How Many Train Depots Have Survived on the Nature Coast?
Who doesn’t love a train? Trains represent a period in America’s history that is romantic and powerful. The industrial revolution was fueled by supplies shipped via locomotives. People were able to travel by the “new” transportation quickly and efficiently compared to the horse and buggy or even the early automobiles.
In Florida, Henry Plant and Henry Flagler built and bought railroads to help build the State. Senator David L. Yulee became the president of the Florida Railroad, completed in 1860, that connected the port cities of Fernandina and Cedar Key.
Throughout the Nature Coast, trains helped to build cities and fortunes from the mid-1800s to the 1970s.
Today there are several restored and preserved train depots that can be visited throughout Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco Counties. Others have dilapidated or been torn down… some towns they were in have disappeared!
Enjoy our roundup of Train Depots on Florida’s Nature Coast and let us know which one you like best – and why.
Crystal River Train Depot
The first railroad depot in Citrus County was located on this site (109 NE Crystal St, Crystal River FL 34428) soon after the completion of Citrus County’s first rail line from Dunnellon in 1887. Constructed by the Silver Springs, Ocala and Gulf Railroad, the spur line would be continued to Homosassa with service beginning in 1888.
The depot became the hub of a growing business area since Crystal Street was the main road going east. The original depot burned down around 1900 and was rebuilt around 1901-1902.
The Historic Crystal River Train Depot was restored by the Crystal River Lions Club in 1991 but is owned by the City of Crystal River. It is maintained and managed by the Lions Club and is available for rental by contacting the Lions Club.
Inverness Train Station
Originally built in 1892, the Inverness Train Station was first constructed as part of the Atlantic Coast Line. Along with the newly renovated depot area, the Train Station has recently gotten a facelift of its very own.
Located next to the Withlacoochee State Trail and the Inverness Depot district – and a short walk from Liberty and Wallace Brooks Park, the Inverness Train Depot has a fun family entertainment business in it.
The fun atmosphere with top notch assorted craft drinks and delicious food makes for a great visit. Stop by for lunch or dinner and some duckpin bowling any day except Mondays. What is Duckpin Bowling? It’s the same number of pins, but everything is smaller.
Located at 218 N Apopka Ave, Inverness, FL 34450. Call (352) 464-3967 for hours.
Brooksville Train Depot
Brooksville’s Train Depot has been in the same location since it was built in 1885. As part of the Rails to Trails program, the old railroad track bed is now the Good Neighbor Trail. It’s located at 70 Russell St., Brooksville, FL 34601
The 1885 Train Depot Museum is made up of four parts and is open to the public Friday & Saturday from noon – 3pm. There is an office where passengers would come to buy their tickets, arrange for freight shipments, and send telegrams. Next, the freight room houses train artifacts and displays depicting historical railroad events.
On the enclosed dock of the museum, visitors can ring the bell, sound the siren, or take pictures sitting in an original 1925 LaFrance Fire Engine; the first fire engine purchased by the city of Brooksville. There is also work car was originally owned by Cummer Sons Cypress Lumber Company.
The Brooksville Train Depot Museum is not just about trains. It also houses a Corn Sheller, various historical artifacts, and a collection of books, pictures, and maps that can be used for research.
Trilby Depot at the Pioneer Florida Museum in Dade City
I will never forget the first time I saw the Trilby Depot that was built in 1896 and its 1913 Porter Steam Engine that was moved to the Pioneer Florida Museum and Village from its previous location in the nearby town of Trilby. Trilb was once the third largest railroad yard in Florida and this steam engine was used for 50 years by the Cummer Cypress Co. to haul logs to its sawmill in Lacoochee. The logs on the truck are HUGE – and estimated to be between four and five hundred years old.
The Pioneer Florida Museum and Village is located at 15602 Pioneer Museum Rd, Dade City, FL 33523. It is open Tuesday- Saturday, 10 am – 5 pm. It houses a variety of local buildings with historical value as well as several historic collections and a gift shop. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 Seniors, $6 for students and no charge for children under 5.
Dade City Train Depot
The Atlantic Coastline Train Depot in Dade City was built in 1912 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 1994. The tracks that run closest to the depot were the first to reach Dade City in 1887. Two additional lines were built through Pasco County in 1890. Much of the building has been maintained in its original state, aside from some minor renovations in 1996-97 which were federally funded.
The Railroad was originally owned by Atlantic Coastline (ACL), and later merged with Seaboard Air Line in 1967, becoming Seaboard Coastline. Until 1957 it was a station on a Trilby to Tampa branch of the ACL’s Southland route to Tampa.
In 1990 Amtrak brought train service back with its Silver Star on a routing along the old Seaboard Coast Line main line through Ocala and Wildwood to Miami. The service continued on a couple of different Amtrak trains through November 1, 2004.
The station was preserved and reopened as a tourist destination with a grand re-opening held on October 23, 2008. Through efforts from the city and residents, the depot was transformed into the Dade City Heritage and Cultural Museum in 2018, with a main exhibition space, a model train room, and a community archive and reading room.
The Dade City Heritage Museum is a volunteer-based museum and operates on a monthly schedule, currently Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday 11am-3pm. Admission is $5 and children under 5 are free.
Zephyrhills Train Depot
The original 1927 Atlantic Coast Line Depot was purchased from CSX Railroad by the City of Zephyrhills in 1989 and relocated 200 feet west of its original location. Restoration of the 2,700 square foot building began in 1997 with a grant from the State Department of Transportation, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held November 19, 1997, to celebrate its completion.
Today, the Zephyrhills Train Depot, located at 39110 South Avenue, Zephyrhills FL 33542, can be rented for events, but is not open to the public.
San Antonio Train Depot
This depot is San Antonio’s third, which replaced a 1927 facility that burned in 1948. It is located at 32627 Railroad Ave, San Antonio, FL 3357, and is the last train depot remaining on the Orange Belt Railway. The historic OBR crossed Pasco County in 1888 to connect the St. Johns River with the Gulf of Mexico. This provided a long-awaited link with northern markets for shipping the area’s citrus and lumber. The Seaboard Coast Line had its last scheduled service at the San Antonio Train Depot in 1972.
The Depot fell into disrepair and was then restored in 1976 when an excursion line began running from San Antonio to Trilby.
In 1978, the railroad tracks were removed, dooming the Trilby, San Antonio & Cypress, an excursion line which ran from this station as the Orange Belt Railroad.
Volunteers restored the depot for community use in 1993. On March 21, 1999, the depot was rededicated with a new purpose as a community building where people can have meetings, birthday parties, etc. It is a voting precinct. It also serves as a museum where people can go by appointment to look at copies of old photos of San Antonio and the surrounding communities to see how our predecessors lived, worked, and built the communities that we know and enjoy today.
For the railroad buff, you can see authentic memorabilia used at the San Antonio Train depot. You can see and touch a rare, restored caboose.
Seven Historic Train Stations on Florida’s Nature Coast
While there were certainly more than double the number of train stations in Pasco, Hernando, and Citrus Counties during the heyday of cedar and cypress logging, mullet and citrus harvesting, and phosphate mining than there are today, NatureCoaster found seven historic train stations in the area.
Many of the train stations that are gone were on the west coast or central part of the Nature Coast counties. Many of them were in company towns that were left to rot and die. Some were paved over like Mannsfield in the Withlacoochee Forest and some were grown over, like Centralia in the Chassahowitzka Widlife Management Area.
So get out and enjoy interacting with the train history we can still enjoy today.