75. Flagler’s Train Terminal

Historic Marker number 75 is located on the corners of Trumbo Road and Caroline Street.

On his site was a shell-covered beach on the Gulf of Mexico until it was filled during the building of the Overseas Railroad. Legend has it that when Henry Flagler was told that there wasn't enough land to build the grand terminal he envisioned for his railroad, his response was simple, "Then make some." Trumbo American Dredging Company was hired to create enough land to build Flagler's terminal. With Howard Trumbo as head engineer, enough fill was dredged to create an extra 134 acres of Key West and Trumbo Point was born.

The two piers nearest you, which date back to 1912, were an integral part of Henry Flagler's plan to use his railroad to connect the Unites States mainland to Cuba. The trip was 90 miles long and traversed the strong currents of the Gulf Stream.

Ships, docked at the long pier closest to the new ferry docks, were used to carry the trains from Key West to Cuba. The ships were outfitted with tracks that were used to load the trains. Ferries, docked at the middle pier, were used to carry smaller cars and passengers. Both ships and ferries traveled the same route over the water. In Key West, the trains were transferred from dry land to the ship. When they arrived in Cuba, they were unloaded and connected to the Cuban rail service.

Flagler's plan went beyond connecting the deep-water ports of Cuba and Key West. While that connection would be economically beneficial, Flagler speculated that it would also entice lucrative shipments from the Panama Canal, which opened in 1914.

The US Navy recognized that Trumbo Point had great strategic value and acquired it from Flagler. On July 13, 1917, ground for the Trumbo Naval Air Station was broken. The main structures on base were blimp and seaplane hangars. Trumbo Point became home to the southernmost seaplane-training base.

There are also three piers that stretch into the Historic Seaport. These piers are part of an outcrop of the man-made lands that originate at the end of Trumbo Road. Today this area is home to the Coast Guard Station in Key West.

The Overseas Railroad was destroyed on Labor Day, 1935, by a category five hurricane. Over time, the Overseas Highway was built to replace it. As you drive to or from Key West, notice the arched concrete train bridges that parallel the Over-Seas Highway. They stand as the backbone of a transportation dream that was considered the eighth engineering marvel of its day. After a century of wear and tear, they are a testament to the ingenuity and tenacity of our forefathers.