All images are from the Drew Collection and the Florida Photographic Collection
at the Florida State Archives of Tallahassee, Florida

Suwannee & San pedro RR # 3 with first train between Live Oak & Perry in 1903. This old Baldwin was purchased used from the Northern Pacific RR by the Drew Lumber Co. in the 1890's. The passenger cars are ex-narrow gauge cars from the Plant System, note the 3/4 size bodies and that the trucks are as wide as the bodies of the cars. Also note the sand ballast, which was used by railroads in Florida during this era.

    When we last left the Drew Lumber Co. they had just took over the Suwannee & San Pedro Railroad's charter. This happened on July 1, 1899 but they quickly amended the charter 20 days later extending the route from Live Oak to Mayo, Perry and Deadman's Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. For their $35,000 in stock, the Drew Lbr. Co. provided 800 tons of 35 and 40 pound steel rail and their two logging locomotives, #1 a 33 ton Baldwin 2-6-0 and #3 a 50 ton Baldwin 4-4-0.

    With the threat of the Live Oak & Gulf RR expanding across the Suwannee River to Mayo the S&SP decided to build from the river to Mayo first. Construction would begin in May of 1900 directly opposite of the LO&G's terminal at Peek, with all equipment and material being barged across the 100 yard wide river. Construction was completed by July 3rd but regular service on the line was never attempted, though occasional trains were run from time to time. In July surveys were being made for the route to Live Oak and for a suitable location for a draw bridge across the river. By November the S&SP had signed a lease with the LO&G for trackage and terminal rights into Live Oak.

    Tragedy struck the Drew Family on September 27, 1900 when ex-Governor George F. Drew died, from heart break a few hours after his own wife had died. This event propelled the youngest son Frank Drew full steam into the railroad project, dragging his older brother George L Drew along. Frank began in earnest to find funding for the S&SP and because of an event that happen at the beginning of 1901 he was able to find it.

    The event was the failure of the Tallahassee & Southeastern RR to build a route from Tallahassee to the Suwannee River by the end of 1899, thus defaulting on its charter and opening up large amounts of State lands in Taylor and Laffayete Counties that had been pledged as a land grant. The State offered these lands for sale in 1901 and  many lumber companies including the Drew Lumber Co. were purchasing these lands for logging. Now a railroad was needed to exploit this landfall and the Drew's were in the pole position for the race. Now all they needed was a financial suitor to jump start the construction.

    That suitor was the Seaboard Air Line RR's president Skelton Williams, which had just purchased the Florida Central & Peninsular RR and would be the primary carrier to move the lumber to Jacksonville's ports. After all they saw the following prospectus on the route of the S&SP: 785 million feet of virgin Yellow Pine near the mainline, 283 million feet on spurs, 2.68 million railroad ties, 300 thousand barrels of turpentine, 900 thousand barrels of rosin and 100 million feet of virgin cypress. Yes there was plenty of money to be made transporting this wooden wealth from the S&SP to the ports and mills around Jacksonville and the Seaboard had the best direct route.

    So Skelton Williams and his Baltimore banker J.W. Middendorf decided to court Frank Drew and his S&SP and they quickly hammered out a bond financing agreement which would advance cash per mile built using the bonds as collateral, with two stipulations that all drafts be drawn on the International Trust Co. so that the backers could not be traced and that the S&SP sign a preferred connection agreement with the Seaboard. They quickly received a check for that portion already built and construction began in earnest. The first order of business was reconstructing the original mainline to the new river crossing which was suitable for the used drawbridge they had purchased for $15,500. The grading on the east side of the river between Wilmarth (named after business associate Thomas Wilmarth, who was the first Chairman and President of the S&SP) and Stokely Junction on the Live Oak & Gulf was completed on May 8, 1901.

This photo of the Drew Bridge was taken by myself in 1986. Bought jointly by Laffayette &
Suwannee Counties for possible use as a road bridge, its been sitting in undisturbed in the open
position since 1920. A recent photo by a friend in the area shows little change. This bridge is
operated by a crank in the middle of the span.

A close up of the turntable like detail of the Drew Bridge.

    The road from Stokley Jct. to Mayo was officially opened on January 1st, 1902.  At that time they had the two ex-logging locomotives, ten flatcars and three boxcars purchased from the American Equipment Co. and the four converted narrow gauge passenger cars from the Plant System. A rate agreement was made with the Plant System (soon to be Atlantic Coast Line) and the Seaboard sent over a preferred connection agreement to Frank Drew. But Frank Drew also had to look out for both family businesses, thought the lumber rates to much in favor of the Seaboard and refused to sign the agreement and tried to negotiate a better deal.

A better look at the ex-Plant System narrow gauge cars converted with standard gauge trucks. Its unknown what roads these cars ran on, as the Plant System took over many narrow gauge roads in Florida. More than likely these are ex-Florida Southern cars as that was the closest conversion at that date.

    Meanwhile the S&SP continued it assault west of Mayo reaching the Fenhollway River by June of 1902 with only 3.5 miles remaining to reach Perry, which was projected by the end of October. Then the negotiations with Seaboard broke down and railcars loaded with construction material began to get lost. This only worked to make the Drews more determined to stand up for their rights against the larger railroad. Then in October Middenorf sold their loan to the Southern Investment Co., a Seaboard controlled company. They also purchased the loans of the Live Oak & Gulf and was determined to merge both of companies into one. They also complained that the Drews must sign the prefered connection agreement with Seaboard. To force the Drews to sign they had the LO&G cancel their lease agreement locking them out of Live Oak.

