Monday, March 9, 2015

Flagler's Folly, Railroad Across the Sea and Eighth Wonder of the World

I recently completed the reading of a selection for St. Johns Reads, a community reading project sponsored by the St. Johns Public Library, Florida.  Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean was authored by Les Standiford. Standiford  tells the story of Henry Morrison  Flagler, a visionary at best, who sets out to build the final installment of the railroad in Florida to link Miami to Key West. Rather than live out his life lavishly on the prosperous earnings from his work with Standard Oil, Flagler is resolved to commit his wealth to the design and completion of the Overseas Railroad.  Getting on in age, yet unwavering and without a thought of retreat, Flagler plows on with the assistance of his loyal and also deeply committed employees. Obstacles along the way included an occasional defecting labor force, masses of mosquitoes and other insects, numerous hurricanes, lawsuits, naysayers, an eventual dwindled bank account, wildfires and unhappy locals with the arrival of the railroad.  Seven years after commencing his plans, Flagler boarded his "own iron", Car 91 to make the inaugural excursion to Key West, where he is met with a glorious celebration and his dream finally attained.   Sadly, the railroad does not survive a subsequent hurricane that destroys much of the infrastructure, but not until after Flagler passes.

For all interested in the history of Florida, this book is worth a read. 

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