A Locomotive Is Buried Below This Skyscraper

January 8, 2017

The incredible account of building what was once Florida's tallest skyscraper around an entombed steam locomotive.




1903 Sanborn map showing path of riverfront railroad track.

Every conceivable business and trade squeezed in along the waterfront. The main business being the export of lumber. Hundreds of thousands of board feet of lumber left the docks monthly. Boats brought logs in and sawmills on and near the docks produced lumber and shipped it right back out to markets worldwide. The railroad built docks and laid tracks over the marsh between Bay Street and the river. In 1876, the tracks stopped just short of present day Main Street. By the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the track extended hundreds of yards to East Bay Street.


Lumber docks and schooners along the downtown waterfront during the 1880s. (State Archives of Florida)



This sign located near the former Courthouse Annex Building and present-day Berkman Plaza, commemorates the location of the Cow Ford, which has become inextricably linked with Jacksonville's history. Image: Mike Field


If you look at the photographs and drawings, you can see the locomotive backing boxcars down side spurs and leaving them detached for loading. Each dock had another set of tracks that allowed a boxcar to be shuffled in at a right angle along the river. This entire system was built on wooden pilings and covered docks. The earth trembled, creaked and moaned when all these boxcars and workers were moving up and down the waterfront. It was a busy, gritty, noisy, smelly and somewhat dangerous environment to work in.


(State Archives of Florida)



Route of Kings Road through Jacksonville. Originally an Indian trail along a high sand ridge paralleling the Atlantic Ocean, and formerly constructed by British to serve their colony of East Florida. King's Road stretched from the St. Marys River in Georgia to present-day New Smyrna Beach, FL. Image Courtesy: Jacksonville Historical Society

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