The Great Days of Rail Travel on the Florida East Coast
About the ExhibitionHenry Morrison FlaglerFEC Passenger Train ServiceFEC's Key West ExtensionReturn to Home



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Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension

Built by 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.

The Extension 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.


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