Category Archives: Florida East Coast Railway

Brightline higher-speed passenger trains to launch week of Jan. 8

Brightline said Thursday it will begin introductory service of its higher-speed passenger trains the week of January 8 — but the company did not release train schedules or ticket prices.

The initial service will run between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The MiamiCentral train station is scheduled to be ready within three months.

Parent company All Aboard Florida originally expected the $3 billion Brightline project would launch between Miami and West Palm Beach in the summer. Then it would extend to Orlando by 2020.

A variety of legal, financial and environmental challenges delayed the ambitious project in recent years.

When full service begins on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, Brightline expects to run 16 round trips per day between MiamiFort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach with a travel time of about 30 minutes between each station.

When service is extended to Orlando, Brightline officials estimate the entire trip will take three hours.


Florida East Coast Railway and Santa once again deliver Christmas gifts to Children by Rail

Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway’s 8th annual Christmas Train was a huge success again this year.

FEC employees, customers and suppliers together raised $370,000 in donations to buy over 24,000 toys for distribution to children in need living in the communities along the network that FEC serves.  The toys were distributed in partnership with the local Toys for Tots programs managed by the United States Marine Corps.

Santa and his FEC “elves” boarded the festively decorated Christmas Train, which departed from Jacksonville in the early hours of December 9th. The special train made eight stops along the 351-mile route to Miami. By the end of the day, over 1,600 children received a special gift from Santa as he visited with each of them personally to hear their Christmas wishes.

“We are extremely proud of the results from this year’s Christmas train,” said FEC President & CEO, Jim Hertwig. “It is because of this compassionate giving that so many children along the Florida East Coast Railway network will wake up Christmas morning with a gift from Santa.”

The Christmas Train is a 501c3 non-profit and is a favorite tradition among the FECR family and its suppliers and customers. FEC gives special thanks to all who donated this year.

“This is just one way we give back to the communities where we live and work,” said Hertwig. “We thank everyone who made this event possible.”

About Florida East Coast Railway
Florida East Coast Railway is a 351-mile freight rail system located along the east coast of Florida and is the exclusive rail provider for PortMiami, Port Everglades, and Port of Palm Beach.  FEC connects to the national railway system in Jacksonville, Florida, to move cargo originating or terminating there. Based in Jacksonville, Florida, FEC provides end-to-end intermodal solutions to customers who demand cost-effective and premium quality.  For more information, visit

Can the Treasure Coast coexist with Brightline passenger rail? We shall see

From FEC Railway

After several years of false hope — fueled primarily by bureaucratic delays at the federal level and the rail company’s inability to secure financing — two huge pieces of the puzzle recently fell into place for Brightline.

First, Brightline suddenly found buyers for the private-activity bonds it had been trying to peddle the past two years.

Earlier this month, investors lapped up $600 million of these tax-exempt bonds, which can be used by nonprofit organizations and some private companies to fund projects deemed to have a public benefit. Brightline will use the proceeds from the bond sale to help finance Phase 1 (Miami to West Palm Beach).

What spurred investors’ interest in the bonds? Speculation that Congress might do away with private-activity bonds as part of President Donald Trump’s tax reform proposal.

Second, Brightline obtained final federal approval for the rail project.

Within the past few weeks, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued final approval for the West Palm Beach-to-Orlando section of the project (Phase 2). Known as the record of decision, it declared the rail company’s plan for Phase 2 complies with the National Environmental Policy Act.

This, in turn, allows Brightline to proceed with its application for a $1.6 billion federal loan.

“This is the most critical and final step in the extension of Brightline’s service to Orlando, and we are excited to move forward with Phase 2,” said Brightline CEO Dave Howard in a news release.

He also noted the company looks forward to “starting construction north to Orlando in the first quarter of 2018.”

Can the Treasure Coast coexist with Brightline?

We shall see.

Our region is going to get really LOUD unless local officials take steps to pursue quiet zones. These are federally regulated safety upgrades — i.e., four-quadrant gates, raised medians and other channelizing devices — that restrict vehicles and allow trains to speed through crossings without sounding their horns.

To help facilitate our coexistence with the passenger rail service, local governments should turn their attention to the 75 at-grade crossings in our three-county area. There are 30 in Indian River, 25 in Martin and 20 in St. Lucie.

Installing quiet zones at critical crossings would mitigate the punishing noise pollution residents who live near these intersections can expect when Brightline trains begin running through our region.

The rail company has said it will begin limited service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in the next few weeks. In preparation for the launch, it has been running simulated service with 10 daily round-trip trains, each one blaring its horn at crossings.

Residents of some West Palm Beach neighborhoods already are fed up with the noise, according to a report by WPTV. The noise will end in some areas once quiet zones have been constructed and approved. But that could take months.

Currently, there are 18 quiet zones in Florida, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. The vast majority are on CSX track in South Florida.

