In 1892, the landowners south of Daytona petitioned Flagler to extend the railroad some 80 miles to the south. Flagler soon began laying new track, and no longer followed his traditional practice of purchasing existing railroads to merge into his growing rail system. Receiving a charter from the state of Florida, Flagler was authorized to construct a line down the Indian River to Miami. The railroad expanded to the south, and municipalities like New Smyrna and Titusville soon began to develop all along the tracks. Flagler's railroad system reached what is now known as West Palm Beach by 1894. After constructing the Royal Poinciana Hotel that overlooked the Lake Worth Lagoon in Palm Beach, Flagler also built the Breakers Hotel on the ocean side of Palm Beach. He also built Whitehall, his incredible 60,000 square-foot, 55-room, private winter home.

Palm Beach was now established as a winter resort for the wealthy members of America's Gilded Age, thanks to the development of these structures and the railroad access to them. Palm Beach became the terminus of the Flagler railroad, however, in 1894 and 1895, severe freezes were to hit all of Central Florida, but the Miami area was unaffected. Flagler then began to have second thoughts about his original decision not to move south of Palm Beach with the railroad.

Mrs. Julia Tuttle had wired Mr. Flagler and advised him that "the region around the shores of Biscayne Bay is untouched by the freezes." Flagler sent his two lieutenants, Joseph R. Parrott and James E. Ingraham, to the area to investigate. They brought back boxes of produce and citrus to Mr. Flagler, who then wired Mrs. Tuttle, and asked, "Madam, what is it that you propose?" Both Julia Tuttle and William Brickell offered half of their holdings north and south of the Miami River to Mr. Flagler if he would continue the railroad to Miami. Mrs. Tuttle also would throw in an additional 50 acres for shops and yards if Mr. Flagler would expand his railroad all the way to the shores of Biscayne Bay and erect one of his great hotels. Contracts were signed after an agreement was made and on September the 7th of 1895, Flagler changed the name of his system from the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Indian River Railway Company to the Florida East Coast Railway Company and then incorporated. The railroad reached Biscayne Bay (the site of present day downtown Miami) on April 15th, 1896. At that time, the small settlement had less than 50 inhabitants.

The town was incorporated on July 28, 1896, and its citizens wanted to honor the man responsible for the city's development by naming it Flagler. Declining the honor, he persuaded them to retain the old Indian name of Miami. The area was actually had been known as Fort Dallas after the fort built there in 1836 during the Second Seminole War. Flagler was then to develop the area around the Miami railroad station by dredging a channel, building streets, constructing the Royal Palm Hotel, and instituting the first power and water systems. He even financed the Metropolis, the town's very first newspaper.

Flagler was an incredible visionary and is credited for the development of the entire east coast of Florida. Even so, it was his thoughts that Miami would never become much more than a fishing village.

In 1904, Flagler began (what was then thought to be impossible) extending the FEC to Key West. This would later be called the Overseas Railway, and at the time was considered the eighth wonder of the world. It was definitely the most daring use of private funds ever used on a project of such magnitude. A construction engineers train arrived first in Key West on January 21, 1912, and Henry Flagler's special train along with other passenger trains arrived on the next day. January 22, 1912 is considered the first day of service on the new line.

Florida East Coast Railway streamliner "Henry M. Flagler", December 2, 1939.  Florida Memories.

A color tinted postcard photo of the Florida East Coast Railway's first train arriving at Key West, Florida, on 22 January 1912. The first train carried the railroad's president and financier, Henry M. Flagler, in his private car.

Florida East Coast Railway streamliner "Henry M. Flagler", December 2, 1939.

The FEC's "Henry M. Flagler" streamliner.

Florida East Coast Railway herald.

Flagler's interests outside of Standard Oil, however, were to follow a very different path. In 1878, Flagler journeyed to Jacksonville, Florida for the winter with his wife, Mary, (who was extremely ill) on the advice of her physician. Mary passed away two years later in 1881, and Flagler wed Ida Alice Shourds, who had been Mary's former caregiver.

