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Working…on the Railroad

Posted Sep 1, 2010 Posted by One Comment

Railroad workers in the Keys

We just finished uploading our collection of Florida East Coast Railway photographs to our Flickr site. Our goal is to have these photos (and oral histories and other related documents) available for anyone planning an event for the Florida East Coast Centennial in 2012. Here’s our policy on using the photos.

We chose to release the photos just before Labor Day to honor the men who worked and died building the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway.

It took almost seven years to build the extension. The working conditions were harsh and very demanding. Most of the labor saving devices now used in heavy construction were not available in the early 1900s. The men were doing back-breaking work in the heat while being attacked by the insects that populated the Keys. They lived in tents and houseboats without any artificial cooling. These photos gives a look at the working and living conditions. The multi-racial work force averaged 1,600 men over the more than seven years of construction with a high of 3,500 in 1911 and 1912.

It was dangerous work–records show that 158 men lost their lives during construction. Most of the deaths occurred during the Hurricane of 1906 when Quarterboat Number 4 was carried to sea and sunk. Of the 158 men lost during railroad construction, 132 perished from hurricanes. The others were from industrial accidents mostly involving dynamite. Another 81 men were recorded as having serious injuries.

The next time you drive the highway look at the Seven Mile Railroad Bridge under the deteriorating 1930s highway and remember the sacrifices the men made and how well their work has survived the last 100 years.

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One Comment »

  • Carlos Gonzalez said:

    The cook’s on the train had a great way of doing the dish’s. If they where to busy they would just throw the dirty dish’s out the window of the galley.

    If you go diving around the old brige near Pigeon Key you can find ceramic shards.