The Florida Railroad Company Inc.
"Through The Heart Of The Swamp" (TM ) 2003 All Aboard !" Florida Corporation Certificate # P04000018802
Cedar Key 1884.

The Little Train at Mandarin Florida

The St. Johns & Eastern Railroad

The first color picture, a postcard, from Debbie Tillis of Jacksonville Florida, Thanks Debbie

This picture identified the road name, The St. Johns & Eastern Railroad.

postcard

Debbie indicated the following text on the reverse of the postcard:

“Stop and ride the midget Steam Train on Hwy. No. 13, at Mandarin, Fla. 

The St. John’s and Eastern R. R. is 13 miles south of Jacksonville. 

The greatest Train Ride in the world for a dime.  Open Sundays and Holidays.  Mr. and Mrs. E. C. Ward, owners.”

Many years ago at the intersection of State Road 13 and Mandarin Road, children and adults alike delighted in the weekend rides on a small gauge train. Most everyone referred to it simply as the Little Train at Mandarin. With whistles and smoke, it chugged us around its tracks, passing through the woods, around curves, and over small trestles. I can remember making the trip from our home on Ortega Farms Boulevard, to what seemed the other side of the world. This was in the late 1950's well before the Buckman bridge. Sometimes we would go north through town across the Fuller Warren bridge and down San Jose, but a couple of time at least, I remember that we went south through Green Cove Springs and across the old Shands bridge.

I can recall how the old bridge creaked and shuddered as we drove across it. Barely wide enough to pass two cars, there always seemed to be at least one semi trailer that would pass us in the opposite direction. I though for sure we would wind up in the St. Johns river! I had no idea at the time that the river was relatively shallow, and thought it must be very deep. I wondered where in the world they got trees tall enough to make the pilings for that bridge.

According to my recent measurement, from a mapping program, the old Shands bridge, which only remains as portions of the fishing piers now on each side of the river, was approximately 2.3 miles over the water. The present bridge is approximately 1.3 miles in length over the water. Below right is a picture of the old bridge. View is from Orangedale with Green Cove Naval Station to the right

shands bridges

The trip was worth it though when we finally made it safely to Mandarin to my Uncle Alva Gillean's place on Blanche Road. We would all then go to ride the little train. I have never forgotten the fun we had as children, riding the train.

I have begun this project to research information on the Little Train at Mandarin. It was for many years, located and operated on the property at the intersection of SR 13, and Mandarin Road, the present location of the Publix shopping center and former site of the Mandarin Supermarket.

This will be an ongoing project for some time. I especially would like to receive family pictures of visits to the train.

Please understand that by submitting your pictures and stories, you are giving your permission to use them on this website and to promote our efforts. Your information is accepted on a voluntary contribution basis and is not being solicited for monetary compensation to you. I trust that the memories and publicity for you and your family will be sufficient! If you scan the pictures yourself, and they are from actual photographs, please scan them at a resolution of 150 dpi, 24 bit depth if color, 8 bit grayscale if b/w, and send them to the email address below. The default scanner setting of 75 dpi is OK for newspaper or printed pictures, but does not provide enough detail from actual photographs.

post card of bridge

I am hoping that readers may be able to help me in making contact with anyone that may have pictures and or stories about the train. There should be many long time residents that remember the little train, have pictures and or memories. If any readers have particular memories or stories that they have time to write down,  I would welcome them. Readers are asked to contact their families and inquire about any pictures that any of them might have of the train. I will gladly place their name(s) on this page in return. If you can think on anyone that may have pictures, please let me know via email. Any and all detail will be greatly appreciated!

The name of the line was the St. Johns & Eastern Railroad. Copy and use the address from the image below. (Not Clickable) Please send responses to:

Responses

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30 second clip from 1957 8MM film, courtesy of Valerie Westbrook Bennet. Clip shows Valerie; her brother Jeff Westbrook.

Please contact us if you recognize any one else in the video

Pictures from Les Williams - Jacksonville Florida.

Picturesfrom Bobby and Pam (Wendorph) Bethel- Jacksonville Florida.

Pictures from Ron Rockwood - Rockledge Florida.

Pictures from the Mandarin Museum & Historical Society.

Pictures from Steve Shad - Jacksonville Florida.

Pictures from Bill Morrow - Jacksonville Florida.

Pictures from Frank Nacarato - Winter Haven Florida.

Comments from Melissa Crosby Trawick.

Comments from Shelly Davis.

Comments from Anita Meide Wolfe.

Comments from Susan McLeod.

Pictures from Joe Gray, Cary NC

Comments from Diane Roberts - Ft. Lupton, CO.

Comments from Janet Qureshi.

Comments from David M. Blumberg

Original Rail Spikes Donated by Frank H. Wilson II.

Comments from Nancy Killabrew McKoy