There are no quiet zones, yet, on the Treasure Coast.

The clock is ticking.

Brightline’s plan is eventually to run 16 daily, round-trip passenger trains between Miami and Orlando. That’s a lot of horn honking. No train stops are planned for our region, though Fort Pierce officials initiated discussions with Brightline this summer to secure a train stop in the Sunrise City.

Over the past four years, officials in Indian River and Martin counties earmarked or spent more than $6 million to block the rail project. We can now call this what it is — a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money.

It’s time to invest taxpayers’ money in something tangible that will actually benefit Treasure Coast residents: quiet zones.

And we’ll all cross our fingers no one is killed or injured when Brightline trains begin zipping through our region.


BrightLine Testng Trains In State Park

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline is testing its BrightBlue train on a 3-mile stretch of track in Jonathan Dickinson State Park, the company said Thursday.

A Palm Beach Post reporter spotted the train, named for the color of its passenger cars, traveling north near the area of County Line Road in Tequesta Thursday afternoon.

A company official said the park offers a section of track that does not have any rail crossings. The testing plan has been approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, she said.

In recent weeks, Brightline has also tested the BrightBlue train along a 9-mile-stretch of track that runs between Park Place in West Palm Beach and Central Boulevard in Lantana. That section has multiple rail crossings.

Brightline last month launched a safety campaign designed to warn students and those living near the FEC corridor about the dangers of walking along train tracks.

The company has asked cities along the route to help promote the campaign, part of a national program called Operation Lifesaver, which is designed to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and prevent trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Brightline has said it will start “pre-season” service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale in late July. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin in August.

A grand opening of the rail project is planned for mid-September, the company has said.

Looking for work? Brightline begins hiring for passenger train service

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline is accepting applications for roughly 200 positions it plans to fill as part of its plan to launch passenger train servicebetween West Palm Beach and Miami this summer along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.

The company plans to hire 90 employees in the West Palm Beach area, Dave Howard, the company’s chief executive officer said Friday. Jobs include security officers, train attendants and guest service agents.

Those interested in applying should visit the company’s website,, to view a current list of openings, he added.

RELATED: Brightline to start service in July between WPB and Ft. Lauderdale

Howard, an executive from the sports and entertainment industry who joined Brightline’s team in March, said the company is focused on customer service and creating a “culture of care” for its passengers.

“Hospitality has not met train travel,” Howard said. “It will here.”

Brightline has said it will start “pre-season” service between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale in late July. Service between West Palm Beach and Miami is expected to begin in August.

A grand opening of the rail project is planned for mid-September, the company has said.

The company has yet to release its ticket prices, but a Brightline official told members of the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization last week that the rates will be “competitive to the cost of driving your car.”

Brightline plans to eventually extend the service to Orlando.

Track work for the second phase of the project, which runs between West Palm Beach and Orlando, has not yet begun. Treasure Coast leaders are challenging that stretch of the project, and have filed a federal lawsuit to block bonds that the company had planned to use to pay for the construction.

Brightline officials have said it will take about 2 years from the start of construction for the company to complete the West Palm Beach to Orlando leg.

In South Florida, work on Brightline stations in West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale is nearly complete. Construction crews are expected to turn over the properties to Brightline officials within the next week or two, Howard said.

Testing on the company’s first two trains is underway. Two more trains are expected to arrive in West Palm Beach in the coming weeks.

RELATED: Two more Brightline trains expected to arrive in WPB together

Meanwhile, Brightline officials said work continues on a plan to implement a “quiet zone” to silence train horns along the FEC tracks.

Brightline officials have said the first phase of the quiet zone will be installed along an 11-mile stretch of track that runs from West Palm Beach to Lantana. The company has been testing its first train, called BrightBlue because of the color of its passenger cars, along that section of rail.

Brightline officials said Friday the quiet zone is expected to be in place between West Palm Beach and Boca at the time the company begins service this summer.

Work to install a quiet zone from West Palm Beach north to the county line won’t start until Brightline begins construction on its second phase, which will extend the passenger service to Orlando.

Brightline this month launched a safety campaign designed to warn students and those living near the FEC corridor about the dangers of walking along train tracks.

The company has asked cities along the route to help promote the campaign, part of a national program called Operation Lifesaver, which is designed to reduce collisions, fatalities and injuries at highway-rail crossings and prevent trespassing on or near railroad tracks.

Brightline’s safety and security team is also planning to hold a meeting with local police and fire officials in the coming weeks.

BRIGHTLINE’S Second Train Arrives, Limited Service To Start In July

Brightline this week heralded a milestone — arrival of its second train — and at the same time announced an apparent setback: When passenger service commences in July it will be even more limited than previously announced.

