All aboard: Tampa Bay’s railroad history

Railroads were integral to the development of the Tampa Bay region as an economic center, transportation hub and tourist destination.

Prior to the 1880s, much of Tampa Bay was rural, sparsely populated frontier, and Port Tampa was just a small harbor for local fishermen. The genesis of the vibrant, cosmopolitan Tampa Bay that we know was set in motion in 1884, when Henry B. Plant brought the railroad to Tampa and began to develop Port Tampa as a deepwater terminal that could accommodate steamships.

Plant’s network of railroads and steamship lines — the “Plant System” — allowed for interstate trading and travel, playing a key role in the growth of industries such as citrus, lumber, and phosphate; attracting new ventures such as Vicente Martinez Ybor’s cigar industry; and spurring rapid commercial and residential development. Continue reading...

Read “Climb aboard”, By Jackson McQuigg