A couple of photos showing Suwannee & San Pedro construction.

    In the meantime, the Drews explored different finacing options, but could get no bank to loan them the money to complete the line into Perry. They then decided to use their Drew Lumber Co.'s good credit and finished the line into Perry sometime around April of 1903. To counter the Southern Investment Co., they announce they would build a new line into Live Oak bypassing the LO&G and connecting only with the Plant System. This forced the Southern Investment Co. to call a meeting to discuss this and the Seaboard problem, the only tangible result was a new trackage right agreement over the LO&G.

    Then the Drews decided to strike back at the Seaboard, if they wouldn't negotiate a fair rate division on lumber to Jacksonville, they would build their own railroad to the Atlantic port. Thus the St. Marys, Suwannee & Gulf RR was born in February of 1903 to build from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, paralleling Seaboard's route. The first stroke was the beginning of negotiations to buy the Tallahassee & Southeastern which ran from Tallahassee to Wacissa, thirty miles west of Perry. This did not bear fruit as they wasted too much time and Seaboard knowing what was afoot purchased the T&SE before the S&SP could find the funding to do so.

    On May 1st, 1904 the Alton Branch Ry. was put in operation between Mayo (Alton Jct.) to Alton. This 2.5 mile branch was built by the Drew Lumber Co. to reach the large sawmill being built at Half Moon Lake (Lake Alton). The shops of the S&SP was constructed at Alton and was used by both the railroad and lumber company. The town of Alton was named to honor their late father's birth place in New Hampshire. Also in May an agreement between the Southern Investment Co. and the S&SP was reached selling the LO&G to the S&SP for $47,800. This ended the need for a lease to reach their terminal in Live Oak.

Three photos showing the construction of the Alton sawmill on halfmoon Lake.

    However due to the need of Drew Lumber Co.'s cash to complete the road to Perry and to purchase the LO&G, relations between the two brothers were strained and by the beginning of 1905 the two parted ways. Frank Drew kept his railroad and George Drew returned to his business interests in Jacksonville which included the Upchurch Lumber Co. This meant the selling of the mill being constructed in Alton which was sold to the Georgia-Florida Mill Co. of Tifton, Ga, which was run by the Tift lumbermen family. A few years later this mill would go to arch enemies of the Drews, the Dowling Lumber Co. which owned the competing Live Oak Perry & Gulf. After the Dowlings it was sold to the Sears' Standard Lumber Co. of Sears and Roebuck fame. Around the same time in 1905 Williams and Middenorf were forced out of Seaboard and they began assembling shortlines in Georgia for the Georgia & Florida RR. The Suwannee and San pedro was still in their plans to join their new company but the Frank Drew would never give in.

The standard Flagstop depot.

Using the measurements below, this is the 18x40' Fenholloway freight station.

    The Suwannee & San Pedro RR of early 1905 consisted of a 52 mile mainline between Live Oak and Perry. Most of the LO&G was abandond except for the section needed to get into Live Oak and a short section in Luraville. A new 4.5 mile branch between the Luraville section and the mainline at Wilmarth was constructed. Their was also the Alton Branch Ry of 2.5 miles between Alton Jct. and Alton which also included the railroad shops. A few miles west of Mayo was the Econofina Branch which ran 2 miles from San Pedro Jct. to the end of the track. This was the unfinished mainline to Deadman's Bay. While this branch was never listed in employee timetables and never had regular service, fishing excursions were run to the Econafina River from time to time. The maxium grade was 1 percent and this was chiefly on the two hills just out of Live Oak which had to be doubled on a regular basis because of their small and ancient 4-4-0s. A 7,000 gallon water tank was located at the Drew bridge over the Suwannee complete with a Fairbanks-Morris gas pump drawing spring water. Two syphon stations were provided at the Calhoun and Fenholloway Rivers. Flag stations were provided at Lanier, Kirkland, Wilmarth, Norwood and Carlton, all to a standard 17x20' wood frame design. Their were three regular stations, a 40x58' passenger and freight station at Mayo, a 30x132' passenger and freight station at Perry and a 18x40' freight station at Fenholloway. The S&SP used the Union Station at Live Oak. The shops at Alton consisted of a machine shop, blacksmith shop, foundry, car shed and company houses for employees. In 1905 a third locomotive was added, probally obtained from the LO&G. The  5 spot was a 55 ton NY Locomotive Works (Rome) 4-4-0. Note that the Drew's used only odd numbers for their locomotives, which through me for a loop at first as I was searching for numbers 2 and 4 for several years before I realize their system. The Florida Ry would later add a number 7, a Baldwin built 4-4-0 bought from the Atlantic Coast Line late in 1905.

A blueprint map by the Cheif Engineer, R.N. Ellis, showing the final route of the Suwannee & San Pedro.

    Durring late 1904 and early 1905 Frank Drew and his railroad partners toyed with another company, the Western Peninsular RR that was projected to build from Valdosta to Tampa, and which was chartered and would have recieved a very large land grant if built. They merged the S&SP into this company (on paper only) to see if they could recieve a partial land grant using the rail line already built but this failed to impress the Florida Internal Improvement Fund and no land grants were forthcoming. So in June of 1905 he incoorporated the Florida Railway and in August of the same year he merged the Suwannee & San Pedro, the Live Oak & Gulf and the Alton Branch Ry into the Florida Ry. The battle cry was Jacksonville and Fernandina or bust..............................

to be continued in Part III- The Life and the Death of The Florida Ry.

To Part 3- Florida Railway