Tampa & Thonotosassa R.R.

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I was recently studying some old real estate maps of Tampa and I saw a reference to a line called the Tampa & Thonotosassa Railroad. Now, I had always seen this track as referenced as part of the ACL. Was this a company such as the Tampa Northern Railroad, or was that a blurb on the mapmaker's part? Also, what year were these tracks pulled up? Thanks in advance-- Lyle Lamboley

-- Lyle Lamboley (lamboley@earthlink.net), January 21, 2001


Having been raised under that pile of dirt where I 75 crosses Harney Road,I can give you some information.But without digging it up I am not sure of the dates the tracks were removed,canal built etc.I was working in Sanford,Fl for the SCL in the mid-70's and not home.All of my brothers house is buried,part of my mothers land was taken (both for the canal and interstate)and my old house (built in 1963)lies at the bottom of an approach today. I am sure that the line was not removed until after the merger.I have pictures of Royal American Shows train on the line in the late 60's.

-- J.Oates (jlosal@mindspring.com), August 06, 2003.

When I first saw the old railbed along U.S. 301 as a kid riding in the car up to Crystal Springs in the early 1980's, it seemed to me the railroad had been gone a long time. After looking at old topo maps and learning more about the ACL/SAL merger, I came to realize this line was probably torn up earlier than the merger, sometime around 1965, as the ACL had shifted traffic over through Uceta to Plant City. The branch up to Thonotosassa survived until around 1974, when as mentioned the bypass canal was built, and Seaboard did not want to invest the money into a new bridge for a light-density spur line. Interestingly enough, the last 1/4 mile of the rail line existed from the Sligh overpass, almost up to Harney road until around 1986- though it was heavily choked with weeds and never used.

There also was that branch that went from this line, near 78th street, north across Bullard Parkway near the storage shed place, turned west and crossed the Hillsborough River, Riverhills Drive, past Greco Middle School and City hall, and over to the brewery. This branch I wonder when it was built (I know it was torn out around 1965- 1970 also), and if there are any pictures of it? The trestle leading to the Hillsborough River is clearly visible just east of Riverhills Drive in north Temple Terrace, as is the old railbed north of Bullard Parkway (fenced off and used as some kind of service access road). South of Bullard, it's obvious the line has been gone for decades though you can barely make it out, very tree-choked. When was the line torn out from near city hall? On 56th street, you can see where the line used to cross, as the median has cement missing from where the rails once went across the road. Until around 1990 there actually were well-painted railroad crossbuck warning lines in the roadway on 53rd street, 52nd, 51st and 50th, with an obvious hump at 50th street where the line used to go. Now, it's MOSI property, an apartment complex, and school.

Update on this line, the rails have now been removed from near MOSI and the one factory/plant, all the way down to the Busch Gardens Wye. The warning signals on 46th street were gone around 1987; and now on McKinley this past year. This line had sat there under a couple feet of sand and dirt for years; possibly they were hoping a new industry would move in and require rail service. Busch Gardens, after closing the brewery in December 1995, removed the rails in 1996 and 1997; the Bougainvillea crossing was finally paved over this year and signals removed.

-- justin scheidt (jscheidt@geol.sc.edu), August 06, 2003.

When the ACL ran its Railroad Rambles in the 1960s, one popular destination was Busch gardens, which in those days was little more than pretty plants and a trained bird show as part of the plant tour. I was at the University of South Florida, basically across the street from the Tampa Industrial Park where Busch, Thatcher Glass, and several other industries were located. There was a track serving the park on the north side that ran between the SAL and the ACL's Thonotosassa Branch. I rode my bike over to watch a twenty-car train behind three E-units come in from the branch and back down the wye at the Busch plant. I think the ACL had to run the train two week-ends in a row, as the first had sold out so fast and demand was so great. Imagine- two thousand people wanting to ride a train from Orlando to a brewery! Imagine a long streamlined train on the T&T! This was about 1

-- Larry Brennan (lpbrennan@aol.com), April 03, 2001.

I remember the trestle across US 301 quite well; I was a kid riding in the family car in 1974, but that was the only time I saw it. Since I live in Tampa, I travel a lot in that area, and the line is indeed still active serving industry up there. The tracks end right at Sligh Ave., where an overpass was built in 1954 for the ACL's free passage. It's safe to assume that the line was fairly busy to justify an overpass for auto traffic. I suspect that the line was pulled up at about the same time that the Tampa Bypass Canal was cut through the area, which was about 1975. Those aerial photo maps from 1972 or thereabouts showed the line in full action; as a matter of fact, a train can be discerned crossing the trestle on the Hillsborough near the state park! The story of the original T&T is also fascinating, and would justify an HO layout with a 4-4-0 pulling some combine. As you can see, the wheels in my head are turning... Thanks for all of the information, guys. Cheers, Lyle Lamboley

-- Lyle Lamboley (lamboley@earthlink.net), January 22, 2001.

The Tampa & Thonotosassa RR, 13.2 miles long, was one of those rare railroads which actually operated just between the towns in it's name. The T&T opened in 1895, being financed by the Plant System, and used Plant System rolling stock. It was leased to the Plant(SF&W) in January 1900. The Plant was taken in by the ACL in July 1902. If, as Troy says above, the Tampa end of the line is still in operation, then some of the T&T still "lives".

-- Tom Underwood (tlunder@attglobal.net), January 22, 2001.

It was definetly not part of tampa northern, that became part of the SAL... i have never heard of that railroad, but that line is most likely what became the ACL's Tampa - Zephryhills line, which ran through temple terrace, thonotosassa and zephryhills running right along US 301 most of the way on the way to the ACL mainline intersection near VITIS, FL. Part of this route is still in service as a branch line on the tampa end, the track ends east of 56th street at Harney Road. Servicing many industries there near hillsborough ave and 56th street, heavy industrial area, cememt plants, etc... On the eastern end, there may be a little bit active as well, not sure, have not been there in some time... Im not sure exactly when the line from harney - vitis was abandoned and removed. I can vaguely remember as a kid (being from that area) them removing the steel railbridge over US 301 at morris bridge road around 1983/84. It may have been before this however, as the line was gone PRIOR to the I-75 extention being built, as there is not a provision for an overpass of the line, in fact this MAY have been WHY the line was abandoned... anyone else care to speculate. The abandoned line is still clearly visible, ESPECIALLY IN WINTER and i believe there are some smaller tressles that may have survived.

-- troy nolen (kirkwood@gdn.net), January 21, 2001.

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