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POSTCARDS FROM FLORIDA

Events mark Flagler railroad's Key West milestone

Jim Abbott on Travel

Postcards from Florida

January 14, 2012

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It's only a week until the 100th anniversary of the inaugural journey of Henry Flagler's Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, which arrived for the first time in Key West on Jan. 22, 1912.

The celebration will be in full swing this week in the Florida Keys, with events that include a costume ball, one-man performance by a Flagler re-enactor, themed parade in Key West and more. Visit flaglerkeys100.com for the schedule.

There's also a new commemorative outdoor art mural celebrating the milestone at Mile Marker 95 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in Key Largo. The hand-painted mural, measuring 60 feet long and almost 12 feet high, depicts a passenger train steaming across a bridge beneath a full moon adorned with Flagler's face.

If you can't make the trek this week, you can still incorporate the anniversary into your trip in the coming months:

At the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House (281 Front St., Key West), the permanent exhibit "Flagler's Speedway to Sunshine" chronicles the railroad's construction, heyday and demise. Visitors can view a re-created Florida East Coast Railway car, a replica section of the Seven Mile Bridge and footage of the journey from the Middle Keys to Key West. (kwahs.com; 1-305-295-6616)

At Bahia Honda State Park, at Mile Marker 36.8 in the Lower Keys, re-enactments commemorating the railroad's completion will be staged through March. Rangers will offer monthly programs on a stage decorated as Flagler's private train car, featuring portrayals of historic characters including Flagler and Ernest Hemingway. The performances are free with park admission and show dates are announced at the beginning of each month. (floridastateparks.org/bahiahonda/events.cfm; 1-305-872-9807)

Pigeon Key's five acres housed more than 400 workers who built the railroad. The island was a base camp with a commissary and one-room school during the Seven Mile Bridge's construction from 1908 to 1912. Daily tours are offered of the island's museum and grounds that feature many original railroad buildings and houses of the era. Pigeon Key is accessible by ferry from a visitor center at Knight's Key, located at Mile Marker 47, on the west end of Marathon. (pigeonkey.net or call 1-305-743-5999)