FECRS Reading Room

The Florida East Coast Railway mark and trade names are the property of Florida East Coast Railway, L.L.C.
and are used under license from FEC

History of the Railroad

A short history of the Flagler railroad. See web site:

Key West Extension

Recommended Reading

We recommend these books and publications for your further edification on the Florida East Coast Railway and related topics. Some of these can be purchased directly from Amazon.com by clicking on the link here.

Featured Selections

Book Reviews

Book Summaries

Other Titles

Video Summaries



Featured Selections

The Florida Keys Overseas Railway (hardback)

book cover - Florida Keys Overseas Railway

by Warren Zeiller

October, 2006 — The basic story of the Overseas Railway to Key West, an extension of the Florida East Coast Railway, has been told before, from the early dream of Henry Flagler, to completion of railroad construction near the end of Flagler's life, to destruction of the extension in the devastating Labor Day Hurricane of 1935.

But there is much more to tell. The core of this book is the collection of photographs made by William Asa Glass, one of the construction engineers on the project. His views, many never duplicated elsewhere, uniquely show both the engineering and human sides of the project. Supplementing it are the recollections of many who were there. The combination makes a vivid and engrossing story, rich in unfamiliar details.

Also included here is a retrospective of the route today. “Flagler conceived the idea of a railway to Key West at least as early as 1895. After many setbacks, the Overseas Railway was completed in 1912. It served to take tourists to and from the Florida Keys, and to transport freight and passengers en route to and from Havana, Cuba by ship. It was effectively destroyed in the cataclysmic Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The route was sold to become part of Florida's Overseas Highway.” Included are a number of views of hurricane damage as well as the construction process, along with the working environment of an engineer on this project.

An epilogue provides a brief tour of the route today, with the remnants of nearly all the original Flagler bridges still standing, often alongside today's Overseas Highway. The book's 166 photos, few ever published, 129 of them by Bill Glass or from his collection, together with 24 views (18 in color) of the route today, along with maps, artwork, and a bibliography and index, make this book unusually complete.

Florida East Coast Railway (paperback)

book cover - Florida East Coast Railway

by Seth Bramson

October, 2006 — The Florida East Coast Railway has been the speedway to America's playground for more than 110 years. FEC offered some of America's finest rail passenger service until 1968 and remains the freight lifeline of Florida's east coast.

The railroad arrived on the shores of Biscayne Bay on April 15, 1896, and it reached Key West in January 1912. That feat etched both Henry Flagler's and the railroad's names in Florida and U.S. railroad history. FEC's operation is so precise and punctual, its roadbed and motive power so well maintained, that it is the benchmark for every other railroad in the country.

Speedway to Sunshine

book cover - Speedway to Sunshine 2
The Story of the Florida East Coast Railway

by Seth H. Bramson

revised and enlarged for 2002

January, 2003 — Speedway to Sunshine, revised and enlarged, is filled with historical and beautiful photographs and informative text that takes us back before the beginning—before Flagler entered the scene, and brings us up to the contemporary F.E.C. that we know today.

Written by the official historian of the Florida East Coast Railway, Seth Bramson, his knowledge stems from his boyhood love affair with the F.E.C. which led to an insatiable quest for knowledge about the railway and an ongoing search for collectibles; his irreplaceable assortment of timetables, postcards, and other artifacts from bygone days expand the story told in this book.

For fastest service, order from Amazon.com above.

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Florida's Great Ocean Railway

book cover - Florida's Great Ocean Railway
by Dr. Dan Gallagher

January, 2003 — Experience the construction of the great Key West Extension to the Florida East Coast Railway, which operated in revenue service from 1912 until 1935. The Key West Extension is considered by many to be one of the greatest engineering feats in the world.

Here are the words of the author from an informal message to the FECrailway mailing list:

"It tells how the K.W.E. was built pretty much mile by mile. [The book has] 280 pictures and graphics; almost all of the pictures have never been published. I live down in the Keys and have been collecting these pics for a few years. Living here also gives me a chance to 'field test' facts that I find.

"The book also has a whole chapter on the vessels of the K.W.E. construction division — launches, barges, cement mixers, etc. Also a lot of 'aerial photos', bird's-eye views of the right-of-way that I was able to computer-generate from the old K.W.E. map in the Key West library. I also need to thank Cal Winter for his help with the book, as well as Seth [Bramson] and Bill [Robinson].

"So get it, read it, enjoy. It was fun to put the book together."

Read an excerpt and order the book from Pineapple Press in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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Book Reviews

Jose Cabanillas is a member and good friend of the F.E.C.R.S., yet he is removed from the action, living in California. Nonetheless, he is eager to contribute and so created the idea for this Reading Room and provided these cover scans and write-ups. He is a regular on the FECrailway mailing list at Yahoogroups.

Storm of the Century

by Willie Drye
book cover - storm of the century

The book is "Storm of the Century" by Willie Drye, and is about the 1935 Labor Day hurricane that killed over 250 people and the Key West extension of the FEC. It was published in August 2002.

The book focuses on the veterans' encampments that were a source of most of the casualties, how they got started, the decisions that placed the veterans at such risk, and the experiences of some of the residents of the area on Matacumbe and the surrounding keys where the storm crossed. A key element of the author's approach is to try to get inside the heads of both the conchs and the managers of the camps, what led them to not evacuate the veterans earlier, and what led them to call up the rescue train so late. The storytelling is sort of confusing, especially during the storm itself- the author cuts from person to person without really taking a breath, and the reader has to pay some attention to keep up with the narrative during the storm. However, the description from the people and the testimony given later about what it was like to ride out the storm is chilling.