After the couple married, they traveled to St. Augustine, Florida in 1883. Flagler thought the city charming, but found the hotel facilities and transportation systems quite inadequate. Always a visionary, he could see that Florida had the potential to attract visitors from out-of-state. Even though he remained on the Board of Directors of Standard Oil, Flagler relinquished his daily participation in the firm so that he could follow his interests in Florida.

After returning to Florida in 1885, Flagler began construction of a grand hotel in St. Augustine, the Ponce de León Hotel. He also knew that in order to succeed in the development of, he would need a solid system of transportation. In December of 1885, he purchased the Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Halifax River Railway (JStA&HR). He then found that the existing Florida railways each operated on a different gauge, which made interconnections impossible. Conversion of the JStA&HR Railway to standard gauge soon followed, and in 1892 the tiny concern was incorporated. The FEC’s earliest predecessor was the narrow gauge St. John's Railway, which had been incorporated in 1858. The St. John’s Railway had constructed a now-abandoned line that ran between St. Augustine and Tocoi, a small community on the east bank of the St. Johns River. Henry M. Flagler retired from Standard Oil and moved to St. Augustine in 1883. After constructing the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar Hotels, he bought the Casa Monica, just east of the Alcazar, and changed the name to Cordova. Florida’s east coast was comparatively undeveloped at that time, and Flagler found that construction materials needed for his projects were very hard to come by. The JStA&HR Railway purchase was intended to make supplying his building projects a much easier task. Flagler’s JStA&HR Railway operated in the northeast part of Florida and was the first company in the Flagler Railroad system. Prior to Flagler’ purchase of the line, the railroad ran between South Jacksonville and St. Augustine only, and did not have a depot adequate enough to accommodate travelers to his St. Augustine resorts. A modern depot, hospitals, schools, and churches were soon built by Flagler, and the historic city was soon revitalized.

FEC 202 with Heritage 714 leading. Date May 9, 2013.

By BBT609 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Flagler had begun his railroad building in 1892, and the railroads south of West Palm Beach had been constructed in phases by the FEC and the predecessor systems. Flagler eventually claimed in excess of two million acres for building the FEC, as Florida's land-grant laws of 1893 allowed 8,000 acres to be claimed from the state for every mile of track built. Land development and exchange became one of Flagler’s most profitable activities. Prior to becoming the FEC, the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Indian River was building a line south from Daytona Beach in 1894. It reached Fort Pierce on January the 29, and West Palm Beach on March 22. Additional extension south did not commence until June of 1895, when a constructive deal was signed with business interests in the Miami-area. On March 3 of the following year, the railroad reached Fort Lauderdale. Construction reached Biscayne Bay (the largest and most accessible harbor on Florida's east coast) by April. In 1904, Flagler announced that the FEC would be extended 128 miles over the ocean to Key West. In 1906, though, a violent hurricane was to take the life 135 of Flagler's workers. The Key West Extension was finished in 1912, only 16 months before Flagler's death, at a cost of fifty million dollars and the lives of hundreds of workmen. Extending the Florida East Coast Railway to Key West (a city of almost 20,000 residents), located 128 miles beyond the end of the Florida peninsula, was Flagler’s greatest challenge. Flagler was particularly concerned with linking Key West to the mainland after the United States began construction of the Panama Canal in 1905. Key West was the closest deep-water port to the canal, and the Cuban and Latin America trade were important possibilities for the west.

Building the Overseas Railroad mandated numerous engineering innovations as well as immeasurable amounts of labor and financial assets. Four thousand men were employed at one point during construction. Also, during the seven-year construction, three dangerous hurricanes battered the project, threatening to bring to an end the venture. In spite of all of the adversities, the last link of the Florida East Coast Railway was finished in 1912. By January the 22nd of that year, Henry Flagler proudly rode the first passenger train into Key West, marking the completion of the railroad's oversea connection to Key West and the connection by rail of the whole east coast of Florida. One of Flagler’s rationales for building the Key West Extension had been the fact that at the time it was conceived, Key West was an important coaling station for ship traffic between South America and New York. Flagler felt that a profit could be made if the railroad hauled coal to Key West, however, when the railroad was finally completed in 1912, shipping range had been extended to such a level that a stopover in Key West for coal was no longer necessary. The Florida Overseas Railroad, otherwise known as the "Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway" was greatly damaged and nearly destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. Sadly, the Florida East Coast Railway could not afford to rebuild the destroyed sections, and the remaining bridges and roadbed were sold to the state of Florida. The state then constructed the Overseas Highway to Key West, and used most of the remaining railway infrastructure. The reconstructed Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1) continuing Flagler's dream, maintains a highway connection to Key West, concluding at the southernmost point in the continental United States.

