A NOVELTY AMONG RAILROADS.
Harper's WeeklyJune 15, 1895
THERE is now
building in South Florida a railroad peculiarly novel in form
and economical in construction.
The company constructing it is known as the Avon Park Transportation
Company, and the road will run from Avon Park in De Soto County
to Haines City in Polk County, about forty miles due north. The
capital stock is $25,000, with which sum the promoters expect
to build and equip the road. "Up North" that amount
would barely build a mile of road. That it can be made to build
and equip forty miles of track in Florida opens up a new era in
The credit of originating the new idea belongs largely to Mr.
J. C. Burleigh, a Connecticut Yankee transplanted to Florida,
and now superintendent of the new line that is being constructed.
Last fall Mr. Burleigh was manager of a steam saw-mill in Avon
Park. The timber for a mile around his mill had been cut and hauled
to his saw by mule power, and could no longer be furnished profitably
by this means. Either he must move his mill farther out into the
forest, or find some other agent for transporting logs. He sent
an order to the Lima Locomotive Machine Works for one of their
twelve-ton Shay locomotives.
When word came that she was at Bowling Green, the nearest railway
station, twenty-three miles distant, Mr. Burleigh went to Bowling
Green with a force of twelve men, a cook, camping outfit, and
a stock of 4 x 6 and 2 x 6 timbers built an inclined plane of
trestle-work flush with the floor of the box-car on which the
locomotive lay, and on this laid a tramway of the 4 x 6 rails,
which led down to the earth and out into the forest. Then he slewed
the Crosby, as the locomotive was named round till her head pointed
to the east, got her wheels, which have an eight-inch tread, upon
the trains, and told his engineer to give her steam. He did so,
and inch by inch she came down the trestle to solid earth as gracefully,
if not as quickly, as a ship launches herself from the ways into
her natural element. When she had steamed to the end of the tramway,
the rails behind were taken up and laid down again in front, and
in this way, over creeks, through marshes and swamps, and the
comparatively level surface of the flat woods, she made her way
in nine days to the Park. There an ovation was accorded her. The
citizens assembled to greet her, the bells rang, the whistle tooted,
the band played, speeches were made, and great enthusiasm was
The motor had been moved so successfully over the wooden tramway
that it suggested to Mr. Burleigh a similar, device for his logging
road. For this he took 4 x 8 beams and laid them in the sand without
cross-ties, the ends being joined by wooden fish-plates. Rails
and fish-plates were held together by wooden pins eighteen inches
long, driven through both and into the ground.
This road has now been in operation several months without
repairs and without accident, although about twenty heavy logging
trains a day run over it; the rails quickly embed themselves in
the sand, which packs about them and holds them firmly in place.
When in January last the Avon Park Transportation Company was
formed, Mr. Burleigh was elected superintendent, and proposed
building the new road on the lines laid down in his logging road,
offering to take any doubting Thomas over the line and give him
ocular demonstration of its safety and efficiency. His plan was
adopted, and the road is now being built through the primeval
forest to Haines City, where it will connect with the Plant system
for Jacksonville and the North.
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