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In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Over-Sea Railroad, the Museum's fall exhibition illustrates the amazing story of the construction of the railroad to Key West. Built between 1905 and 1912, the Over-Sea Railroad was the most ambitious engineering feat ever undertaken by a private citizen and the final link connecting Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad from Jacksonville to Key West. It was hailed as "the Eighth Wonder of the World." First Train to Paradise recounts the stories of the dedicated workers who risked their lives, and sometimes lost them, to make Flagler's vision a reality.
Years before Flagler began to develop Palm Beach, he recognized the potential commercial importance of the deep water port at Key West, and set his sights on linking the islands of the Keys by rail. Skeptics who doubted it could be done dubbed the project "Flagler's Folly," but Flagler and his employees pressed forward with the seemingly impossible undertaking despite five hurricanes, extreme heat, mosquitoes, and disease. The project eventually extended the railroad 156 miles from Miami to Key West, much of it over water. Despite extreme adversity and enormous personal expense, the dream was finally realized on January 22, 1912, when thousands of Floridians welcomed Henry Flagler's arrival aboard the first train to Key West.
The exhibition is curated by the Flagler Museum, the largest repository of documents related to the Over-Sea Railroad.
First Train arriving Key West. The first passenger train, called Mr. Flagler’s Special, arriving at Key West on January 22, 1912. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum Archives.
Detail of Train crossing Moser Channel postcard. Historical postcard depicting a Florida East Coast Railway train crossing Moser Channel. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum Archives.
Driving sheet piles Tavernier Creek. A steam-powered floating pile driver at Tavernier Creek, the waterway between Key Largo and Plantation Key, March, 1907. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum Archives.
Train crossing Steel Bridge over Sea near Knights Key, Florida, 1910 or after, historic postcard, Courtesy Monroe County Public Library.
Gold Telegram Box. Replica of an elaborate Tiffany & Co. box, which holds a gold copy of the telegram sent to Henry Flagler to announce the completion of the Over-Sea Railroad, presented to him by railroad employees on January 22, 1912. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.
This commemorative plaque with silver and gold medallions, made by Tiffany & Co., was presented to Henry Flagler at the opening celebration of the Over-Sea Railroad by the people of Key West, in gratitude for connecting their city to the continental United States. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.
Visitors touring "First Train to Paradise: The Railway That Went To Sea." The exhbition is open through January 8, 2011. © Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.
On February 8, 2012, the Flagler Museum Executive Director, John Blades, presented a special lecture about Henry Flagler's Over-Sea Railroad extension of the Florida East Coast Railway at the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. View the video of the lecture by clicking on the link below:
December 6, 201112:15 p.m.Free with Museum admission
Tour the exhibition with best selling author Les Standiford and learn more about Henry Flagler's Over-Sea Railroad. Stadiford will discuss the development of the railroad from sketches to reality, and the legacy of the project whose visionary creator was also one of America's most forward-thinking captains of industry. A book signing will follow the Gallery Talk.
November 12, 201110:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.Free with Museum admission
In conjunction with the exhibition the Museum invites fourth through eighth grade children to a special gallery tour with the Education Director followed by a hands-on learning activity.
for exclusive products related to the Fall Exhibition developed by the Museum.
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