The Stock Market Crash of ‘29 and the Depression both took their toll on the FEC. By September 1931, just 18 years after Flagler's death, the FEC declared bankruptcy and was in receivership. The Cuban embargo was also to add to the railroad’s woes, and in 1932, bus service soon began to be substituted for trains on the branch lines. Between 1939 and 1963, beautiful, stainless-steel Streamliners zoomed up and down the rails. These included "The Champion" and "The Florida Special" both jointly operated with the Atlantic Coast Line.

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An FEC passenger train en route to Key West.
A 1913 print advertisement extols the many advantages of traveling on the Florida East Coast Railway, the "New Route to the Panama Canal."
The FEC's "Henry M. Flagler" streamliner.

FEC EMD E7 at station opening, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ca. June 1956.  Florida Memories.

Management of the FEC was acquired by heirs of the du Pont family during the Depression. Following three decades of  a difficult financial situation, the FEC, now under the leadership of new president Ed Ball, stood-up to the labor unions. Ball was to tell the unions that the FEC was unable to afford the same costs as larger Class I railroads and needed to invest saved funds in its infrastructure, which was quickly becoming a safety concern. The company, using replacement workers along with some of its employees, engaged in a very long and violent labor conflict that lasted from 1963 until 1977.
The federal authorities eventually were to intervene to put an end to the violence, and the courts ruled favor of the FEC regarding the right to utilize replacement workers. It was at this time that Ball began to heavily invest in numerous steps to improve track and equipment, installing a variety of forms of automation, and ending all of its passenger services in 1968, which had been operating at a loss. The Florida East Coast Railway was created by Henry Morrison Flagler, an American tycoon, railroad developer and real estate promoter. He was John D. Rockefeller's partner in Standard Oil. In 1867, Standard Oil was formed in Cleveland, Ohio as Rockefeller, Andrews & Flagler, and moved its headquarters to New York City in 1877.

FEC EMD E7 at station opening, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, ca. June 1956.
Color tinted postcard photo of the Florida East Coast Railway's first train arriving at Key West, Florida, on 22 January 1912. The first train carried the railroad's president and financier, Henry M. Flagler, in his private car.
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A 1913 print advertisement extols the many advantages of traveling on the Florida East Coast Railway, the "New Route to the Panama Canal."

An FEC passenger train en route to Key West.

Florida East Coast Railway private car "Randleigh", ca. 1920

FEC 202 with Heritage 714 leading. Date May 9, 2013.
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Flagler is best known for constructing the FEC railroad all the way to Key West, completing the tremendous task in 1912. Sadly, the FEC's line from the mainland to Key West was heavily damaged by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The State of Florida purchased the remaining right-of-way and bridges south of Dade County, and they were rebuilt into road bridges for vehicle traffic and became known as the Overseas Highway. However, the greater and lasting Flagler legacies were his developments along Florida's Atlantic coast.

Florida East Coast Railway
The Florida East Coast Railway (reporting mark FEC) was a former Class I railroad that began operations in 1885 and is now a Class II railroad operating in Florida. Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) incorporated in 1983 is the parent company, and is the holding company for the railway. Constructed mainly in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, the FEC was the project of Henry Morrison Flagler, a Standard Oil principal. When his first wife Mary faced health issues, Flagler visited Florida for the first time. After working closely with John D. Rockefeller in building the Standard Oil Trust, Flagler experienced a lack of services and noted a great potential during his time in St Augustine. He then began his second career that included the development of resorts, industries, and communities all along Florida's eastern shore.

Later, after 23 years under Ball, Raymond Wyckoff took the helm on May 30, 1984. In March 2005, Robert Anestis stepped down as CEO of Florida East Coast Industries after a 4-year stint, allowing Adolfo Henriquez to assume that position, with John D. McPherson, a long-time railroad man, continuing as president of the railway itself. By this time, the railroad had long since made peace with its workers.

