|Central Florida Railroad Museum |
(Gerri Bauer photo)
I love train travel. And sometimes I project the idea of today's comfortable rides onto the conditions available in Florida's pioneer years. Early settlers would have a good laugh at that.
Trains rolled over the steamboat industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Florida. Those early rides were no picnics. That came clear to me on a recent visit to the Central Florida Railroad Museum in Winter Garden. The city is part of the Orlando metro area but has a beautiful and walkable downtown historic district.
The railroad museum is well worth a visit. I particularly liked the displays of different railroad lines' cutlery and dishware. Those kind of details bring home for me the day-to-day living in a specific time. The dishware, as you can imagine, was thick, sturdy stoneware. Some was decorated simply but others featured elaborate floral designs. The collection is varied and includes examples from a wide range of railroad lines including Amtrak.
But the first short-line, early trains to pass through the state weren't serving dinner. They primarily transported citrus, although people used them too. There was nothing fancy about these railroads. That's depicted clearly in the numerous photographs of rail cars, equipment, depots and more on display at the museum. Equipment used through the years is also on view and there's a model train display.
The museum is housed in the former depot of the now-defunct Tavares & Gulf Railroad, which operated along a 32-mile track with a 6-mile branch. Established in the 1880s, the railroad was sold in the 1920s and made its last run in 1969.
I'm most interested in its early years during the pioneer era. Museum literature and displays say the railroad, in those days, was better known locally as Tug & Grunt instead of Tavares & Gulf. That's because it kept derailing. In 1905, it held a national record for jumping the track nine times in a single round trip. I can only imagine the effort required to push a rail car back into line.
Yes, early train travel was definitely an adventure. Certainly nothing like the relaxing comfort of today's rides. For that, I'm glad. I love learning about the past but the older I get, the happier I am to have modern comforts.
|Museum photo, above, shows a derailed train,|
something that happened frequently on this
particular rail line. Below is an example
of the dishware displays at the museum.
(Gerri Bauer photos)