Harper's Weekly—June 15, 1895

THERE is now building in South Florida a railroad peculiarly novel in form and economical in construction.

The company constructing it is known as the Avon Park Transportation Company, and the road will run from Avon Park in De Soto County to Haines City in Polk County, about forty miles due north. The capital stock is $25,000, with which sum the promoters expect to build and equip the road. "Up North" that amount would barely build a mile of road. That it can be made to build and equip forty miles of track in Florida opens up a new era in railroad construction.

The credit of originating the new idea belongs largely to Mr. J. C. Burleigh, a Connecticut Yankee transplanted to Florida, and now superintendent of the new line that is being constructed. Last fall Mr. Burleigh was manager of a steam saw-mill in Avon Park. The timber for a mile around his mill had been cut and hauled to his saw by mule power, and could no longer be furnished profitably by this means. Either he must move his mill farther out into the forest, or find some other agent for transporting logs. He sent an order to the Lima Locomotive Machine Works for one of their twelve-ton Shay locomotives.

When word came that she was at Bowling Green, the nearest railway station, twenty-three miles distant, Mr. Burleigh went to Bowling Green with a force of twelve men, a cook, camping outfit, and a stock of 4 x 6 and 2 x 6 timbers built an inclined plane of trestle-work flush with the floor of the box-car on which the locomotive lay, and on this laid a tramway of the 4 x 6 rails, which led down to the earth and out into the forest. Then he slewed the Crosby, as the locomotive was named round till her head pointed to the east, got her wheels, which have an eight-inch tread, upon the trains, and told his engineer to give her steam. He did so, and inch by inch she came down the trestle to solid earth as gracefully, if not as quickly, as a ship launches herself from the ways into her natural element. When she had steamed to the end of the tramway, the rails behind were taken up and laid down again in front, and in this way, over creeks, through marshes and swamps, and the comparatively level surface of the flat woods, she made her way in nine days to the Park. There an ovation was accorded her. The citizens assembled to greet her, the bells rang, the whistle tooted, the band played, speeches were made, and great enthusiasm was displayed.

The motor had been moved so successfully over the wooden tramway that it suggested to Mr. Burleigh a similar, device for his logging road. For this he took 4 x 8 beams and laid them in the sand without cross-ties, the ends being joined by wooden fish-plates. Rails and fish-plates were held together by wooden pins eighteen inches long, driven through both and into the ground.

This road has now been in operation several months without repairs and without accident, although about twenty heavy logging trains a day run over it; the rails quickly embed themselves in the sand, which packs about them and holds them firmly in place.

When in January last the Avon Park Transportation Company was formed, Mr. Burleigh was elected superintendent, and proposed building the new road on the lines laid down in his logging road, offering to take any doubting Thomas over the line and give him ocular demonstration of its safety and efficiency. His plan was adopted, and the road is now being built through the primeval forest to Haines City, where it will connect with the Plant system for Jacksonville and the North.

Oddities | Contents Page

Do you have any information you'd like to share on this subject? Please email me!
The Catskill Archive website and all contents, unless otherwise specified,
are 1996-2010 Timothy J. Mallery