Durant to Willow

The Sarasota Subdivision

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Picture of the abandoned Little Manatee River bridge used by the SAL/SCL along the route. According to a few sources, the bridge was built c. 1902. Photo by Harvey Henkelmann.

This abandoned railway line wyed off from an existing phosphate line in Durant, FL and ran south to Sarasota, FL--a distance of 69.7 miles. The line was constructed in 1895 and had nine stations, the major ones being Sarasota and Venice. These nine stations in order heading south are: Durant, Wimauma, Parrish, Palmetto Jct., Bradenton, Oneco, Sarasota, Bee Ridge, and Venice. A line also extended from Durant to Turkey Creek further to the North. In 1903, the first passenger train arrived in Sarasota. The line was extended into Osprey and Laurel in 1910 and in 1927 the first passenger train arrived in Venice. This was also the route of the Tropicana train up until 1967--when the Seaboard/Coastline merger occured. Most of the thru trains were discontinued at this point and were re-routed through the ACL line that currently runs between Tampa and Bradenton, although work train still serviced industries on the Sarasota sub line up until 1981. The CSX acquisition spelled doom and gloom for the Sarasota sub from Durant to Willow--the only purpose this portion of the line served was for storage of cars near Durant until early 1986 when the cars were removed--then the tracks shortly thereafter from the wye in Durant through Willow--where a spur of tracks lead into the Florida Power Plant. The Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum currently operates excursion trains from Parrish to Willow and the line south of Parrish to Bradenton was recently cleaned up to transport transformers to the power plant.

Thanks to Harvey Henkelmann for contributing information about this route.

Used to be a plauque on the railroad tressel that said it was built in 1913, I used to go there in the 70's, it was once a place used for 4x4's most every weekend, and camped there frequently. The plaque was riveted on the northwest section of the bridge.

Dave
Riverview, FL
10/29/2011

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I have a 1971 SCL Timetable listing the route from Durant to Palmetto as the Parrish Subdivision. (The Sarasota Sub was further south)

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
11/17/2011

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The spur the extends toward the east just south of FishHawk Ranch can still be see in Boyette Scrub Park. There is a ton of track and still some existing tressels can be seen in this area. The area where the track ran through the fishhawk area actually marks the division between FHR and the Channing Park neighborhoods. It is soon to become a place where power lines run.

James
Lithia, FL
5/6/2014

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The Florida Railroad Museum operates on a six mile railroad line between Parrish and Willow. The organization is working to restore some of the old sites at Willow, such as maintenance facilities. This railroad line that the Florida Railroad Museum uses is a very small part of a 55 mile route that was built south from Durant to Manatee County and into Sarasota with construction starting in 1895. It was first incorporated in 1902 as the United States & West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company. It became the Florida West Shore Railway before being engulfed into the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company. The rail is 85 lb and jointed. It is class I track.

The area at Willow is believed to have included a sawmill, turpentine still, Robbins family home, church, general store, worker housing with garden plots, a house of prostitution, and a post office constructed in 1889. The town failed with the onset of the Great Depression as the price of lumber dropped and the business moved to Tampa. The business's steam engine used to move lumber to market is reportedly on display at the Robbins Tampa store. A railroad truss bridge crossing the Little Manatee River built in 1913 remains, as do foundations of some of the old buildings. The railroad bridge needs repair before it can be used again and some of the rails leading to it on the south side have been removed, so that trains can not currently travel across it. On the north side of the railroad bridge, at about Saffold Road, all of the rails have been removed from the rest of this route north to Durant. This abandonment occurred in 1986.

At Willow, there is a railroad spur that leads east off of the mainline to a Florida Power & Light Company plant. CSX Transportation provides rail service to the plant.

The area of Willow is accessible from off of U.S. 301, by turning east on Willow road and following it to the end.

Dennis James Gergel Jr.
Bradenton, FL
3/10/2015

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Wimauma is located on this route, just north of Willow. A railroad depot was constructed there in 1903. The railroad depot in Wimauma served as a passenger stop until 1968. The railroad tracks were removed in 1984 and the station had already been razed years before that.

Dennis James Gergel Jr.
Bradenton, FL
3/10/2015

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Parrish is located on this route and today the Florida Railroad Museum operates from Parrish north to Willow.

Crawford Parrish knew that a railroad stop at Oak Hill (as Parrish was then known) was crucial to the town's development. He convinced railroad and government officials to build a depot at Oak Hill and he donated land for the depot, water tank and four miles of track. The town soon became renamed as Parrish and was on the 55 mile route that was built south from Durant to Manatee County and into Sarasota with construction starting in 1895. It was first incorporated in 1902 as the United States & West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company. It became the Florida West Shore Railway before being engulfed into the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company. The railroad depot, constructed in 1902, brought packing houses, grocers, doctors, druggists and other merchants to town. Parrish thrived until the Great Depression destroyed much of its commerce and farmers and ranchers were forced to leave for work in big cities.

The railroad station in Parrish was consumed by a fire in the mid-1990's. Earlier, in 1988, an attempt had been made to turn the unused depot into a restaurant, but failed. Not long after the station burned down, the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum moved the railroad station from Bradley, Florida (also known as Bradley Junction), onto the property. That depot was then also consumed by a fire and lost to history.

The Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum is now known as the Florida Railroad Museum.

Dennis James Gergel Jr.
Bradenton, FL
3/10/2015

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Shortened Link: http://a-r.us/hd1
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