Instead of carryingpassengers between West Palm Beach and MiamiCentral, a sprawling downtown-Miami rail station with commercial, retail and residential space, Brightline in late July will begin service only between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Service is to expand to Miami in late August, when work on MiamiCentral is complete, according to Brightline. Stations in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale are “nearing completion,” Brightline said in a news release.

The project’s second phase, full service to Orlando, is at least several years away, with service commencing in 2019 at the earliest, the company estimated in January.  On Monday, Brightline said it is “currently finalizing permitting and will have a better idea of timing to Orlando after operations begin this summer.”

The project has faced opposition from Treasure Coast residents who say the railroad would endanger the public and the environment. It is facing lawsuits by Martin and Indian River counties.

Meanwhile, BrightPink, Brightline’s second completed passenger train, on Monday afternoon rolled through the Treasure Coast on the final leg of its trip from California to the railroad’s maintenance facility in West Palm Beach.

The four-car, two-locomotive train — named for its vivid hue — passed through Vero Beach at 3:45 p.m. and Stuart at 4:25 p.m. The passenger railroad’s first train, BrightBlue, was delivered Dec. 14, but rolled through the region in the early-morning hours.

BrightPink and BrightBlue are the first in Brightline’s five-train fleet that will run along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, eventually between Miami and Orlando.

BrightRed, BrightOrange and BrightGreen are to be delivered from manufacturer Siemens’ Sacramento plant every six weeks, with all five trains assembled in West Palm Beach by early July, according to Michael Cahill, president, Rail Systems Division.

Brightline said it will hold a grand opening and official launch of the railroad in September.

The locomotive legacy of U.S. Sugar

A piece of Florida locomotive history has come home to the sunshine state after being away for nearly half a century. Steam Engine No. 148 arrived in Clewiston late last year, although not under its own power. The engine and its tender (fuel and water car) arrived from Colorado strapped to two railroad flat cars. Well, most of it arrived by rail.

“We were able to gather and collect most of the pieces that were already removed from the locomotive,” said Ted Dobrie, chief mechanical officer for U.S. Sugar, “and we crated and cataloged all that equipment and shipped all that back by truck. We’re just missing a couple of minor pieces that we’re going to have to track down.”

So, what does a 97-year-old steam locomotive engine have to do with a company in the business of growing and refining sugarcane? Quite a bit, actually. Founded in 1931, U.S. Sugar needed a way to transport sugarcane from about 187,000 acres of fields to its sugar mills.

“When we were started back in the early ’30s, rail transportation was how freight was moved, and there were very few roads of any sort out here,” said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar. “There certainly wasn’t a reliable network for moving sugarcane from the fields to the mill, so our company made a decision at the beginning to put in an industrial private railroad that linked our fields and mill.”

Faced with the same transportation problem that challenged cypress logging companies in Florida, U.S. Sugar pursued the same solution. The company installed about 120 miles of rail across its fields for its internal rail line. Then, to transport its products out as well as haul agricultural equipment and supplies in, the company began operating a short-line freight railroad called the South Central Florida Express, which connects with commercial freight railroads CSX Transportation at Sebring and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) at Fort Pierce.

Between the internal and external lines, the company currently operates nearly 300 miles of rail. A decision originally made for expediency, the rail transportation infrastructure has turned out to provide efficiency for U.S. Sugar’s operations.

“Our trains are one of the things that set U.S. Sugar apart from our colleagues and competitors in the sugar business in the United States,” Sanchez said. “It’s been a transportation method, but over the years it’s become more a transportation advantage because we’re not having to put all that cane into tractor-trailers and haul it out on public roads. It’s much more efficient as well since you can haul up to 100 boxcars of cane behind a locomotive, and that one locomotive is the only part of the train using fuel.”


“Our CEO is a history buff,” Sanchez said. “He has a love of machinery and of anything historical, so to him it’s fascinating.”

The search eventually led to Monte Vista, Colorado, where No. 148 had been taken for repairs with the intention of operating it, once again, for tourist excursions. However, the 2008 economic downturn stalled the entire tourist railway project and work on the partly disassembled steam engine stopped. U.S. Sugar purchased the legacy locomotive and brought it back to its Clewiston shop for its own locomotive team to restore, using historical diagrams and photos from Bramson. Dobrie said some parts of the project will also require help from engineering consultants who specialize in steam engines.

Dobrie said the restoration could take up to a year and a half. After restoration, Sanchez said U.S. Sugar intends to obtain some period passenger cars and offer excursion rides to draw tourists to Clewiston.

“It’s going to be not only an amazing project, but it’s going to attract marvelous goodwill and bring national attention to United States Sugar,” Bramson said. “Not only do you attract thousands of people out to see the steam engine, but you generate an enormous amount of positive publicity for your company. What they’re doing is for very positive reasons, being most of all a major contribution to the incredible history of United States Sugar, Florida East Coast Railway and the state of Florida itself.”