other Trains And Through Services

City of Miami: (Chicago - Birmingham - Miami)

Dixie Flagler:  (Chicago - Miami)

South Wind:  (Chicago - Louisville - Miami)

More Reading

The Fabled Key West Extension

A History Of The Florida East Coast Railway

The Special, however, was not meant as a regional train serving only the east coast of Florida between Key West and Jacksonville. The FEC intended the train to operate up and down the U.S. eastern seaboard, almost literally the entire length. To do so required a partnership with other lines including the Atlantic Coast Line (between Jacksonville and Richmond, Virginia), Richmond Fredericksburg & Potomac (between Richmond and Washington, D.C.), and the Pennsylvania Railroad (to New York City). Additionally, the train offered connecting service northward to Boston and even to Havana, Cuba via the Peninsular & Occidental Steamship Company (which was also owned by Flagler).  The entire route covered 1,523 miles to Key West and 1,596 to Havana with a complete trip requiring 42 hours either aboard train or ship (the steamships operated out of both Miami as well as Port Tampa, Key West to Havana) making the Special the longest East Coast passenger route. Its exotic nature also made the train quite successful due both to the fact that rail service was still the most efficient means of transportation at the time and the Florida East Coast spared no expense in making sure it was a magnificent operation providing top level service. 

For instance, it was an all-Pullman affair all of the way to and from New York City with a typical consist including coaches, a lounge, a diner, six sleepers, and a parlor-observation (this varied somewhat with the other lines).   Some of the Special's on board amenities included fine dining from the tropics such as fresh citrus fruits, local seafood, and other delicacies. The lounge car, located within the center of the train was perhaps the most interesting in the consist; it offered separate areas for men and women to relax and even included baths.  Despite the fact that this was during the era of heavyweight, non-streamlined trains the Special was certainly one-of-a-kind.  In the 84th volume/73rd annual issue of Railway Age & Railway View (covering the period from January 1, 1928 through June 30, 1928) through service on the Havana Special, from New York to Key West, began in 1924.  In 1930, a few years after this event, travelers were given the additional option of traveling by plane to Havana and other Caribbean destinations as the FEC worked in conjunction with the Pan American airlines to provide this service via both Miami and Key West.  

(The below Havana Special timetable is dated effective January 14, 1933.)

