In 1885, the Florida Southern Railroad began construction of the first rail line from Arcadia to Punta Gorda. By March 1886, the railbed was finished, and the first train operated into Punta Gorda on July 24, 1886. This line was originally built as a three foot narrow gauge. The tracks were widened to standard gauge (four feet, eight and a half inches) on December 17, 1892.
The extension from Punta Gorda to Fort Myers was built by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL). Construction began shortly after the ACL purchased the Plant System and Florida Southern Railroads in 1903. The first locomotive crossed the Caloosahatchee River on February 2, 1904. Nine days later the tracks reached Fort Myers city limits, and scheduled passenger service began May 10, 1904.
In 1922 Barron Collier and other Fort Myers businessmen formed the Fort Myers Southern Railway as a joint venture with the ACL in order to construct a railroad to Naples. The company reached Bonita Springs on October 8, 1924 and western Naples on January 7, 1927. ACL’s main competitor, the Seaboard Air Line Railway, which by then had its own track through Fort Myers, also constructed a line to Naples. Their tracks reached Naples on December 7, 1926. Determined to have the last word, the Atlantic Coast Line completed a line to Marco Island on June 27, 1927.
In 1967 the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line merged into one company, the Seaboard Coast Line (SCL). This effort proved beneficial to the region, with the elimination of duplicate tracks and stations. However, the Age of Railroad Passenger Service was over. Beaten out by improved airline service and highways as well as the formation of Amtrak, the SCL ended
passenger service in Southwest Florida in May 1971. Further industry consolidation led to 1980 merger of the Seaboard Coast Line with the Chessie System and other railroads to form CSX.
In November 1987, Seminole Gulf Railway (SGLR) acquired 118 miles of CSX trackage between North Naples and Arcadia, as well as, between Oneco (Bradenton) and Sarasota. SGLR now hauls much of the region's building materials, newsprint, LP gas, plastics, stone, recycled materials, steel, and other commodities. The railroad owns and manages a fleet of railcars rolling throughout North America. SGLR also helps clients with industrial development services.
In addition to providing traditional rail freight transportation, Seminole Gulf’s related companies provide other vital supply chain solutions for Southwest Florida, including regional trucking and logistical services, as well as warehousing and distribution from its 1.6 million cubic foot, frozen, refrigerated food and dry goods distribution center located in North Fort Myers.
In January 1991, Seminole Gulf Railway opened The Dinner Train, followed shortly by the commencement of daytime excursion trains. Soon thereafter, the Dinner Train began its first Murder Mystery Production, "Murder on the Seminole Express" which became an instant success. Other popular trips followed, such as the Christmas Rail/Boat Trip to Punta Gorda that has become an annual event for many guests.
For over twenty five years, The Murder Mystery Dinner Train has hosted almost one million patrons and has premiered almost 200 new murder mystery productions. The train seats up to 208 passengers in four reconditioned vintage railcars from the 1930’s to the 1950’s, "Sanibel", "Marco", "Gasparilla" and "Captiva". All food is prepared fresh daily on board the train in the "Marco" kitchen, and brought to your table by our dedicated staff.
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