Porter built 0-4-2T Steam Dummy pulling an ex-Florida
Southern narrow gauge coach
that has been re-gauged to standard. This
is a good look at the inner
workings of a Porter Dummy, the special box cab, along
with other special features kept
these locomotives as silent as possible, to
avoid scaring horses on the streets. (Hensley Collection)
The Silver Springs & Western (SS&W) was a
true "Ghost Railroad" as very little is known or has survived about
this little line.
Bare with me as I piece together a history of this tiny ghost
using what information I could dig up using my notes and the internet.
to connect the Florida Southern (Plant System) at Ocala, Florida with Herbert L. Anderson's
development six miles east at
the popular resort at Silver Springs. Construction began in 1895 in Ocala, with
to build the road as an electric railway, but as the
wanted to keep costs low with no public funding, it was very slow
going. By January of 1901 the railway was finally put through to Silver
Springs, but they had purchased an used steam dummy to
provide the motive power for this tiny tramway instead of electric
trolleys. The rails were very
light, no heavier than 25 pounds to the yard, so the Porter built Dummy
was a perfect fit, but I suspect it caused a lot of double takes, as it
must have appeared that the passenger car was pulling the engine. Built
from near the intersection of Osceloa and Wyomina or Third Street in
railroad first curved East, then North, before following the Florida
Central & Peninsular to Silver Springs Junction and Silver
Above is a
Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Ocala (University of Florida) Ocala
facilities of the Silver Springs & Western consisted of the car
shed which housed the Dummy with its ex Florida Southern narrow gauge
coach, that was rebuilt by the Plant System to standard gauge. A
warehouse was connected to the car shed, while a freight house with
a large loading platform connected with the other buildings.
the above map doesn't show a physical connection with either the Plant
System or the FC&P, it was not needed as the only
shipped was trans-loaded to and from steamboats at Silver Springs.
Passengers transferring from either the Plant System or FC&P
easily walk from both nearby depots.
The index of Sanborn Fire Insurance map of Ocala
(University of Florida) give a general view of the railroads in Ocala,
though the Silver Springs & Western had to be added by me.
This aerial from 1942 (University of Florida)
railroads location at Silver Springs Junction, note that the
never had a wye here, Southbound trains backed down to Silver Springs
while Northbound trains pulled in but backed out. The SS&W
was still visible after 30 plus years. The FC&P grade to Silver
Springs was also visible after 20 years of abandonment.
This 1942 aerial (University of Florida) shows
that the Silver Springs and Western entered the Silver Springs area
from the West and then curved around the West shore of the springs. The
FC&P entered from the Northwest and touched the North end of
springs. The Ocklawaha Lumber Co./Silver Springs Lumber Co./E.P. Rentz
& Sons complex North of the Springs came in about 1900, these
their related Ocala Northern Railroad (Ocklawaha Valley RR) will be
discussed next month. The SS&W had no physical
here as freight was offloaded at the FC&P/Steamboat depot and
carried over to their tracks.
The FC&P depot at Silver Springs (from the
shown here with the Hart's Line Okeehumkee at the dock. An FC&P
car is spotted at the depot (see closeup below) for loading. The
SS&W track is very visible on the left, which ends by the small
building. The SS&W would spot either their small flat car or
car here for loading.
A nice view of the end detail of an FC&P box car. The small
door had a dual purpose and could be used to help vent the car for
vegetable and fruit service or for loading long pieces of lumber which
would be hard to load trough the door.
SS&W ended at this spot, which makes one wonder if the little
building was owned or rented to the little road. The side track of the
SS&W is hidden by fence.
Springs & Western boxcar can be seen in this view of Silver
(from the Smithsonian). The car is behind the small building seen above
so the SS&W had a second track at this location. (See
Springs and Western's only box car, note the small window to help light
the interior. Here we can see the track from the other view, but it has
now has a very homebuilt bumper post.
Here we see
the Dummy with its coach at the spring. ( from the Florida
Photographic Archives) The boat houses that were owned by
Anderson and Martin are on the far left. The crystal clear springs were
a great attraction as it was possible to see all the way to the bottom
and the tourist were fascinated with watching the very visible aquatic
life including alligators and snakes.
another view of the Dummy at Silver Springs (courtesy of the Florida
State Photographic Archives). Note the very low tech flat car on the
right. The small wheels and lack of truss-rods would limit
load to a couple of tons. This side track is the same one
the box car was on and may have been the only siding on the railroad.
There were no turning or runaround facilities on this road,
train backed to Ocala, the coach always entering the car shed first.
The freight cars would be coupled to the front of the engine and pulled
to Ocala and pushed towards Silver Springs.
Researching the Silver Springs & Western was
a chore and a half. Very little can be found using the standard
research sources. I have yet to find a schedule in either a newspaper
or Official Guide. I found one entry in an equipment register, where I
did confirm the gauge as standard, but it only listed the single engine
and 1 car (the coach), no box or flat car as pictured here. The were no
listings in Poor's Manual of Railways as the company was privately
owned with no publicly traded mortgages. Local newspaper
very little news about the line. One newspaper mentioned that
was called "The Vinegar Route" which I'm still scratching my
over. Was this an in-jest or did they actually haul vinegar from
There was a short history of the road in "Ocali
Country" where it mentioned that the Plant System tore out it's switch
with the road when the SS&W began carrying freight between
Springs (via Jacksonville & Palatka from riverboats) and Ocala
cheaper rate, but I can not imagine that this is even remotely true. It
would have been the Florida Central & Peninsular who would have
been hurt by this traffic, not the Plant System. But the
was no threat to either of these big roads. None the less the
defaulted on its local bank issued loans around 1902 and Anderson was
placed by the courts as receiver. Its impossible to even guess when the
SS&W turned it's last wheel. According to State of
Comptroller reports, taxes were accessed on the line from 1901 to 1909.
I would say by 1905 the road was dead.
However by November 6th, 1905 the E.P. Rentz
& Sons had purchased the Silver Springs Lumber Co. and was
his logging line north towards Fort McCoy. On December 12th of 1909 he
had decided to incorporate his logging road as the Ocala Northern and
he needed an entrance to Ocala. In March of that year he purchased the
SS&W from Anderson, thus officially ending the life of this
road. As the SS&W was in such bad shape with the light rails
rotting ties, Rentz decided to take up an offer he had from the
Seaboard Air Line to lease and operate the Silver Springs branch to the
Junction along with trackage rights into Ocala, using the depot and
yards. This saved Rentz and the Ocala Northern from rebuilding the
SS&W and gave them a good relationship with Seaboard.
We will look at the Ocala
Northern and Ocklawaha Valley next