In the 1800s, only a few hardy settlers who could eke out a living among the pine forests dared to call this area home.
Then the railroads came.
The Dade City Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot was built in 1912, paving the way for timber, citrus and tobacco industries. Dade City was changed for good.
The depot shut down in 1983. The city took over the building about a decade later, renovated it and transformed the depot into office space. But in 2007, the folks at Dade City Tours Inc. had another idea. "Everybody agreed it would be better used for historic and tourism purposes than for a corporate office," said Joey Wubbena, director of internal services for JDR Properties, which oversees Dade City Tours.
The depot still belongs to the city, but is now called the Dade City Train Museum and Theatre. It celebrates its grand opening tonight.
The owners of Dade City Tours spent months researching the history of the depot and train use in Florida. The museum features historical photos and a short video about Henry Flagler and Henry Plant, Florida transportation pioneers.
The museum held a soft opening in May and has since served as a stop for Dade City Tour's trolley ride through town. Visitors have trickled in, but cooler weather should bring more people.
"We're starting to get full trollies again now that summer has gone away," Wubbena said.
CSX trains still run on the tracks next to the museum. Freight trains rumble by more than 30 times a day, adding to the museum's authenticity and shaking the building. "It will stir your coffee," Wubbena said.
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 435-7312.
IF YOU GO
What: Dade City Train Museum and Theatre grand opening
When: Tonight, 5-7 p.m.
Where: 14206 U.S. 98, Dade City
Normal museum hours and charges: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., adults $5, seniors $4, $2 for children under age 12, ages 4 and younger are free with a paying adult.