HARBOR AND NORTHERN RY.
"THE BOCA GRANDE ROUTE"
Condensed version revised in October of 2009 by Donald R. Hensley, Jr.
This is a rare but poor shot of Peace
River Phosphate Co. # 2 with a work train circa 1901.
Photo courtesy of the Polk County Historical Archives of Bartow, Fl.
PART I - THE PHOSPHATE MINING RAILROADS
narrow gauge Florida Southern Railway reached Arcadia in 1886 there was
only a sleepy little cow
town and the builders paused only briefly before pushing the railroad
south to Punta Gorda. Unknown to the
railroad and the general public at this time, a great discovery had
been made in 1881 by Captain Francis LeBaron of the Engineer Corps of
the US Army, who was examining the lower Peace River area for the
survey of a canal that would connect the headwaters of the St. Johns to
Charlotte Harbor. Here he found and shipped to the Smithsonian 9
barrels of prehistoric fossils from the sand bars prevalent on the
lower Peace River. He also noticed that there was a phosphatase quality
fossils and the deposit they were found in was very valuable. The
Smithsonian wanted him to return right away and lead an expedition for
prospecting more fossils but Captain LeBaron was unable to return
due to his important duties at Fernandina and were put in charge of the
harbor improvements there. Finally in December of 1886 he was able to
return to the Peace River where he dug some test pits and sent the
samples to a laboratory for analysis. Then his suspicions were
confirmed as the test showed high quality bone phosphate of lime, and
he tried in vain to round up investors in New York, Boston and
Philadelphia, but none of the money men would spend a dime on the
project. Frustrated he left the US for the ill fated Nicaraguan Canal
the test results became known to Colonel G.W. Scott who owned the G.W.
Co. of Atlanta, GA and he quickly sent a representative down to Arcadia
who made several large purchases along the Peace River. Also T.S.
Moorhead of Pennsylvania who had learned about the deposits from
Captain LeBaron but not the secret of their location, traveled to
Arcadia where he luckily stumbled onto the famous sand bars. Mr.
Moorhead formed the Arcadia Phosphate Co. and the Scott Mfg. Co.
quickly agreed to buy the entire output. The very first shipment of
Florida Phosphate was made in May of 1888 when the first ten car loads
were dispatched to Scott's Fertilizer Works in Atlanta, Ga. Soon after
this G.W. Scott formed the Desoto Phosphate Co. at Zolfo where the
Florida Southern Railway crosses the Peace River. However the biggest
the Peace River Phosphate Co. (formed in January of 1887 (2)) which was located in
Arcadia by M.M.
Knudson of New York and they
quickly built a narrow gauge railroad from the works on the river to
the interchange with the Florida Southern. It is this company and its
railroad that is the first direct ancestor of the future Charlotte
& Northern. The Peace River Phosphate Co. began mining in the
Winter of 1889 and most of the ore was shipped to Punta Gorda via the
Florida Southern, where it was put on boats for export to Europe.
mining methods was the pick and shovel method where the above water
sand bars were hand mined and loaded onto barges which were
herded by shallow
water tug boats to the
Drying Works located nearby. Soon the use of suction dredges were put
into use and the mining spread all along the lower Peace River.
soon sold his Arcadia Phosphate Co. to Hammond & Hull of Savannah,
a large fertilizer operation in that city. Moorhead then left Florida
and returned to Pennsylvania, where he developed a phosphate mine
Juanita County, PA and formed the narrow gauge Tuscaroa Valley Rail
& Hull also owned the Charlotte Harbor Phosphate Co. which had
their works at Hull, connecting with the Florida Southern by a short
branch line. Wanting to connect the two plants Hammond
& Hull built a narrow gauge railroad between Arcadia and Hull
around 1890. The railroad served various load outs along the river
where the barges full of pebble would be unloaded and raised to the
railroad and loaded onto ore cars for the journey to the drying Plants
at Arcadia and Hull. Hammond dropped out of the picture around 1890 and
the new firm was known as Comer & Hull.
Peace River Phosphate Co. in the mean time had built a narrow gauge
railroad north of Arcadia to their load-outs along the Peace River.
Like the Comer & Hull operations, the ore was hauled to the drying
plant at Arcadia where it was loaded into the narrow gauge box cars of
the Florida Southern. When the railroad standard gauge its Charlotte
Harbor Division in 1892, both the Peace River Phosphate Co. and Comer
& Hull operations standard gauged their respective railroads.
Joseph Hull of Comer & Hull purchased a half interest in the Peace
River Phosphate Co. about this time.
December of 1894, Joseph Hull consolidated the Arcadia Phosphate
Co., Charlotte Harbor Phosphate Co., Desota Phosphate & Mining Co.
