The building of the Overseas Railroad is one of great engineering feats in Florida’s history – in fact it might actually be one of the most amazing marvels in American history. Built thanks to Henry Flagler’s ingenuity and his deep pockets, the east coast railroad that had changed Florida was extended to the Keys to open up a potential tourist boom to one of the most remote parts of the country as well as an easier connection to Cuba.
Les Standiford’s Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean is a definitive history of the railroad told by a fiction writer. This gives the narrative perhaps more color and flow than some boring histories written by historians and political writers. The decision to build a railroad under harsh conditions with no natural staging ground cannot be overstated even today.
The history is pleasurable to read as are the numerous sidebars. The books ends with the tragic 1935 Labor Day Hurricane which ended the railroad project and began the quest to build the Overseas Highway. By the late 1930’s technology had made building a road over the water much easier than when the Railroad project began.
For anyone interested in Henry Flagler or the Overseas Railroad this is worthy read.