Historic Railroad Trail
The Tallahassee - St. Marks
Railroad began operation in
1836 and served Florida's
capital city for a century.
Historic Rail to Modern Trail
The trail is now popular with
hikers and bicyclists, but in
1865 it was used to transport
Confederate troops to the
Battle of Natural Bridge.
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Tallahassee - St. Marks Railroad, Florida
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Tallahassee - St. Marks Railroad, Florida
Tallahassee - St. Marks Historic Railroad State Trail
Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad
Now a popular "rails to trails" project, the
Tallahassee-St. Marks Railroad originally connected
the capital city with the port of St. Marks.
Florida History and Recreation
When the Tallahassee - St. Marks Railroad
began operation in 1836, it was considered a
remarkable accomplishment.

Stretching just over 20 miles from Florida's
capital city to the coastal communities of St.
Marks and Port Leon, the railroad was the
second in Florida. The cars were pulled by
mules until a locomotive could arrive, but
even with mule power the rails moved people
and commerce faster than the draft wagons
that had preceded them.

Since Tallahassee was located inland, the
railroad provided it with a valuable link to the
coast. Schooners and other vessels brought
commerce into and out of the mouth of the St.
Marks River. There passengers and cargo
were transferred back and forth to the trains
for the trip to Tallahassee.

During the antebellum era, in addition to
passengers, the railroad carried timber,
cotton and naval stores products down to St.
Marks for shipment. The trains opened
important markets for farmers and light
industry in the area while also providing
transportation for necessities and luxury
items coming in from elsewhere.

During the Civil War, however, the railroad
took on a different importance. The trains
were used to rapidly move troops from
Tallahassee to the coast. This proved critical
in March of 1865 when Union troops came
ashore at the St. Marks Lighthouse.

Confederate messengers used the train to
quickly deliver information to headquarters in
Tallahassee, giving authorities there time to
call in reinforcements to meet the invasion.

On March 5 and 6, 1865, the Tallahasee-
St. Marks Railroad moved hundreds of
Southern soldiers south from the capital to
fight the advancing Federals. The ability to
quickly move men and artillery by rail gave
the Confederates a decided advantage
allowing them to deal a heavy defeat to the
Union forces at the
Battle of Natural Bridge.

Several of the railroad employees later filed
for state Confederate pensions citing their
service during the Natural Bridge Expedition.
In addition, at least one soldier was killed in  
a tragic fall from a railroad car while on his
way to the battle.
The railroad survived the war unscathed and
continued to operate until 1983 when the
train traffic finally came to an end.

The old railroad bed was paved and turned
into a 20 mile long path that is now extremely
popular with bikers and hikers. It stretches
from the south side of Tallahassee to the
banks of the St. Marks River at St. Marks,
where some great seafood can be found and
visitors can also explore the historic fort at
San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park.

The Tallahassee - St. Marks Historic
Railroad State Trail can be accessed from
the main trailhead on State Highway 363 just
south of Capital Circle and at other points
along the route to St. Marks. The address of
the main trailhead is 1358 Old Woodville
Road. There are good signs directing you to
this and other access points.
State Trail Entrance
The Tallahassee - St. Marks
Historic Railroad State Trail
features an access point just
south Tallahassee.
Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
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