Railroad History Programs
The Suncoast Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society is partnering with us to share their knowledge and expertise about railroad history in this area. We plan to work with them to provide materials, classroom experiences and artifact displays for public education about railroad history, especially the railroad that became The Legacy Trail.
In 2004 Sarasota County purchased the 12.5 mile, 100-foot wide CSX railroad corridor that stretches from Center Road in Venice to just south of Clark Road in Sarasota. Eleven miles of this railroad corridor became a rails-to-trails project that resulted in The Legacy Trail that opened to the public in 2008 and is now enjoyed by over 200,000 users each year. And the Trail will soon be extended 8 miles to downtown Sarasota as part of another rails-to-trails project. Osprey Junction Trailhead Park is next to The Legacy Trail at Bay Street in Osprey.
The railroad that became The Legacy Trail has much historical significance to this area. The first passenger coach ran on the new Sarasota to Venice extension of the Seaboard Air Line Railway in 1911. The Venice Train Depot, built by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, was opened in 1927. The railroad helped this area survive during the Florida real estate bust and the Great Depression.
The cadets and faculty of the Kentucky Military Institute traveled by rail to winter classes in Venice from 1933 to 1970. The railroad also transported patients to Dr. Albee’s Florida Medical Center from 1932 to 1942. Many servicemen were transported over the rails to the Venice Army Base during World War II from 1942 to 1945.
On April 30, 1971, the last passenger train arrived in Venice. Limited freight service continued until January 1992. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus used the railroad to reach its winter quarters in Venice from 1960 to 1992.