By Steve Pike
There is no better way to see where we are going than to know where we’ve been. In her new book, All Aboard! A History of Florida’s Railroads, author Stephanie Murphy-Lupo superbly details not only the history of Florida’s railroads, but also Florida history before men such as Henry Flagler and Henry Plant built their railroads that forever changed the face of the Sunshine State.
The book comes (not coincidentally) at an opportune time in Florida’s modern railroad history. Florida East Coast Industries, LLC, parent company of the controversial All Aboard Florida initiative, is a descendant of Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad that ran from Jacksonville to Key West.
In the last chapter of the book, Murphy-Lupo gives a well-defined history of FEC’s fight for the rail service that beginning next year will link Miami and Orlando.
Railroad enthusiasts no doubt will enjoy the book’s intricate look into the early railroads in the Southeast. The book also should appeal to history buffs who want a good look into Florida’s development pre- and post-Civil War.
“I want people to know that (Florida) is a whole lot more than they might understand,” Murphy-Lupo said. “We’re not just Disney World. If the railroad people hadn’t developed the interior of Florida, everything we love would be here, but no one would be here to appreciate it.’’
In addition to Flagler and Plant, the 316-page book (Globe Pequot) introduces readers to men such as David Levy Yulee, the fiery first U.S. senator from Florida who established the pre-Civil War Florida Railroad Company.
Murphy-Lupo tells each of their stories with the eye for detail of a well-seasoned newspaper reporter, which she was for several years at the Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News. A native Floridian who resides in West Palm Beach, Murphy-Lupo also writes with a voice of one familiar with Florida’s history.
“I had a lot of fun doing the research,’’ said Murphy-Lupo. “I love history, I love the library and I just love to dig and dig and dig.’’
Her digging makes for an outstanding read.