Gainesville’s Railroads

NW 6th St & NW 3rd Ave, Gainesville, FL

The coming of the Florida Railroad opened up the interior of Florida for both settlement and trading and helped establish Gainesville. On February 1, 1859 the Florida Railroad entered town and connected Fernandina Beach with Cedar Key by 1861. Built from the northeast along what is now Waldo Road, the rails crossed 13th Street at Archer Road, and continued southwest along Archer Road to Cedar Key. The 19th century Florida roads were sandy, swampy and nearly impassible, so early rail access to two ports dramatically increased Gainesville’s prosperity. Railroads provided transportation for outgoing agricultural products and brought in the region’s first tourists, creating a demand for hotels, restaurants and other services. As the demand for North Central Florida agriculture grew at the turn of the 20th century, more railroads crisscrossed the region. The last railroad passenger service in Gainesville ended in 1971. The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) Railroad built a modern depot in 1948 rerouting its trains from Main Street downtown to tracks on Northwest 6th Street. The ACL depot is presently part of the downtown campus of Santa Fe Community College.

Gainesville’s first railroad, the Florida Railroad, was started in 1859. In 1881, the Florida Southern Railroad reached town from Palatka, Hawthorne and Rochelle, entering at South Main Street from Hawthorne Road and running the length of Main Street to 8th Avenue. A route from Rochelle provided service to Ocala. Three years later, the Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad linked to these tracks, providing service through Alachua to Waycross, Georgia. The two lines merged in 1902, becoming the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, providing service from Tampa Bay to New York. ACL trains ran in the middle of Main Street stopping for passengers to use the city’s hotels. In 1895, the Gainesville and Gulf Railroad built a line to Micanopy along NW 6th Street. By 1899, the rails reached south past Fairfield to Emathala and north to Sampson City. The Gainesville and Gulf was sold in 1906 and renamed the Tampa and Jacksonville or T&J. In 1900, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) was established and acquired the old Florida Railroad right-of-way through Gainesville. When the SAL bought the T&J in 1926, it was renamed the Jacksonville, Gainesville & Gulf. This line was abandoned in 1943.

Sponsored by:
Alachua County Historical Commission and the Florida Department of State

TAGS: All,19th Century