Seminole Gulf Railway Operates First Test Train Across Caloosahatchee River

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor, Railway Track & Structures
(Seminole Gulf Railway Photograph)

(Seminole Gulf Railway Photograph)

Seminole Gulf Railway (SGLR) has operated its first test train across the entire span of the Caloosahatchee River after Hurricane Ian destroyed railroad bridges.

SGLR has announced freight service has been restored to Fort Myers, Fla. The short line said it has been 511 days (17 months) since Hurricane Ian hit the area. The storm surge destroyed the rail bridges that cross the Caloosahatchee River into Fort Myers. Now, SGLR has “successfully operated its first test train across the entire span of the river, delivering railcars trapped in Fort Myers back to the national rail system.” SGLR expects to begin regular freight service to Fort Myers in March 2024. It also expects to restore the entire route of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in late spring 2024.

Over the past 17 months, SGLR diverted freight traffic to its Sarasota Division while rebuilding the railroad bridge across the Peace River in Arcadia, Fla. Not only did SGLR rebuild several miles of track and four bridges and track structures across the Caloosahatchee River, but it “performed all of this work 100% at its own expense, utilizing its own financial resources,” the railroad reported. Using concrete, carbon fiber, and other composites, SGLR said it completed the work with “built-in resiliency against future events.”

Congressman Byron Donalds (FL-19) submitted a bill for consideration to the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 3782 – The Short Line Railroad Relief Act), but SGLR did not receive any relief aid from federal, state or local sources after Hurricane Ian. However, SGLR said it continues to work with Congressman Donalds and the American Short Line Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) “to support legislation that would provide disaster relief funding for small railroads throughout the United States.” Currently, there are similar funding programs for other modes of transportation. 

“This is an important milestone for southwest Florida,” SGLR Executive Vice President Robert Fay said. “The freight moved over our railroad is essential to the region’s economy, and the restoration of rail service will enable that freight to be moved in the most efficient and environmentally sustainable manner.”

SGLR operates from north Naples, Fla., to Arcadia. There, it connects to CSX and the rest of the country. It also operates another line in Sarasota. In 2023, SGLR delivered 3,700 railcars (the equivalent of close to 15,000 truckloads) that carried materials such as drywall, lumber/plywood, rebar, and stone. 

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