orlando retro

Commuter Rail Before SunRail

Orlando Street Railway Company - Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue.  Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Orlando Street Railway Company – Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue. Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Commuter Rail Before SunRail

SunRail will arrive in Central Florida before long.  With high-tech and environmentally friendly trains, commuter rail will seem like a new transportation solution for Orlando.   But, it won’t be the first time residents have travelled locally on tracks.  We’ve done this before many years ago and for very different reasons.
Our first attempts at what could be called commuter rail was about 125 years ago at a time when the automobile was just being invented.
Orlando Street Railway Company
Orlando started to grow once the railroad was completed in 1880.  Citrus was developing as an industry and now had a way to ship in quantity outside of the area.  Six years after the railroad, the Orlando Street Railway Company was established for residents to have way to move around town.  Tracks were laid down Church Street from the train depot to and along Orange Avenue.   A trolley pulled by two mules carried Orlandoans up to Lake Ivanhoe.
Service on the railway was haphazard.  The conductor, Ernest Mills, for the single trolley followed a schedule perhaps unknown to his passengers.  Historian Eve Bacon wrote that Ernest gave his friends free rides and would often stop at the end of line on Marks Street for a game of marbles.  These unplanned stops caused service delays.  Sometimes they would catch snakes in the woods, tie the live snakes to the back of the trolly, and drag them back to West Church Street to sell to the local taxidermist.  Orlando life was a bit more rustic in the 1880s.
In 1893, the unreliable service led to the city to revoke the Orlando Street Railway Company’s franchise, and later ordered the tracks removed.
Dinky Station -  Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Station – Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Line

A few years after the mule powered street railway, another commuter rail began.  This one proved to have longevity.  In 1889, the Orlando and Winter Park Railroad started running from downtown Orlando winding by Lake Highland and Lake Formosa up to Rollins College.  Now part of Rollins’ heritage, it was nicknamed the “Dinky Line” by students that for 15 cents commuted between Orlando and the Winter Park campus.
Traveling at speeds of 6 1/2 miles per hour, the train easily derailed because the tracks were laid on sand.  Much of the route between Orlando and Winter Park was wooded and undeveloped.  If service was not interrupted by derailment, stray cattle blocked the tracks and delayed service until the conductor stopped to shoo the cows away.
In addition to passengers, the Dinky Line carried freight especially later when automobiles became the norm.  The line ran for over 70 years.  By the 1960s, the wooded areas along Lake Highland and Lake Estelle had become prime real estate lined with upscale homes.   Its last route ran in 1967 and the tracks were removed a year later.
Today, we have reminders of the Dinky Line with portions of the route making up the Orlando Urban Trail.  In Winter Park, the train station once stood on Lake Virginia at Dinky Dock Park.
This post originally appeared in Bungalower.

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Orlando City Lions and a Quick History of Sports in Orlando

778646_621274967930795_783447953_oMajor League Soccer comes to Orlando in 2015 when Orlando City Soccer joins MLS as an expansion team.  The announcement was held at the historic Cheyenne Saloon on Church Street.   (RetroPost: Historic significance of Church Street)  The Cheyenne Saloon was where the Orlando Magic, our other current major league team, was announced in 1987.

The Orlando City Lions add to a long list of professional sports teams in Orlando covering the minor leagues to major leagues in almost every team sport.   Some lasted a few years — WNBA Orlando Miracle —  hibernated and returned a decade later — Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL Hockey) — or played a single season XFL’s Orlando Rage.

Some Orlando sports history highlights:


Baseball in Orlando goes back to the 1910’s, and might be most notable for hosting spring training.  The Minnesota Twins trained here for decades (RetroPost:  The Twins in Orlando).   Orlando had a baseball team off and on- from 1919 until 2003 largely in the Florida State League.   Known as the Orlando Rays for the majority of 40 years when the team dissolved in 2003, there were previous clubs, incarnations, and affiliations: Orlando Tigers, Orlando Twins, Orlando Dodgers, Orlando Seratomas, and Orlando Cubs.


1967 Divison Playoff Program for the Orlando Panthers (source)


Orlando football’s most recent success was indoors with the Orlando Predators (since 1991).  However, professional football goes back to the 1960’s and the time of the Continental Football League and the Orlando Panthers.  The Panthers played from 1966 until the league folded in 1969, and won two league championships during that time.

Other football in Orlando (all of which played in the Citrus Bowl):

  • Orlando Renegades (1985) United States Football League
  • Orlando Thunder (1991-92) World League of American Football
  • Orlando Rage (2001) XFL
  • Florida Tuskers (2009) United Football League

Orlando City should see greater success and longevity because of an existing and enthusiastic fan base and the investment of a new soccer stadium west of I-4.   Perhaps Orlando’s greatest football glory will not come in American Football but in futball (okay, soccer).

A look back at past Orlando football club logos:


Orlando Thunder


Orlando Renegades


Orlando Rage

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About This Blog

Some people credit Walt Disney for putting Orlando on the map. I say it was already there or Walt never would have considered building here. Orlando has a long and interesting history that pre-dates Magic Kingdom, International Drive, and the outlet malls. Tourists had already been coming for decades to take advantage of the healthful benefits they believed the tropical climate provided. Grand hotels like the Angebilt and the San Juan Hotel were welcoming travelers a half a century before Walt Disney World welcomed its first guest.

Orlando is not like Philadelphia or Boston, where the history is obvious. You have to look a little harder here to find history. Orlando grew from a small wilderness community dealing with cattle rustlers to one of the world’s top vacation destinations. That growth took over 150 years and there are some great stories to tell from those times.

The idea behind this blog is to feature some Orlando postcards I have collected, share the stories behind them, and show what is there today. This is sort of “Orlando – Then and Now”.

My qualifications to share these stories? I have eaten fried shrimp at Gary’s Duck Inn, enjoyed pickles and slaw from the relish bowls at Ronnie’s Restaurant and Deli, and have an appreciation for living in the City Beautiful.

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