East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension
Henry Flagler, the Key West Extension of the Florida East
Coast Railway is considered the greatest railroad engineering
and construction feat in U.S. history. Constructed between
1904 and 1912 at a personal cost of $50 million, the Extension
stretches from Homestead, the southern tip of the Florida
mainland, to Key West. Nineteen of the 128 miles of the Extension
were over water and included three magnificent bridges—the
Long Key Viaduct, Bahia Honda Bridge and the Seven Mile Bridge.
was engineered by Joseph C. Meredith and then by William J.
Krome and was, at that time, recognized as “the eighth wonder
of the world.” When the first train pulled into Key West on
January 22, 1912, Flagler was aboard and welcomed by the largest
crowd ever in the history of that island city.
The Key West
Extension was destroyed by the September 2, 1935 hurricane.
In 1936, the railroad was abandoned south of Florida City
due to a number of factors—the destruction by the hurricane,
the bankruptcy of the railroad, the nation being in the depths
of the Great Depression and an all-time low of passengers.
The Extension was later replaced by a highway. Although gone
for many years, the tributes to the project remain, from the
exhibit at the Custom House in Key West to the exhibit at
the Bienes Museum in the Broward County Main Library in Ft.
Lauderdale as well as being memorialized in The
Greatest Railroad Story Ever Told: Henry Flagler and the East
Coast Railway’s Key West Extension
by FEC Railway Company historian Seth H. Bramson.