Read Up Time/Leave (Train #141/PRR) Milepost Location Read Down
Time/Arrive (Train #110/PRR)
10:05 PM (Dp) 0.0
New York, NY (Penn Station) (ET)
6:45 AM (Ar)
10:27 PM 10
Newark, NJ
6:19 AM
11:23 PM 58
Trenton, NJ
11:55 PM 85
North Philadelphia, PA
4:49 AM
12:05 AM (Ar) 91
West Philadelphia, PA
4:39 AM (Dp)
12:07 AM (Dp) 91
West Philadelphia, PA
4:38 AM (Ar)
12:41 AM 118
Wilmington, DE
F 4:05 AM
1:44 AM 166
Edgewood, MD
2:14 PM 186
Baltimore, MD
2:43 AM
3:10 AM 226
Washington, D.C. (Union Station)
1:45 AM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #75/RF&P) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #76/RF&P)
3:35 AM (Dp) 226
Washingon, D.C. (Union Station)
1:05 AM (Ar)
4:58 AM 280
Fredericksburg, VA
11:36 PM (Ar)
6:20 AM (Ar) 340
Richmond, VA (Broad Street Station)
10:15 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #75/ACL) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #76/ACL)
6:35 AM (Dp) 340
Richmond, VA (Broad Street Station)
10:00 PM (Ar)
9:15 AM (Ar) 465
South Rocky Mount, NC
7:15 PM (Dp)
9:20 AM (Dp) 465
South Rocky Mount, NC
7:10 PM (Ar)
9:40 AM 480
Wilson, NC
11:15 AM 554
Fayetteville, NC (Fort Bragg)
5:20 PM
12:57 PM (Ar) 637
Florence, SC
3:40 PM (Dp)
1:05 PM (Dp) 637
Florence, SC
3:32 PM (Ar)
2:55 PM 732
North Charleston, SC (North Station)
1:27 PM
797
Yamassee, SC
12:13 PM
F 814
Ridgeland, SC
F 828
Hardeeville, SC
12:13 PM
5:17 PM (Ar) 849
Savannah, GA
11:05 AM (Dp)
5:25 PM (Dp) 849
Savannah, GA
10:57 AM (Ar)
6:32 PM (Ar) 905
Jesup, GA
9:42 AM (Dp)
905
Jesup, GA
9:38 AM (Ar)
7:07 PM 934
Nahunta, GA
9:07 AM
8:45 PM (Ar) 1001
Jacksonville, FL
7:50 AM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #75/ACL/Tampa Sec.) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #76/ACL/Tampa Sec.)
10:25 PM (Dp) 1001
Jacksonville, FL
7:00 AM (Ar)
10:50 PM 1014
Orange Park, FL
6:24 AM
11:00 PM 1021
Doctor's Inlet, FL
6:11 AM
11:15 PM 1030
Green Cove Springs, FL
5:51 AM
11:33 PM 1041
West Tocoi, FL
5:34 AM
11:41 PM 1046
Bostwick, FL
5:24 AM
11:55 PM 1055
Palatka, FL
5:10 AM
12:18 AM 1070
Pomona, FL
4:42 AM
12:25 AM 1074
Huntington, FL
4:34 AM
12:28 AM 1076
Crescent City, FL
4:30 AM
12:38 AM 1084
Seville, FL
4:18 AM
12:45 AM 1090
Pierson, FL
4:09 AM
12:51 AM 1094
Barberville, FL
3:59 AM
12:58 AM 1100
De Leon Springs, FL
3:50 AM
1:02 AM 1103
Glenwood, FL
3:45 AM
1:09 AM 1107
De Land, FL
3:35 AM
1:22 AM 1113
Orange City Junction, FL
3:24 AM
F 1121
Lake Monroe, FL
F
1:50 AM (Ar) 1125
Sanford, FL
3:00 AM (Dp)
2:00 AM (Dp) 1125
Sanford, FL
2:50 AM (Ar)
2:15 AM 1135
Longwood, FL
2:20 AM 1138
Altamonte Springs, FL
1140
Maitland, FL
2:25 AM
2:30 AM 1143
Winter Park, FL
2:10 AM
2:55 AM 1147
Orlando, FL
1:45 AM
3:22 AM 1165
Kissimmee, FL
1:17 AM
3:40 AM 1177
Loughman, FL
12:59 AM
F 1182
Davenport, FL
3:53 AM 1187
Haines City, FL
12:40 AM
4:15 AM 1193
Lake Alfred, FL
12:15 AM
4:22 AM 1198
Auburndale, FL
12:08 AM
4:45 AM (Ar) 1208
Lakeland, FL
11:50 PM (Dp)
5:00 AM (Dp) 1208
Lakeland, FL
11:40 PM (Ar)
5:25 AM 1219
Plant City, FL
11:21 PM
5:37 AM 1225
Dover, FL
F 1228
Seffner, FL
6:15 AM (Ar) 1240
Tampa, FL
10:45 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #375/ACL/Sarasota Sec.) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #376/ACL/Sarasota Sec.)
6:50 AM (Dp) 1240
Tampa, FL
10:00 PM (Ar)
6:58 AM 1244
Uceta, FL
9:43 PM
7:14 AM 1252
Remlap, FL
9:26 PM
7:27 AM 1262
Ruskin, FL
9:13 PM
7:47 AM 1274
Gillett, FL
8:55 PM
8:00 AM 1279
Palmetto, FL
8:43 PM
8:07 AM 1280
Bradenton-Manatee, FL
8:35 PM
8:15 AM 1285