Especially noteworthy to [railfans] is the description of the progress of the rescue train, from the time it was finally called in Buena Vista to the time the storm surge turned it over by the station on Islamorada, and the descriptions of the train crew and some of the people who were riding on the train at the time as to what happened.

The aftermath of the storm is pretty much focused on the various investigations of the disaster. Not a lot of attention is paid to the FEC, other than a short discussion of how the train was pulled back up to Miami.

A pretty good read, I found it hard to put down.

— Jose

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Book Summaries

book cover - Flagler's Folly

Flagler's Folly

The Railroad That Went to Sea and Was Blown Away

by Rodman J. Bethel

A book on the Key West extension and its destruction in the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. Mostly personal recollection and narrative, it contains a large number of photos and touches on the P&O steamship service to Havana.

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book cover - Florida's Flagler

Florida's Flagler

by Sidney Walter Martin

The first biography of Henry M Flagler, written in the late 1940's. A good summary of his life and impact on the development of Florida through the FEC railway.

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book cover - Key West Extension

KWE Announcement

A reproduction printed by the Conch Train Tour Company in Key West of the brochure that the FEC printed to announce the opening of the Key West Extension. A large number of OK photographic reproductions and maps.

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book cover - Across Fortune's Tracks

Across Fortune's Tracks

by Walter E. Campbell

Biography of William Rand Kenan, inventor and founder of Union Carbide, early experimenter with scientific dairy farming, and brother-in-law of Henry Flagler. He assisted Flagler in the operation and expansion of the F.E.C.. After Flagler's death in 1913, Kenan ran the Flagler System through expansion in the 20's and bankruptcy in the 30's, until Ed Ball and the DuPont Estate trust seized control in a hostile takeover in the 1950's.

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book cover - Marathon, heart of the Key West Extension

Marathon - Heart of the Key West Extension

Published by the Pigeon Key Foundation, this book covers the activity at Marathon in the town's role as interim terminus of the railroad and in support of the construction of the Key West Extension.

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book cover - Pigeon Key and the Seven Mile Bridge

Pigeon Key and the Seven Mile Bridge

by Dan Gallagher

Also published by the Pigeon Key Foundation, the book focuses on the construction of the Seven Mile Bridge and how Pigeon Key was used as a staging site and later as a support site for crews maintaining the bridge.

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book cover - Railroad that died at Sea

The Railroad That Died at Sea

by Pat Parks

Possibly the first modern history of the FEC, this book focuses on the construction, operation, and demise of the Key West Extension. Plenty of photographs and an accurate overview of the extension.

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book cover - Rails Neath the Palms

Rails 'Neath the Palms

by Robert Mann

Overview of the history of the important railroads all across Florida. Sections on the predecessors of the FEC and the railroad itself are reasonably comprehensive. Excellent selection of photographs.

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book cover - Speedway to Sunshine 1

Speedway to Sunshine

by Seth H. Bramson

1984 edition written by the historian of the FEC, Seth Bramson, this is the definitive reference on the history of the Florida East Coast Railway from its inception as a somewhat creaky narrow gauge railroad through the Flagler years and up to the 1980's. [This is the original edition of the much-sought-after book. - webmaster]

book cover - By Streamliner, New York to Florida

By Streamliner, New York to Florida

by Joseph M. Welsh

Story of the streamlined passenger trains that defined the way to travel to Florida before the coming of the jet airliner and interstate highways.

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Other Titles of Interest

1. Last Train to Paradise, by Les Standiford, 2002
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2. Last Train to Paradise, by Les Standiford, 2002 (audio CD)
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3. The Architecture of Leisure, by Susan Braden, 2002
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4. Henry Flagler: Visionary of the Gilded Age, by Sidney Martin, 1998
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5. Flagler: Rockefeller Partner and Florida Baron, by Edward Atkin, 1991
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6. Henry Flagler: Builder of Florida, by Sandra Sammons, 1993
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7. Henry Flagler:, by David Chandler, 1986
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8. God's Church: Henry Flagler's Legacy, by Sandra Thompson, , by Les Standiford, 2002 (audio CD)
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Video Summaries

video cover - Railroad that went to Sea

KWE Video

Video produced by Historic Tours of America and shown in the Flagler Station Historeum in Key West, the video contains an excellent overview of the building, operation, and destruction of the Key West Extension. Features the historian of the FEC, Seth Bramson.

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video cover - All Aboard FEC

1. All Aboard FEC

A video in the series. Two segments are of interest: one that focuses on a short summary of current operations of the FEC and a second that has an overview of operations of the Space Shuttle solid rocket booster trains that FEC delivers to the Kennedy Space Center.

video cover - Key West Extension model layout

2. KWE Model Video

Video number 41 in a series on great model railroads, this tape features the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast as built in HO scale for Cal Winter. Fascinating look at the extension from a modeler's perspective.

video cover - Vintage Rails #4

3. Vintage Rails #4

One in a series of videotapes, this one focuses on the F.E.C. in the late 1950's and early 1960's when the railroad was awash in Red and Yellow locomotives and the transition to blue paint had begun. Also has some early films of F.E.C. steam.

Book Sellers

As a courtesy and convenience to you, we provide these links to U.S. book sellers with web sites. This should not be construed as a recommendation of them, nor does it imply that they stock or even carry the titles above, but they are probably good places to start your search. Some of the books above are out of print and no longer available from new book sellers; some of those listed below provide means to purchase used books.

Right-click the links below and open them in a new tab so that we will still be here when you are done.

Abebooks.com - Matches buyers and sellers of used and rare books.

Amazon.com - Amazon.com.

BN.com - Barnes and Noble.

Booksamillion.com - Books-a-Million.

Borders.com - Borders Books.

Web page update 02/07/2013
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