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Celestial Opened With Free Rides

Last week we visited a 1962 Florida Historical Quarterly article by Nathan D. Shappee about the Celestial Railroad.

Here’s more.

On the day the railroad opened, July 4, 1889, residents got free rides by steamship from Titusville to Jupiter, then by train to Lake Worth, and back.

Titusville’s Florida Star called the day “the biggest success of any picnic ever held …”

The train ran two round-trips daily in season, one otherwise. Trips were timed to meet the steamer.

But weather and mechanical issues meant delays of up to four hours. If the locomotive, “Old No. 3,” broke down, everything stopped, or cars were propelled by animals or humans.

As the only game in town, the railroad was a big moneymaker. It charged all of 75 cents each way.

It also increased land prices along its length.

A second passenger coach was added to the three freight cars in 1891.

But Flagler came, and ran his line far to the west, and, near Juno, opened a canal into what’s now the Intracoastal Waterway.

That was the death knell for the Celestial.

The railroad had begun service three months after residents of Dade County — it’s now Miami- Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties — moved the county seat from Miami to Juno.

But as the Celestial went, so went Juno. After the stock was sold off and the railbed torn up, leaving the right-of-way to melt into the jungle, the county seat went back to Miami in 1899 and Juno became a ghost town. It would be a half century before a new Juno Beach was founded nearby.

Read more: A History of Juno Beach and Juno, Florida, by Bessie Wilson Dubois.
Loxahatchee River Historical Society: (561) 747-6639.

Readers: The first of our two-parter on the Celestial Railroad, which ran 7-1/2 miles from an oceanfront dock in Jupiter down to Lake Worth, prompted calls from some confused readers. Of course we mean not Lake Worth the city, but rather the lagoon, now the Intracoastal Waterway.

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Posted in Eliot Kleinberg December 4, 2008 at 12:35 pm.

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