Category Archives: History

Florida East Coast: Some not even Nasty

Flagler railway connected the Oldest City to key points in Florida

What some Flagler College students may see as an opportunity to reside in a lap of luxury is really one of St. Augustine’s biggest and most important industries.

Today, the three-building complex on Malaga Street with beautiful marble flooring and loft bedding is dedicated to housing upperclassmen at Flagler College.

Years ago, it was the headquarters for the Florida East Coast Railway.

When Henry Flagler got to St. Augustine in 1878, it was to visit with his wife, Ida Alice Shourds, for their belated honeymoon. He had been to other parts of Florida like Orange Park and Jacksonville but he hadn’t fallen in love with them like he had with the historic city.

Being that Flagler was of a more refined ilk, when he came to St. Augustine, he was looking for a more upscale place to stay and development in the city.

So, in 1885 Flagler returned with his sights set on developing the area around St. Augustine and began building the Hotel Ponce de Leon. It was at this time that he noticed that the city was also missing a solid method of transportation in order to develop Florida.

Henry Flagler’s vision

St. Augustine had St. Johns Railway as its main transportation method. It was 15 miles long and used mules for power. Built 1859, the original track of the railway was made up of wood and iron strap.

When Flagler started developing the old city and began using the railway to transport, his crew alerted him that the railway couldn’t handle the tasks at hand.

So, Flagler built himself a railway. Immediately, upgrades were made and the railroad went from running on wood and iron tracks to standard gauge.

By 1889, Flagler’s system offered service from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach with hotel facilities along the way to encourage tourism.

In 1892, landowners south of Daytona wanted the railroad extended causing Flagler to obtain a charter from the state of Florida authorizing him to build a railroad along the Indian River all the way to Miami allowing for new cities like New Smyrna and Titusville to develop.

Two years later, the railroad system reached West Palm Beach and that area began to develop.

In April of 1896, Flagler celebrated a very big day because now, the railroad extended and ran from St. Augustine to Miami, and further down to Key West.

The final link of the Florida East Coast Railway was completed on January 22, 1912 just weeks after Flagler’s, 82nd birthday.

Read more of this great story by Kimeko McCoy

Seacrest Hotel once dominated Delray skyline

Built in 1925, a year before the Colony, the old Seacrest  Hotel, which stood at the northwest corner of Atlantic Avenue and State Road A1A, where the Delray Beach Marriott now stands.

d the city’s skyline well into the early 1960s.» BEFORE AND AFTER: Check out The Seacrest Hotel then and what it is now 

E.H. Scott, a depot agent for the Florida East Coast Railway, bought the original lot for all of $60. With cathedral ceilings and arches that lit in sunlight, the 57-room hotel sported the Spanish architecture that came to symbolize the burgeoning Palm Beach County in the early 20th century. Movie stars, celebrities and the wealthy held court around its pool.

“There were Rolls-Royces all over the place,” longtime resident Robert Ian McLaren, then 69, told the Palm Beach Daily News — the “Shiny Sheet” — in 1982.

The hotel survived the great 1928 hurricane and underwent a renovation in 1933, in the heart of the Depression. During World War II, volunteers and Boy Scouts looked out a turret at the top of its 57-foot tower and scanned the oceans in search of German U-Boats.

But the post-war boom led to new hotels that drew tourists away from the Seacrest.

In 1978, developer Bill Walsh bought the 2.26-acre site. Walsh rewired the hotel and applied a new paint job. But the electrical grid couldn’t accommodate the newfangled, and now mandatory, air conditioning. That was that.

The place just wasn’t viable any more, Walsh said. For two years, he and city commissioners wrestled with its future. In August 1981 the city approved Walsh’s plans to build a new hotel. The Seacrest closed.

For a while, it housed workers building the Holiday Inn on Glades Road, west of Interstate 95, in Boca Raton. They included Jim Graham, now director of sales and marketing for the Marriott, the current hotel.

“It was a little rustic,” Graham said. “They had the old-fashioned switchboards where the operator pulled a plug. It did have good cross-ventilation but I don’t think you could stay there in the summertime.”

After that, salvageable furniture and fixtures were sold or donated. Vandals broke windows and cracked pillars. Wreckers finally brought down the building in February 1982.

The following year, the five-floor, 277-room Holiday Inn Camino Real opened on the spot. In 1998, it expanded and became the Marriott.

With the Seacrest long gone, now only the Colony stands among the great old Delray Beach ocean hotels.

Read more and see some great pictures


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Metro-North wraps up Cos Cob switching complex restoration ahead of schedule

MTA Metro-North Railroad has completed a project to rebuild a switching control house in Cos Cob, Conn., four months ahead of schedule.

The project’s completion means that a nine-mile section of the New Haven Line between Port Chester, N.Y. and Stamford, Conn., is fully operational for the first time since May 10, when a fire destroyed the previous control house, Metro-North officials said in a press release.

The restored control house allows train dispatchers to switch trains from one track to another by moving small segments of rail in a complex of switches. Metro-North was able to speed up the restoration by using equipment already built and ready for installation at another complex with an identical switch layout. The repurposed, modern equipment reduced the amount of complicated wiring damaged in the fire, Metro-North officials said.

Building a new control house would normally take 18 months of design, fabrication, installation and testing. Initially, Metro-North had expected to expedite that by using a retired switching complex. The railroad ultimately expedited the project further by repurposing the modern complex.

“Metro-North is to be commended on a very creative solution to a complex problem,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker. “In addition, getting the job done ahead of time gives us more operating flexibility and improves reliability on the busiest rail line in the country.”

Pictured above is the old power station that used to supply electricity to run the trains. (Picture purchased from Charlie Gunn)
Photo by: Paul Pesante
Date: 7/9/2008
Notes: “GREEN” Tower at CP 229 at Cos Cob, CT. “GREEN” Tower used to control the interlocking plant at CP 229 in the good ol’ days of the New York, New Haven & Hartford, Penn Central, Conrail, then Metro-North until several years ago when the MNR Operations Control Center went online at GCT. The photographer is a railroad employee on railroad property with permission, and would like to remind everyone to keep railfanning legal and safe- Do not enter restricted areas!
This Signal Station was once referred to as “SS29”. Want to find out more on New Haven Signal Stations? Check out
If you are in South Norwalk, Connecticut, check out the SONO Switch Tower Museum to view the “Cos Cob Power Board” which is an “operating” exhibit.The Cos Cob Power Board was designed to switch and control the 11,000-volt power generated at the Cos Cob Power Station to the electrified tracks of the New Haven RR.
Inside the Signal Station (photo from MTA Metro North Railroad
Inside the Signal Station (photo from MTA Metro North Railroad


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