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The Seminole Gulf Railway (reporting mark SGLR) is a short line freight and passenger excursion railroad headquartered in Fort Myers, Florida, that operates two former CSX Transportation railroad lines in Southwest Florida. The company's Fort Myers Line, which was previously the southernmost segment of CSX's former Fort Myers Subdivision, runs from Arcadia south to North Naples via Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Estero, and Bonita Springs. They also operate another former CSX line that runs from Oneco south through Sarasota. Seminole Gulf acquired the lines in November 1987 and operates its own equipment.[1]

The Seminole Gulf Railway has a commonly owned affiliated company, the Bay Colony Railroad Corp. (reporting mark BCLR), which is based in southeastern Massachusetts.

Current operations

Seminole Gulf Railway is one of two freight railroad operating in Southwest Florida (the other is South Central Florida Express, who operates tracks farther inland near Clewiston). Freight transported by Seminole Gulf Railway includes lumber, propane, stone, steel, scrap metal, and other commodities.[2] Freight is interchanged with CSX usually once or twice a week on each line. On the Fort Myers Line, freight trains between the yard in Fort Myers and Arcadia are known as the Desoto Turn.[3] The Desoto Turn switches customers between North Fort Myers and Arcadia while industries in Fort Myers and south of there are switched locally from the yard.

Murder Mystery Dinner Train & Excursions

SGLR 502 pulls the Murder Mystery Dinner Train near John Yarbrough Linear Park Trail.

In addition to carrying freight, Seminole Gulf Railway also operates a popular Murder Mystery Dinner Train from Fort Myers. The dinner train runs five nights a week, year-round from a station at Colonial Boulevard north to a point just south of Punta Gorda before returning. The dinner train utilizes a fleet of 1930s-era vintage rail cars named after nearby barrier islands (some of which were previously Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus rail cars). The dinner train includes a five-course dinner and has featured over 80 different murder mystery productions throughout its history.[4]

Special holiday dinner trains also operate including Sweetheart Express on Valentine's Day, Halloween Ghost Train, New Year's Eve Gala, and Christmas Rail-Boat (which runs to the historic Punta Gorda Atlantic Coast Line Depot for a Christmas boat tour through Punta Gorda Isles) to name a few.[5][6]

Seminole Gulf has also operated general excursion trains in the past. Seminole Gulf introduced passenger excursion trains in 1991 after losing a major freight customer. Excursion trains and were initially based from a small platform in North Naples near Railhead Park, but moved to the current station at Colonial Boulevard in Fort Myers shortly after.[7]

The dinner and excursion trains are often pulled by one of two vintage EMD F-unit locomotives, SGLR 501 and SGLR 502. SGLR 501, an F9AM, was previously operated by the Milwaukee Road, while SGLR 502, an F7, was previously operated on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Both were later acquired by the Long Island Rail Road, where they were converted into cab cars and used from the 1970s until 1999, before being sent to the SGLR.

Fort Myers Line

  • ^ "Lee County Rail Corridor Feasibility Study" (PDF). Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  • ^ a b c d Turner, Gregg M. (December 1, 1999). Railroads of Southwest Florida. Images of America. Arcadia Publishing.
  • ^ "About Us". Seminole Gulf Railway. Retrieved 23 January 2014.
  • ^ "The Seminole Gulf Railway Excursion Trains". American Rails. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  • ^ "Florida Christmas Light Extravaganza Train Ride". The Railroad Nation. Retrieved 28 November 2016.
  • ^ "Seminole Gulf Railway". Florida Weekly. Retrieved 2 July 2014.
  • ^ "Seminole Gulf Railway, L.P.–Acquisition and Operation Exemption–CSX Transportation, Inc" (PDF). Surface Transportation Board. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  • ^ CSX Jacksonville Division Timetable
  • ^ Howard, Alex (22 November 2019). "City of Bonita Springs strikes deal to keep old rail bridge clean of graffiti". WBBH-TV. Retrieved 8 April 2020.
  • ^ Hensley, Donald. "Florida Southern's Narrow Gauge Years 1879-1896". Tap Lines. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  • ^ "The Long Dock Enabled Transit to Havana, New Orleans and Key West". The Punta Gorda History Center Blog. Retrieved 7 July 2018.
  • ^ "Current Exhibits". Henry B. Plant Museum. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  • ^ Turner, Gregg (2003). A Short History of Florida Railroads. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2421-4.
  • ^ Cottrill, Cathy. "Remember: Local historian shares details about railroad depot once located in Bonita". Naples Daily News. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  • ^ "Seminole Gulf Railway, L.P.--Adverse Abandonment--in Lee County, FL". Surface Transportation Board. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  • ^ Surface Transportation Board Fruitville, Bee Ridge, Palmer Ranch and Nokomis.[17] Track was abandoned south of Palmer Ranch in 2004 and the remaining line up to Fruitville Road was abandoned in 2019. Sarasota County built the popular Legacy Trail on the former right of way and is in the process of extending it north to Fruitville Road on the remaining right of way.[18][19]

