I found this old railroad trestle near Lake Butler in northern Florida. It actually borders both Bradford and Union counties over a river. I followed an abandoned railroad grade out to it which is a very scenic place to wander and see little bits of history from the railroad. Though today the trail is overgrown and somewhat tough to get through in some sections but well worth it. Not far from this area this same railroad line turns into The Florida Trail and also the Lake Butler-Palatka State Trail.
As I approached the trestle where the grade meets the river I really couldn’t tell if it was still there or not. Most of the one side is gone but you can see part of it sticking up through the brush just before the river. I made my way down the grade through the brush then came out under the trestle where I could see this relic of history still spanning the river. The area under the trestle is peaceful and picturesque, as I stood there I could imagine the area over a hundred years ago when the trains crossed here.
It is unsafe to cross the trestle over to the other side so after exploring here I went back to where I parked and headed over to the other side of the trestle using some roads nearby. This side of the trestle seems easier to access and has more history to discover. Near the bottom of the railroad grade I saw some concrete foundations shaped like pyramids like I’ve seen before at other railroad grades. These may have been foundations where some sort of structure was attached. One of them even had bricks embedded into the bottom of it. I also saw various metal pieces scattered about. As I walked to the river I checked out the trestle and this side seems to be more intact.
This railroad was part of the Georgia Southern & Florida Railroad going back to the late 1800’s. In the 1870’s and 1880’s, timber was becoming a more valuable commodity in southern Georgia and northern Florida. In 1881, the Georgia legislature authorized the formation of the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad Company. Its charter was to build a line south from Macon, Georgia to Clinch County, Georgia near the Florida state line. At that point, it would tie into Savannah, Florida & Western Railroad.
In 1884, the Florida Legislature granted a charter for the Macon and Florida state Air-Line Railroad Company to extend the GS&F tracks from the Georgia-Florida state line to Tampa/Charlotte Harbor on the Gulf coast, with a branch line to run to the St. Johns River. In 1888, the two companies merged for the line to go to Palatka, a busy river port on the St. Johns River. The GS&F reached Palatka by March 1890.
Due to poor management of funds and heavy mortgages, the GS&F went bankrupt in 1891. In 1895, J.P. Morgan attempted to gain control of the GS&F and reorganized the railroad into the GS&F Railway.
I really enjoyed finding this area and learning the history along the way it is such a fascinating place! I would like to continue exploring down this railroad line as far as possible to see what other history could remain. As far as this trestle I hope that it can remain for many years to come so that others can experience the history as well.