The Martel Lumber Company and the Ocala & Southwestern RR

By Donald R. Hensley, Jr.

Martel Lumber Co. 240
Martel Lumber Co. # 240, March, 1912

The pine lands southwest of Ocala, Florida were a hotbed of activity starting around the turn of the century. This started when three friends from North Carolina had purchased a large amount of land to run their forest based businesses. Walter Ray and Daniel Clark had arrived in the area around 1900 where they both started up turpentine gathering and stills, while William Johnson stayed behind the scenes in Valdosta and later Atlanta where he handled the sales. Most of their land holdings were southwest of Ocala, and the nearest railhead was at the small village of Martel on the old Silver Springs, Ocala & Gulf (Atlantic Coast Line) mainline that ran between Ocala and Dunnellon.

I have yet to find a concrete date for the start of the sawmill, but they bought a locomotive from the Southern Iron & Equipment Company in 1905 and a 1902 sawmill directory did not list their mill at Martel, so we can deduce that the mill was put up sometime between 1903-1905. The mill was a small one, only 40,000 feet of yellow pine daily, complete with a planning mill.

They built a tram road south into their timberlands, at first only eleven miles long. Before operations ended over 33 miles of track was laid, using at least two locomotives at one time and over 15 logging flats. This railroad at first headed north from Martel before looping back to the south and crossing the ACL as it headed into the pine lands south of Martel. The log camp was located at the end of this eleven mile run where a wye was located to turn the trains for the return back. This camp was called “Tank”.  Eventually two separate branch lines were pushed further south along parallel lines to new logging areas. Another short branch to turpentine still was built east from the wye.

Click this link for a map of all the trackage.

Martel Lumber Co. 245
Martel Lumber  # 245, December 1918

Rising railroad rates forced the lumber company to form their own short line, the Ocala and Southwestern Railroad Company on August 7, 1909. The plan was to build northeast from the turpentine camp to Ocala where they had the choice of using the Seaboard Air Line as well as the ACL and Ocala Northern/Georgia Southern & Florida. This competition lowered the shipping rates for the sawmill. Construction soon followed and the railroad was in operation by June 10, 1910 but it was on August 29,  1910 when the Railroad Commission of Florida set their freight and passenger rates. The railroad however never had any passenger service, except for the free rides for sawmill and turpentine workers. The O&SW only owned the six miles from Ocala to Ray, where the turpentine still camp was located. The railroad operated under contract from the Walter Ray Company the six miles between Ray and Tank before turning north using trackage rights over the Martel Lumber Company rails to Martel. The cost of building and equipping the railroad was under $40,000 and they employed 8 men to maintain the roadway.  The rest of the employees included two engineers and firemen and only one conductor.  Most of the traffic was forest products, though they did carry some agricultural and merchandise, mostly for the commissaries at Martel, Tank and Ray. From 1916-1917 phosphate was mined and hauled to Ocala.

The Martel Lumber Company cut out in 1919 and soon sold the mill to the Hanbury Lumber Company on December 31, 1919. Hanbury owned pine lands next to the Martel land  and kept the mill in operation until the end of 1921, when the closed and scrapped the mill and moved to the former West & Reeves mill in Inverness, Fla. The turpentine operations had ended at Ray and the Ocala & Southwestern found itself with no traffic at all.  On August 31, 1922, the Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that the O&SW could abandon their six mile railroad to Ray, no objections were filed.

Ocala @ Southwestern # 101
Ocala & Southwestern # 101, August 1910


No.                  Type   Date Bought Builder                                  Purchased From

MLC 237        2-6-0    7/25/1905        Rogers 16x22                          from SI&E 345, to GC&L 105

MLC 238        2-6-0    6/29/1908        Baldwin #2592 10/71 17x24  from SI&E 623

MLC 239        4-6-0    2/22/1910        Rogers 2816 9/81 18x24         from GC&L 98

O&SW 101     4-4-0    6/14/1910        Rogers 1752 7/1870 16x24    from GC&L 109, too small, returned

O&SW 101     4-6-0    8/1910             Danforth/Cooke 1181  /’80     from GC&L 99

MLC 240        4-6-0    3/13/1912        Baldwin  #8657 7/’87             from SI&E 748

O&SW 102     4-6-0    2/6/1914          Rogers                                     from SI&E 929 ex Bunker-Culler Lbr Co.3

MLC 245        4-6-0    12/19/18          Brooks                                     from SI&E 1360 ex Dunavant & Gunter 80


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