Oneco, FL
8:27 PM
8:21 AM 1288
Matoaka, FL
8:22 PM
8:30 AM (Ar) 1293
Sarasota, FL (ET)
8:15 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #37/ACL/St. Petersburg Sec.) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #38/ACL/St. Petersburg Sec.)
10:00 PM (Dp) 1001
Jacksonville, FL
7:05 AM (Ar)
F 1020
Baldwin, FL
F
F 1039
Sapp, FL
F
F 1043
Ellerbee, FL
F
10:56 PM 1046
Raiford, FL
5:49 AM
11:05 PM 1053
Lake Butler, FL
5:40 AM
F 1059
Munich, FL
F
F 1062
Worthington Springs, FL
F
F 1065
Santa Fe, FL
F
F 1069
Haynesworth, FL
F
11:40 PM 1072
Burnetts Lake, FL
5:05 AM
F 1076
Hague, FL
F
F 1082
Paradise, FL
F
12:07 AM 1086
Gainesville, FL
4:30 AM
F 1096
Rochelle, FL
F
F 1101
Micanopy Junction, FL
F
F 1104
Evinston, FL
F
F 1105
Boardman, FL
F
12:56 AM 1107
McIntosh, FL
3:39 AM
F 1108
Orange Lake, FL
F
F 1109
Proctor, FL
F
F 1113
Reddick, FL
F
F 1116
Lowell, FL
F
F 1119
Martin, FL
F
F 1122
Kendrick, FL
F
1:53 AM 1127
Ocala, FL (Union Station)
2:50 AM
2:16 AM 1141
Candler, FL
2:16 AM
2:23 AM 1144
Ocklawaha, FL
2:09 AM
2:29 AM 1146
East Lake, FL
2:03 AM
2:35 AM 1149
Weirsdale, FL
1:58 AM
2:45 AM 1153
Lady Lake, FL
1:48 AM
2:55 AM 1158
Fruitland Park, FL
1:40 AM
3:07 AM 1161
Leesburg, FL
1:30 AM
3:17 AM 1167
Okahumpa, FL
1:17 AM
3:37 AM 1176
Center Hill, FL
1:00 AM
3:47 AM 1180
Webster, FL
12:51 AM
F 1186
St. Catherine, FL
F
4:17 AM 1191
Croom, FL
12:26 AM
4:35 AM (Ar) 1200
Trilby, FL
12:10 AM (Dp)
4:40 AM (Dp) 1200
Trilby, FL
12:05 AM (Ar)
5:01 AM 1212
San Antonio, FL
11:41 PM
F 1215
Pasco, FL
F
5:22 AM 1224
Ehren, FL
11:18 PM
5:42 AM 1234
Odessa, FL
10:58 PM
F 1238
Keystone Park, FL
F
6:00 AM 1245
Tarpon Springs, FL
10:36 PM
F 1248
Crystal Beach, FL
F
6:15 AM 1250
Palm Harbor, FL
10:23 PM
6:26 AM 1255
Dunedin, FL
10:14 PM
6:33 AM 1258
Clearwater, FL
10:06 PM
6:43 AM 1259
Belleair, FL
9:56 PM
6:55 AM 1263
Largo, FL
9:42 PM
F 1267
Cross Bayou, FL
F
7:05 AM 1269
Pinellas Park, FL
9:31 PM
F 1272
Lellman, FL
F
7:25 AM (Ar) 1263
St. Petersburg, FL (ET)
9:15 PM (Dp)
Time/Leave (Train #75/FEC) Milepost Location Time/Arrive (Train #76/FEC)
9:30 PM (Dp) 1001
Jacksonville, FL
7:15 AM (Ar)
10:20 PM 1038
St. Augustine, FL
6:20 AM
10:59 PM 1088
Bunnell, FL
5:32 AM
11:21 PM 1105
Ormond, FL
11:39 PM 1111
Daytona Beach, FL
4:56 AM
12:05 AM (Ar) 1126
New Smyrna Beach, FL
4:30 AM (Dp)
12:15 AM (Dp) 1126
New Smyrna Beach, FL
4:20 AM (Ar)
F 1155
Titusville, FL
3:31 AM
1:20 AM 1175
Cocoa-Rockledge, FL
3:01 AM
1:51 AM 1195
Melbourne, FL
2:32 AM
1229
Vero Beach, FL
1:47 AM
3:10 AM 1243
Fort Pierce, FL
1:25 AM
F 1262
Stuart, FL
12:47 AM
F 1276
Hobe Sound, FL
12:26 AM
4:30 AM (Ar) 1300
West Palm Beach, FL
11:55 PM (Dp)
4:40 AM (Dp) 1300
West Palm Beach, FL
11:45 PM (Ar)
F 1307
Lake Worth, FL
11:30 PM
F 1318
Delray Beach, FL
11:13 PM
5:20 AM 1326
Boca Raton, FL
11:01 PM
5:43 AM 1342
Fort Lauderdale, FL
10:39 PM
5:58 AM 1349
Hollywood, FL
10:27 PM
6:30 AM (Ar) 1367
Miami, FL
10:00 PM (Dp)
7:15 AM (Dp) 1367
Miami, FL
9:30 PM (Dp)
7:25 AM 1372
Coconut Grove, FL
9:14 PM
7:30 AM 1375
South Miami, FL
9:07 PM
7:45 AM 1383
Perrine, FL
8:52 PM
7:54 AM 1387
Goulds, FL
8:42 PM
7:59 AM 1389
Princeton, FL
8:36 PM
8:04 AM 1390
Naranja, FL
8:30 PM
8:10 AM 1393
Modello, FL
8:24 PM
8:18 AM (Begin Key West Extension) 1395
Homestead, FL
8:20 PM (End Key West Extension)
8:22 AM 1397
Florida City, FL
8:10 PM
8:38 AM 1409
Glades, FL
7:54 PM
8:49 AM (Leave Mainland) 1416
Jewfish, FL
8:10 PM (Enter Mainland)
8:52 AM (Enter Florida Keys) 1418
Key Largo, FL
7:42 PM (Leave Florida Keys)