The Original Mainline of the Florida East Coast Railway
This route's earliest antecedent was the Saint Johns Railway, chartered in 1858. This line ran between St. Augustine and a steamboat landing on the St. Johns River at Tocoi. Henry Flagler acquired it after his move into St. Augustine about 1885. At that time the StJRy formed the Saint Augustine and Palatka RR and constructed a line from a junction on the StJRy west of St. Augustine to East Palatka. Palatka itself was reached about three years later with the construction of a bridge over the St. Johns.
In the meantime, a separate company chartered a logging line from a point on the east bank of the St. Johns near East Palatka to San Mateo, about five miles. This line was chartered about 1878, but construction did not start until 1881 when the line reorganized as the St. Johns & Halifax River, and began laying rails to Daytona (about 52 miles). The StJ&HR reached Daytona in 1886, about the same time that the StA&P reached East Palatka. Flagler promptly acquired the StJ&HR and linked the two lines to provide through service from St. Augustine to Daytona. Shortly afterward Flagler began to push rails down the coast toward the Indian River country and beyond to Miami. In 1888 these lines, plus another between Jacksonville and St. Augustine were standard gauged and began combined operation. In 1892 they were reorganized as the Jacksonville, Saint Augustine & Indian River Railway, which in turn was merged among other lines into the Florida East Coast RR in 1896.
The route described above was the F.E.C. mainline to Miami until 1925. At that time a cut-off was completed between St. Augustine and Bunnell. The direct line was much shorter and the original route became redundant, so rails were pulled up between Bunnell and San Mateo shortly after 1925. The stub end from St. Augustine, through East Palatka to San Mateo was operated as a primarily agricultural branch into the 1960s. Traffic on the extension between East Palatka and San Mateo deteriorated rapidly and the five miles between those points was pulled up shortly after the beginning of WW-II, about the same time the bridge over the St. Johns was removed as a navigational hazard. The branch struggled on into the late 1960s and then service was cut back between Hastings and East Palatka. It currently ends at Hastings, about 20 miles west of St. Augustine. Traffic is seasonal, depending on what is being harvested.
The station in East Palatka was razed around 1968, but the slabs and foundations remain. The ROW between East Palatka and San Mateo, particularly around East Palatka, is still evident in a number of places, but the land has reverted back to private use. The freight station in San Mateo was still standing several years ago and was being used as a citrus packing shed.
A rough timeline of the route:
Saint Augustine -- Hastings -- East Palatka -- San Mateo -- Bunnell -- Daytona
1881 |---- StJ&HR ---|
1885 |----------- StA&P -------------|
1886 |------- StJ&HR --------|
1892 |------------------------------- JStA&IR -------------------------------|
1896 |-------------------------------- FEC ----------------------------------|
1942 |-- abandoned --|
1960s |- abandoned -|
Thanks to Ken Willis for contributing information.
1. The lane has been cut back to just west of I-95.
2. The ROW between Hastings and CR 207A is now the westbound lane of SR 207.
3. Between Ealkton to just west of Vermont the ROW is now the eastbound lane of SR 207.
4. The ROW btween the end of line and SR 207 is now a paved rail-trail.
Did you mean to say that Hastings is about twenty miles west of St. Augustine? Twenty miles east of St. Augustine puts you out in the drink! God bless.
Up date work is on going from the mouth of the St. John's River to the wye in East Palatka to make it part of the Rail-Trail work should be done by June 2013
The indicated route of this rail line on the satellite view is incorrect. It shows the line south of the current highway bridge. The rail line and railway bridge was actually located north of the highway bridge.