On the way back from James and Samantha Wregg’s wedding in Key West last weekend, I stopped at Bahia Honda Key (37 miles north east of Key West) to shoot some pictures from one of my favorite vantage points—the top of the broken-off end of an old section of US Highway 1 bridge. Ninety feet below I watched sea turtles, a school of leopard rays, and one nice-size shark cavorting in the emerald water.
Henry Flagler was seventy-five years old in 1905 when he began construction to extend his Florida East Coast Railroad beyond the southern reaches of the mainland. When word came that a shipping canal was to be dug across Panama, Flagler decided that his railroad must go all the way down to Key West. It would be the nearest rail terminal to the canal, by three hundred miles. Most considered the idea of building a one-hundred-fifty-mile railroad—that would skip across tiny coral islands, elevated over water, merely the preposterous dream of a crazy old man. It took seven years (four longer than they had first estimated), but on January 22, 1912, the first official train arrived in Key West, with eighty-two-year-old Henry Flagler aboard. Fifteen months later he died. Arguably, Flagler’s “Over the Sea Railway” still stands today as Florida’s most astounding engineering feat. The railway can be seen in this shot, in the lower section of the bridge. US Highway 1 came a quarter of a century later. This section (on the southwest side of Bahia Honda Key) was completed in 1938.