& Peace River Phosphate Co. into the Peace River Phosphate Mining
of New York was one of the fertilizer capitalists (Bradley Fertilzer
Co. (2)) that
LeBaron had first approached about the sand bars but was
rebuffed. In May of 1899 he was involved in the merger of 22
fertilzer companies into the American Agricultral Chemical Co. becoming
vice president & a director of the new corporation.(2). AACC began buying the
stock of the Peace
River Phosphate Mining Co.
beginning in June of 1899 and finishing up in January of 1902.(2)
River Phosphate Mining Company Railroad consisted of a mainline running
from Arcadia to Liverpool. A few short branches connected the railroad
the Florida Southern (later the Plant System in 1896 and the ACL after
1902) at Arcadia, Hull and Liverpool. At Hull was the washing plant
where sand was removed. Liverpool housed the drying plant and barge
loading facilities. A branch running north for about
3 miles upstream from Arcadia served the many load outs along the
A locomotive roster is incomplete as most of the early narrow
gauge locomotives were probably second hand and were sold off by
1892. The only exception was the 0-4-0t from Porter (c/n 1261)
that was built in May of 1891 and was standard gauged in 1892, becoming
Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. #1.
Peace River Phosphate Mining Co. Locomotive
|Porter 1261 5/91
|Original 36" gage-rebuilt to
|Porter 1598 7/95
|To Charlotte Harbor &
Northern (CH&N) # 1
To Southern iron & Equipment Co. (SI&E) # 621
To Weldon Lumber Co. # 5, Weldon, NC 6/28/1909
|unknown - believed to be a 2-8-0
to CH&N # 3
|Baldwin 27256 1/06
|to CH&N # 4
Sold to SI&E # 1280 circa 1917
To Mayo Lumber co. on 5/27/1918
To C.H. Grayson Lumber Co. # 41
To Georgia Car & Locomotive (GC&L) #499
To W.C Sherman # 30 (Packing Crate Company in lake Wales, Fla)
To SI&E # 1888, to Moore Carr Lumber Co., Capitola, Fla 0n 4/21/1924
|second hand to CH&N # 5
the turn of the century the AACC knew that the future lay in Land
Pebble fields of Polk County and a business strategy of continuing the
transport of this phosphate ore to Charlotte Harbor was agreed upon. As
the Land Pebble phosphate production would be much higher then the
River Pebble, an unbroken line of transportation was needed from Pierce
water off of Boca Grande. This would eliminate the trans-loading
into barges at Liverpool. Needing a State Charter they found a ready
made one in the Alafia, Manatee & Gulf Railroad Co. that was
incorporated on June 5, 1897 with a proposed route from Plant City to
Charlotte Harbor. Buying the rights to this paper railroad in 1905 they
quickly increased its capital from 1 million dollars to 2 million, and
then changed its name to the Charlotte Harbor & Northern Railroad.
Around this time the River Pebble had been mined out except for a new
discovery of nearby Land Pebble near Nocatee, which they dredged a
short canal to.They then mined this land area by dredge until it too
played out around 1908 ending the 20 year run of phosphate mining in
the lower Peace River, though the dry storage bins at Liverpool would
operate until 1912. (2)
Now it was time to turn the Peace River
Phosphate Mining Co. RR into the Charlotte Harbor & Northern.
(1) George Peirson email 01/11/2007
(2) Richard Fifer
a Peace River Phosphate Co. dredge barge. On the far right is the boom
holding the dredge hose. Two men on the bridge operate the boom. Below
them is the pump which is connected via the long belt to the vertical
boiler steam engine. The dredge pumps the slurry to the large tub on
top, where the phosphate would sink and the water runs off the top into
the outflow that runs behind the dredge. When the tub is filled, it is
dumped into the ore barge alongside the dredge.
This is a good view of the Peace River Mining Co.'s tug boat. The
bridge is placed high so the skipper can see 360 degrees around him and
also can easier look for any obstructions in the water below. This is
basically a barge with a steam engine and a rear paddle wheel. Note the
horizontal steam boiler and the firewood at the front of the boiler.
Steam is piped to the engine at the rear which drives the big belt and
the large paddle wheel pulley.
This is good
illustration of the loading plants used by the Peace River Phosphate
Co. here a tug is bringing in another barge load of phosphate which
will be shoveled into a conveyor that will raise it to the storage bins
above the railroad track.Here it is dumped into small wet rock cars and
then hauled to the drying plant in Arcadia. Note that the railroad
track is elevated here and the 0-6-0 tank engine with a auxiliary
tender and the use of an idler flat car as the bins will not clear then
Here is another example of a riverside plant. This is the
Desoto Phosphate Co. at Zolfo Springs and there is a direct rail
connection with the Florida Southern as noted by the box cars on the
right. Here an ore car is hand filled and then hauled up the incline by
a donkey engine where it is dumped into the plant where the sand was
removed and then transported to the drying shed where cord wood would
be stack on the bottom and top and set on fire, drying the pebble in
An early company map that appeared in the Official Guides. Note the
original mainline from Arcadia to Liverpool, though the Platt to
Liverpool line has been demoted to a branch line. Note the projected
route north of Pierce direct to Plant City and the Seaboard Air Line.