January 10, 2018

Movers haul the railcar down U.S. 1 to its new location.

LARRY BENVENUTI/Contributed Movers haul the railcar down U.S. 1 to its new location.

MARATHON —  A railcar from the era of Henry Flagler’s Over-sea Railway has a new home along the highway in front of Crane Point Museum and Nature Center. 

The red train car is receiving some protective maintenance and paint, which are the first steps in a plan for the historic railcar that will eventually include a replica train station and platform along with a pocket park, tentatively named Train Central Park, at mile marker 50. 5, bayside.

The railcar most recently served as the Pigeon Key Information Center on Knights Key at Marathon’s southernmost point, but Knights Key is being redeveloped by the Singh Company into a 24-acre resort and Pigeon Key has a new center now on the bayside a little north of the island.

The Flagler Car 64, as it formally known, was originally procured from the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach. It will be painted olive green or brown, according to its original color, which is still being researched and confirmed. 

“The Flagler rail company was changing colors when this car came in to being,” said Charlotte Quinn, Crane Point Museum and Nature Center’s chief operating officer. “The Singh family gave us the car and assisted with the move. Pigeon Key Foundation did not want it.” 

The Singh family also donated signage and railway memorabilia for the pocket park.

Quinn said Dion Watson of All Area Roofing & Waterproofing is repairing and coating the railcar to make it watertight. Then, Perry Hoodie agreed to paint the railcar as a donation. 

Quinn said the railcar has a “gorgeous oak floor” and wood walls, believed to include cedar, and the hope is to bring it back to the luxurious look it had originally. 

The panes of glass are very thick — to withstand all the rattling during train movement — and will be replaced. Draperies will be replicated. Additionally, the Monroe County Tourist Development Council has approved a grant to help Crane Point replace the car’s electrical wiring and install a new restroom.

The museum property has the Adderley House at Crane Point that also is more than 100 years old. George and Olivia Adderley lived there from 1903 until 1949. In 1905, Flagler, at 75 years old, instructed his engineers to design and build the railroad from the mainland to Key West, which was completed seven years later.

The railcar is 82 feet long, 11 feet wide and weighs 86 tons. The platform, when it is built, will extend about 100 feet from the railcar. Quinn hopes to receive grant money from a historical foundation for that. Historic photographs from the early 1900s show a sign designating Marathon as a Flagler railway train stop.

Because Quinn’s office space in the Crane Point gatehouse was damaged by flooding during September’s Hurricane Irma, the railcar’s short-term usage will be her office space.