Last Train to Paradise

Last Train to Paradise

Henry Flagler and the Building of the Railroad That Crossed the Ocean

Book - 2002
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Random House, Inc.
Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.

In 1904, the brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler, partner to John D. Rockefeller and the true mastermind behind Standard Oil, concocted the dream of a railway connecting the island of Key West to the Florida mainland, crossing a staggering 153 miles of open ocean—an engineering challenge beyond even that of the Panama Canal.

“The financiers considered the project and said, Unthinkable. The engineers pondered the problems and from all came one verdict, Impossible. . . .” But build it they did, and the railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for twenty-two years. Once dismissed as “Flagler’s Folly,” it was heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”—until a will even greater than Flagler’s rose up in opposition. In 1935, a hurricane of exceptional force, which would be dubbed “the Storm of the Century,” swept through the tiny islands, killing some 700 residents and workmen and washing away all but one sixty-foot section of track, on which a 320,000-pound railroad engine stood and “gripped its rails as if the gravity of Jupiter were pressing upon it.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of this storm to terrifying life.

In spinning his saga of the railroad’s construction, Standiford immerses us in the treacherous world of the thousands of workers who beat their way through infested swamps, lived in fragile tent cities on barges anchored in the midst of daunting stretches of ocean, and suffered from a remarkable succession of three ominous hurricanes that killed many and washed away vast stretches of track. Steadfast through every setback, Flagler inspired a loyalty in his workers so strong that even after a hurricane dislodged one of the railroad’s massive pilings, casting doubt over the viability of the entire project, his engineers refused to be beaten. The question was no longer “Could it be done?” but “Can we make it to Key West on time?” to allow Flagler to ride the rails of his dream.

Last Train to Paradise celebrates this crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition, a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath.

Baker & Taylor
Describes the efforts of ambitious entrepreneur Henry Flagler to construct a railway that would connect Key West to the mainland, from the design and engineering of the project to the 1935 hurricane that destroyed the railway.

Book News
The story of the crazy idea to build a railroad over open ocean in the Florida Keys, its completion, and its complete destruction 22 years later in a hurricane is well told by author and Florida resident Standiford. Though the central protagonist is the oil tycoon Henry Flagler, who was a pivotal figure in the development of Florida's coast, Standiford never loses sight of the experience of the railroad's less well-known engineers and workers. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Blackwell North Amer
Last Train To Paradise is novelist Les Standiford's fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad - one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.

Baker
& Taylor

Describes the remarkable and challenging efforts of ambitious entrepreneur Henry Flagler to construct a railway that would connect Key West to the mainland, following the design and engineering of the project, the thousands of workers who brought Flagler's vision to life, and the 1935 hurricane that destroyed the railway. 50,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York : Crown Publishers, 2002
ISBN: 9780609607480
0609607480
Branch Call Number: 385.0975 FLAGL STAND
Additional Contributors: Flagler, Henry Morrison 1830-1913

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