Parrish, Florida: Florida Railroad Museum

A 13 mile round-trip through Florida swamps, Spanish moss-festooned forests, and "you pick-em" fruit fields. No windows; you're right on top of the action. See the segregated Jim Crow car.
Address:
12210 83rd St., Parrish, FL
Directions:
US Hwy 301 to Parrish. Entrance is on the east side of US Hwy 301, just north of its intersection with Hwy 62/Wauchula Rd.
Hours:
Rides Sa-Su 11 AM, 2 PM (Call to verify)
Phone:
941-776-0906
Admission:
Adults $14.00
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Swamp train.

Florida Railroad Museum

This was not what I expected. I'd thought that a train ride on the Florida Railroad Museum cars would be eye-rollingly dull, fit only for children and train nuts, and at its worst hokey. It was none of these things. Quite the contrary, it was an enjoyable 90-minute excursion. In the small, rural community of Parrish, this collection of old rail cars, some still operational, some permanently stopped, is a real treat.

The ride itself, while only 6.5 miles, tootles along at 15 mph through Florida swamps, Spanish moss-festooned forests, and "you pick-em" fruit fields. We boarded through an air-conditioned restaurant car from the 1950s, and sat in a reconditioned baggage car on secondhand school bus seats. The windows were removed to afford al fresco contact with the countryside. No yellowed windows here! Don't expect a guided tour with a tour guide on a bullhorn, though. You can get information about these trains only by asking the all-volunteer staff. And they will go on about railroad history if you continue standing next to them. It was from them that we learned that the curiously-divided car ahead of us was a former Jim Crow car with separate partitions for blacks and whites, decommissioned after the Civil Rights era (The segregated water fountains had been removed).

The fourth car was a converted phosphate hopper that provides a bumpier ride than the others. The train traveled up to Willow, a ghost town that was formerly a prosperous sawmill town until the Great Depression. There are about a dozen train cars parked there, some being worked on. Back in Parrish, the parked cars are more presentable and include a Tropicana refrigerator car and a Pullman sleeper whose compartments still have their bed springs and cloth covers from 1948. Although a bit musty and in need of restoration, it's open to the public. There are also special events such as a "Murder Mystery Dinner Train" and "Hobo Saturday."

[Peter Bates, 04/15/2014]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Braden Castle RuinsBraden Castle Ruins, Bradenton, FL - 9 mi.
Linger Lodge - Taxidermy TroveLinger Lodge - Taxidermy Trove, Bradenton, FL - 12 mi.
Giant HelmetGiant Helmet, Bradenton, FL - 10 mi.
In the region:
The Hand of Fate, Madeira Beach, FL - 26 mi.

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August 23, 2019

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