100 Years Later, Remembering a Bold Railroad Across the Florida Keys

Minnie Dameron says "it looked like you were riding on the water"

By Hank Tester
|  Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012  |  Updated 9:44 PM EDT
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Henry Flagler was “one of these self-made men who isn’t going to take no for an answer,” said Kelly McKinnon of the Pigeon Key Foundation.

Henry Flagler was “one of these self-made men who isn’t going to take no for an answer,” said Kelly McKinnon of the Pigeon Key Foundation.

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This month marks the hundredth anniversary of Henry Flagler’s audacious railroad over the seas across the Florida Keys.

Minnie Dameron remembers what it was like to ride Flagler’s railroad many decades ago.

“When we come to the seven-mile bridge it looked like you were riding on the water,” she said. “It’s changed the Keys forever, and what a blessing it was."

Flagler’s dream was to link his Florida East Coast Railway with Key West, spanning the Keys. Doing it wasn’t easy, but Flagler was “one of these self-made men who isn’t going to take no for an answer,” said Kelly McKinnon of the Pigeon Key Foundation.

“It means we’re Americans, we can make something like this happen,” he said. “They came up with brand-new machinery, brand-new tools, just for this project, because nothing like this had been undertaken before.”

When it was completed in January 1912, the Flagler railroad was considered the eighth wonder of the modern world.

In this anniversary year, visitors can attend events celebrating the railroad’s history, or visit the construction camp on Pigeon Key, just below his signature seven-mile bridge, which is still intact despite multiple hurricanes.

His railroad did not survive. It was wiped out by a hurricane in 1935.

Dameron says she wishes it were still there.

“That’s how much we loved it,” she said.

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