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  • Writer's pictureKen Murdock

The Arcadia, Gulf Coast & Lakeland Railroad

The Arcadia, Gulf Coast & Lakeland Railroad is a Florida railroad that most of us know very little about or may not have even heard of. Judging from the name, the founders had grandiose plans of a 200-mile line covering much of southwest coast of Florida. It was incorporated in 1891 for the purpose of building a railroad from a point near Gasparilla Island on Charlotte Harbor to Arcadia, Plant City and Lakeland. It never reached any of those communities but did manage to complete a 11.5-mile line from Bradentown (Bradenton) to Sarasota. The photo below shows a section of this line under construction with all work being done by manual labor.

The photo below shows their only passenger car, a home-made contraption built on one of their flatcars, and their 4-4-0 steam loco-motive #78. While they never reached Arcadia, they did locate their corporate offices there. All of their right-of-way had been surveyed and purchased or donated. Prospective flyers promoted it as the only standard gauge railroad south of Lakeland. Unable to complete construction within required time limits, they lost their Florida land grants that had been offered.

The final photo shows their 4-4-0 steam locomotive #78. It was former New York Central & Hudson River #78, built in 1864 in their 34th Street Shops in New York City. The NYC&HR name was still showing on the tender above the new owner’s name. It was purchased from The New York Equipment Co. along with 10 flatcars and one-boxcar. After running out of funds, the railroad was re-chartered as the Florida Peninsular & Gulf RR in 1893 but went into foreclosure in 1894. The Seaboard Air Line utilized part of the FP&G right-of-way when building its line to Sarasota. Today the Seminole Gulf operates over it from Sarasota to service the Tropicana Juice plant in Bradenton.

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