In late 2007, in a move surprising to many employees and railroad industry observers alike, the FEC was purchased by the principal investors who also control short line railroad operator RailAmerica. John Giles was named chairman, and David Rohal was named president. Both men were also principals with major responsibilities at RailAmerica as well, although the ownership of FEC and RailAmerica were not linked corporately, and the spinoff of RailAmerica as a publicly traded company did not include FEC.

In May, 2010, James Hertwig was named as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company effective July 1, 2010. Hertwig had recently retired from CSX, most recently having served a president of CSX Intermodal, one of CSX's major operating units.

Florida East Coast Railway private car "Randleigh", ca. 1920
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During the Depression Edward Ball, controller of the Alfred I. duPont Testamentary Trust, purchased a majority ownership of the FEC, which allowed the FEC to emerge from bankruptcy after subsequent prolonged litigation with a faction of the company's other bondholders. Led by S.A. Lynch and associated with the Atlantic Coast Line, the group had proposed an alternative plan of reorganization. At the same time, a labor contract negotiation turned sour. Ball was unwavering in his attempts to save the railroad from the bankruptcy that had persisted for more than ten years. Ball was confident that if the company didn't become profitable, the railroad’s physical plant would decline to the point where some lines would be unsafe or unusable and even require limited abandonment.

Ball battled fiercely for the company's right to engage in its own contract negotiations with the railroad unions rather than accept an industry wide settlement that would customarily contain wasteful work rules. This led to a protracted work stoppage by non-operating unions that began on January 23rd, 1963, and these picket lines were honored by the operating unions (the train crews). Since the strike was by the non-operating unions, a Federal court order mandated the railroad continue to observe work rules. This meant the railroad could change the work rules for the operating unions, who had no standing in the federal court regarding the strike as they were technically not on strike.

Ball hired replacement workers to keep the railroad running during the strike, but this led to violence by strikers that included shootings and bombings. Finally, federal intervention quelled the violence, and the railroad's right to function during the strike with replacement workers was confirmed by the United States Supreme Court. As the strike went on, the FEC took numerous steps to improve its track and equipment and installed various forms of automation, while drastically cutting labor costs. Most of the nation's other railroads did not match these achievements for several years; some still had not as recent as 2010.

Passenger service became a concern in Florida during the early years of the labor strike, which basically lasted 14 years, from 1963 to 1977. The City of Miami, which had long fought to remove the tracks in the downtown section just north of the county courthouse, insisted that Miami's wooden-constructed downtown passenger terminal be demolished. Although a new station was designed to be constructed at NE 36th Street and NE 2nd Avenue, it was never built. In addition, freight trains were operated with non-union and supervisory crews, and passenger runs did not return until August 2nd of 1965. This was after the City of Miami sued and the Florida courts ruled that the FEC corporate charter required both coach and first class passenger services to be available.

In order to obey the ruling, the FEC sold "parlor car seating" for first class service in the rear lounge section of a tavern-lounge-observation car. This new state-ordered passenger service consisted of a single diesel locomotive with two streamlined passenger cars, which, along with the operating crew, were staffed by a passenger service agent and a coach attendant, both of whom were "non-operating." This miniature streamliner operated all of the way across three former crew districts.

As per the letter of the law, the train accepted no baggage, remains, mail or express, and honored no inter-line tickets or passes. The only food service made available was a box lunch at Cocoa-Rockledge in 1966. Beverage service was restricted to coffee and soft drinks. With no a station in Miami, the 1950’s-era station in North Miami became the southern terminal. This service ran six days a week and was finally terminated in July of 1968.

The FEC in Modern Times

The Florida East Coast Railway operates from its relocated headquarters in Jacksonville after selling the original General Office Building in St. Augustine to Flagler College in late 2006. Its trains run over nearly the same route developed by Henry Flagler; notably, the Moultrie Cutoff was built in 1925 to shorten the distance south of St. Augustine.

Modern operations
The FEC operations today are dominated by "intermodal" trains and unit rock (limestone) trains. Passenger service was discontinued in 1968 after labor unrest that resulted in considerable incidents of violence.

