The “Celestial Railroad”

The Jupiter and Lake Worth Railroad which was often referred to as the "Celestial Railroad", was a short, narrow-gauge track built on the Eastern coast of Florida between its namesake towns.

In the Southeastern portion of Florida during the early days (prior to the FEC Railroad as we know it today) was not easily traversed.

Since the Intracoastal waterway didn’t exist in it’s entirety and there were coral reefs just offshore, travel to this area was daunting to say the least.

In the early years, Northern newspapers would advertise fishing and hunting expeditions in our warm tropical climate.

Steamships would carry passengers down the Indian River from Titusville to the “end of the line” in Jupiter. Traveling further South would require an uncomfortable stagecoach ride on unpaved “paths”; and such the Jupiter and Lake Worth Railroad was born.

The Jupiter and Lake Worth Railroad which was often referred to as the “Celestial Railroad”, was a short, narrow-gauge track (about 3′ wide) that was built on the Eastern coast of Florida between its namesake towns. Construction of the railroad began in 1888, and operations started in 1889.

The railroad was referred to as the “Celestial Railroad” with its four stations named Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Juno. Venus and Mars were only loading platforms. Juno was eight miles South of Jupiter and was located on the Northern tip of Lake Worth.

There were no other settlements between Jupiter and Lake Worth, but everyone was hopeful of the railways success. In total the railroad covered 7 miles. The stations from North to South were:

  • Jupiter (mile 0)
  • Venus (mile 3)
  • Mars (mile 5)
  • Lake Worth in Juno (mile 7.5)

When the railway finally opened, nearly 100 residents showed up for the grand opening and were given a free train ride the length of the line. The trip from Jupiter to Juno took about a half-hour and the line ran three trips a day.

Once the wood burning locomotive reached Lake Worth (actually the Northern trip in Juno), it had to go backwards the whole seven and a half miles since there was no way for it turn around.

At the “end of the line”, the railroad connected with the Lake Worth Transportation Company where it’s steamships connected passengers to the up and coming towns located South of that location.

Henry Flagler (owner of the Florida East Coast Railway) needed the little rail line to deliver materials for the Royal Poinciana Hotel in Palm Beach; however, Flagler felt that they had charged him too much for their service. At the time the Celestial Railway was charging .10 per mile ($.75 for the entire trip). Equivalent to twice the price of a Brightline ticket today from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. (~$38.00).

Just after it opened, Flagler tried to purchase the line. When unsuccessful, he decided to build a parallel line approximately 1.5 miles West of the Celestial Railroad which ultimately forced the Celestial Railroad out of business. After completing his FEC railway, the Celestial Railway was out of business after only 6 short years.

When the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) finished building it’s line, the need for the steamships and the Celestial Line no longer existed. The Jupiter and Lake Worth Railway was finally abandoned by June 1896.

Boats were eventually able to make the entire journey without the aid of rail or coach when a canal was dug between the two waterways that the railroad connected which is now part of the Intracoastal Waterway.

In the image at the top of the page you will see the Engineer Blus Reis and his hunting dog Blue. Most sources agree the Blus could play Dixie on the single note steam whistle while his passengers sang along. It’s said he would “rent out” Blue to passengers wanting to hunt. He would drop off them off along the route and pick them up on a return trip.

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