    The first trackage of the Sarasota line to be built (the west track) was built by the Seaboard Air Line (through their Florida West Shore Railway subsidiary) in 1903. It was part of a line that extended from Durant (just east of Tampa), to Sarasota via Parrish, Palmetto and Bradenton. Some of the line was built on the former road bed of the Arcadia, Gulf Coast and Lakeland Railroad, an earlier unsuccessful railroad between Bradenton and Sarasota.[3] In Sarasota, the tracks originally continued south into downtown along Lemon Avenue and served a dock facility in Sarasota Bay. In 1905, Seaboard extended the line east into Fruitville, which initially ran southeast along Pineapple Avenue and then east along what is now Alderman Street and Brother Geenen Way. In 1911, at the request of local socialite Bertha Honoré Palmer, the line was extended south to Venice.

    The Atlantic Coast Line came to the area later in 1924 as part of the Florida land boom when they built the Tampa Southern Railroad (the east track). A passenger depot existed at Main Street and School Avenue and a spur was built to Payne Terminal at Hog Creek (this spur and its wye today form the connection track between the east and west track). From Sarasota, the Coast Line track turned east and ran directly beside the Seaboard track through Fruitville. From 1924 to 1949 the Coast Line track continued from Fr

    The Atlantic Coast Line came to the area later in 1924 as part of the Florida land boom when they built the Tampa Southern Railroad (the east track). A passenger depot existed at Main Street and School Avenue and a spur was built to Payne Terminal at Hog Creek (this spur and its wye today form the connection track between the east and west track). From Sarasota, the Coast Line track turned east and ran directly beside the Seaboard track through Fruitville. From 1924 to 1949 the Coast Line track continued from Fruitville southeast as far as Fort Ogden (along the Peace River), where it merged with the Coast Line's route to Fort Myers (which is today, coincidentally, Seminole Gulf's Fort Myers Line). Spurs connected both lines to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus's Sarasota headquarters near Fruitville (which existed from 1927 to 1959, when the headquarters were relocated to the end of the line in Venice).

    In 1967, the Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line merged to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (who later merged with the Chessie System in the 1980s to form CSX). The mergers brought the all of the track under a single owner and led to consolidation of the two routes and abandonment of redundant trackage. This included the Seaboard's original route through downtown Sarasota, the Coast Line's tracks between Bradenton and Matoaka, and the consolidation of the east-west parallel track through Fruitville to a single track (using the former Seaboard track).[3]

    After taking over the line in 1987, Seminole Gulf continued to carry the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to their Venice headquarters up until 1990. The circus then relocated to Tampa mainly due to the fact that the Venice segment could no longer support their rail equipment due to the rough condition of the track.[20] As previously mentioned, the line was abandoned from Venice to Palmer Ranch in 2004 due to decreased demand and the heavily deteriorated condition of the tracks and bridges. The rest of the line up to Sarasota abandoned in 2019.

    Historical marker commemorating the location of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad's former Sarasota depot

  • Venice Seaboard Air Line Railroad depot at the former

    Venice Seaboard Air Line Railroad depot at the former southern terminus

  • Legacy Trail on former right of way at milepost 898 near Laurel. The

    Legacy Trail on former right of way at milepost 898 near Laurel. The trail's mile markers match the railroad's mileposts.

  • References