The company's major income-earning sources are its rock trains, transporting primarily limestone, and intermodal trains. FEC freight trains operate on precise schedules. Trains are not held for missed connections or late loadings. Most of the trains are paired so that they leave simultaneously from their starting points and meet halfway through the run and swap crews, so they are back home at the end of their runs. The FEC pioneered operation with 2 man crews with no crew districts, which they were able to start doing after the 1963 strike. The entire railroad adopted positive train control (PTC) after a fatal 1987 collision caused by a crew not obeying signaling. (PTC is a safety feature long-sought by federal safety officials for all railroads).

FEC has what is called by some a "prime" railroad right-of-way. The heavy weight of the rock trains required very good trackage and bridges. The railroad has mostly 133 pound-per-yard continuous-welded rail attached to concrete ties, which sits on a high quality granite roadbed. The entire railroad is controlled by centralized traffic control with constant radio communication. Because the railroad has only minor grades, it takes very little horsepower to pull very long trains at speed. 60 mph trains are a normal FEC operating standard.

Passenger service
The FEC was already in the freight-business only when Amtrak was created and assumed passenger operations of many other U.S. railroads in 1971. Periodically, there has been speculation that the southern end of the FEC line may be used for a commuter rail service to complement the existing Tri-Rail line (which follows former CSX tracks). There have also been some discussion about Amtrak or the State of Florida using FEC lines for a more direct route between Jacksonville and Miami. In March 2012 the FEC proposed a privately owned and operated service along its route named All Aboard Florida.

Rock trains
A lifeblood of the FEC is its transportation of high-grade limestone, which is used in the formulation for concrete and other construction purposes. The limestone is quarried near Miami in the "Lake Belt" area of Dade County and Broward County just west of Hialeah. The rock trains come out of the FEC yard at Medley in the and the southern end of the FEC service area. Shipments currently are principally for materials dealers Titan and Rinker.  Rinker has since been sold and is now part of the multi-national Cemex.

Intermodal services
The intermodal traffic includes interchanged shipments with CSX and Norfolk Southern, participation in EMP container service operated by UP and Norfolk Southern, United Parcel Service (UPS) piggyback trailers, trailers going to the Wal-Mart distribution center at Fort Pierce, and intermodal shipping container traffic through the ports of Miami, Port Everglades (adjacent to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and the principal source of imports), Port of Palm Beach/Lake Worth Inlet, and Port Canaveral. Additionally FEC offers "Hurricane Service" offering trucking companies the opportunity of having their trailers piggybacked out of Jacksonville to save the expensive cost of back-hauling empty trailers.

Manifest, other freight
The FEC also hauls normal "manifest" freight to and from points along its right of way. These cars are hauled on whatever train is going that way, so intermodal and rock trains routinely have some manifest cars in their consists.

Additionally, the FEC currently transports Tropicana Products "Juice Train" cars to and from one of the company's processing facilities located on the "K" Line. The Juice Train concept was developed by Tropicana founder Anthony T. Rossi in conjunction with Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (a CSX predecessor) beginning in 1970.

Motive power
The FEC completed its "second generation" dieselization with the purchase of 49 GP40s and GP40-2s and 11 GP38-2s, ranging in the 400's. These locomotives have been extensively rebuilt. In 2002, the FEC acquired 20 used ex-UP SD40-2s, ranging into 700's, which remained at the time in UP colors with FEC markings. In 2006 they purchased four SD70M-2s ranging in the 100's. In 2009 when RailAmerica came into the picture, they had placed 4 new Red, Pearl & Blue engines with one side saying "RailAmerica" and the other Florida East Coast, also ranging in the 100's. With the FEC making new changes, RA, left FEC and the company was back on its own. In 2010, CITX had leased 3 of their engines and FEC got a hold of those, all 3 ranging in the 140 series. The GP38-2s are used principally for yard and road switching. The others are used as available in road service. Some test runs have been made to observe the effect on fuel consumption of dynamic braking and combinations of new and old power.


