News & Reviews News Wire Seminole Gulf Railway reopens line to Fort Myers, Fla.

Seminole Gulf Railway reopens line to Fort Myers, Fla.

By Trains Staff | February 22, 2024

Route devastated by Hurricane Ian had been closed more than 500 days

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Two locomotives lead gondolas across bridge
Seminole Gulf Railway B40-8 locomotives Nos. 598 and 597 bring cars from Fort Myers across the Caloosahatchee River on Feb. 21, 2024. Seminole Gulf Railway

FORT MYERS, Fla. — More than 500 days after Hurricane Ian devastated Southwest Florida, and the Seminole Gulf Railway, on Sept. 28, 2022, the railroad has restored operations to Fort Myers.

Section of flooded railroad track with bridge knocked off supports
Another badly damaged Seminole Gulf bridge. Sol Tucker.

On Tuesday, the railroad operated its first test train across the Caloosahatchee River, having completed the rebuilding of four bridges and track structures across the river. The repair work included use of man-made materials like concrete, carbon fiber, and other composites to increase the structures’ resiliency against future weather events. With the bridge restored, the railroad was able to move cars that had been trapped in Fort Myers back to its connection with the national rail system.

“This is an important milestone for southwest Florida,” Robert Fay, Seminole Gulf executive vice president, said in a press release. “The freight moved over our railroad is essential to the region’s economy, and the restoration of freight service will enable that freight to be moved in the most efficient and environmentally sustainable manner.”

Since the hurricane, the railroad has diverted traffic to its Sarasota Division, some 60 miles from Fort Myers, where cargo had to be transloaded; the railroad handled some 3,700 carloads in 2023, the equivalent of almost 15,000 truckloads.

Along with reconstruction of the crossing of the Caloosahatchee, the railroad had to rebuild its bridge across the Peace River in Arcadia, Fla., as well as several miles of right-of-way [see “Seminole Gulf Railway faces lengthy closure …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 5, 2022, and “Seminole Gulf Railway gradually being restored …,” News Wire, Aug. 10, 2023]. All the reconstruction was 100% funded by the railroad, which received no state, federal, or local disaster relief aid, despite efforts including the introduction of a bill in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds. The Seminole Gulf continues to work with Donalds and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to support disaster relief legislation for small railroads in the U.S.

The railroad anticipates resumption of regular freight service to Fort Myers in March and full restoration of its Murder Mystery Dinner Train in late spring.

More information on the railroad is available at its website.

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