In 2005 FEC owned and operated:
    351 miles of mainline track between Jacksonville and Miami, Florida
    277 miles of branch, switching, and other secondary track
    158 miles of yard track

Flagler Development owned and operated:
    64 buildings
    7.4 million rentable square feet

In 1925 FEC carried 979 million ton-miles of revenue freight and 261 million passenger miles on (at year-end) 849 miles of road and 1,411 miles of track; corresponding numbers for 1970 were 1345, 0, 554 and 1058.

Motive Fleet
Road numbers: 100-107, 140-142

Model: EMD SD70M-2
Notes: Numbers 104-107 are painted in RailAmerica's red pearl and blue colors; Numbers 100-103 are painted in Alaska Railroad Yellow and Blue colors. Numbers 140-142 are still painted in CITX blue w/stripes.

Road numbers: 401-410

Model: EMD GP40                
Notes: 402 wrecked parts traded in for No. 424; reportedly No. 406 painted yellow, red & black and numbered 2000.

Road numbers: 411-14, 16-18, 20-22, 24-27, 29-38, 40, 443

Model: EMD GP40-2
Notes: 423 rebuilt to No. 437

Road numbers: 415, 419, 428, 439, 441

Model: EMD GP40-3

Road numbers: 444 - 449

Model: EMD GP40-3
Notes: Rebuilt GP40s; dynamic brake equipped

Road numbers: 501-511

Model: EMD GP38-2
Road numbers: 701-720
Model: EMD SD40-2
Notes: Ex-Union Pacific; Nos 703, 713, 714, 716 & 720 were overhauled & repainted into yellow, red and black. These units are favored by many on the FEC in which they call the Heritage unit because it has the heritage FEC colours. No. 717-719 acquired by Alabama and Gulf Coast Railway. Unit 701 was completely destroyed after southbound FEC Train 107 had derailed due to a double kink in the rails on May, 9th, 2009. 104 was also in the wreck and 35 cars went off the track.

Awards and recognition
On May 16, 2006, FEC was the recipient of the Gold E. H. Harriman Award for safety in Group C (line-haul railroad companies with fewer than 4 million employee hours per year).

Corporate history
The Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Indian River Railway Company was incorporated under the general incorporation laws of Florida to own and operate a railroad from Jacksonville in Duval county, through the counties of Duval, St. Johns, Putnam, Volusia, Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Dade, Polk and Hillsborough.

Florida state law chapter 4260, approved May 31, 1893, granted land to the railroad. At that time, it was already in operation from Jacksonville to Rockledge, the part south of Daytona having been constructed by them. The company had just filed a certificate changing and extending its lines on and across the Florida Keys to Key West in Monroe County. The name was changed to the Florida East Coast Railway Company on September 7, 1895.

Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) incorporated in 1983 and was made the holding company for the Railway and the Commercial Realty/Flagler Development Company in 1984. The other subsidiaries are Orlando-based carrier, "EPIK Communication" and the logistics firm, "International Transit".

FECI began operating independently of the St. Joe Company on October 9, 2000 when St. Joe shareholders were given FECI stock.

On May 8, 2007, Florida East Coast Railway Company's parent, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), announced that FECI would be purchased with private equity funds managed by Fortress Investment Group in a transaction valued at $3.5 billion. Fortress Investment acquired Florida East Coast Railway from Florida East Coast Industries in March, 2008.

In modern times, the company's primary rail revenues come from its intermodal and rock trains. Since 2007, it has been owned by Fortress Investment Group, which acquired it for over US$3 billion (including non-rail assets). Fortress previously owned conglomerate short line railroad operator RailAmerica, which for a time operated FEC but the two companies never merged; Fortress no longer owns RailAmerica and RailAmerica no longer operates FEC. A former CSX official, James Hertwig, was named as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company effective July 1, 2010.

Notable passenger trains operated over FEC rails:
City of Miami
Dixie Flagler
Dixie Flyer
Royal Palm
South Wind

The Florida East Coast Railway Society is a group of volunteers and hobbyists who share an interest in the Florida East Coast Railway, from its beginnings prior to 1895 through current operations and into the future. This includes modelers as well as those who follow the operations of the prototype railway. Join today:

Visit the Flagler Museum:

Check out the Florida East Coast Railway website:

See also:



Railroads of the U.S.A.