Plant City is a treasure trove for those who love history, art and culture. If you are a train enthusiast, there is no better place to go than to the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum located at 102 N. Palmer St. in Plant City. The museum opened in 2013. A highpoint is the covered, two story train-watching platform which is located in and around the station that once served passengers trains of two CSX Transportation predecessors.
The museum and platform were recently featured in a special edition of Trains Magazine, America’s Top Train Watching Locations.
Benito (Bennie) Lubrano, Jr., the Executive Director for the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum Society said, “Even though the viewing platform has received numerous regional awards and recognitions, the magazine is known to most railroad fans across the country.” Lubrano added, “It is great to be considered among all the other cities across the U.S. and how we rank among them.”
The viewing platform is unique. It is located on two main lines North/South S-line (former Seaboard Air Line, SAL railroad track) and East/West A-line (former Atlantic Coast Line, ACL track). That intersection is referred to as “the Diamond” and is actually a “double Diamond” because two North/South tracks intersect with one East/West track. Moreover, there is an upper level that allows for a different perspective to view trains. The viewing platform is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to Lubrano, “It was constructed to make it appear to be the same era as the station, circa 1909. The nearest other viewing platform would be Folkston, GA.”
If you want to see trains, this is the perfect spot. On any given day, 16 to 18 trains pass through the area of the viewing platform. An Amtrak train passes twice a day. In addition, Tropicana Juice cars pass several times a day and a TECO coal train headed to the power plant in Apollo Beach passes by at least three times a week.
The mission of the Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum Society is to promote and educate visitors about the railroad history and its impact on Eastern Hillsborough County and Plant City. They offer group tours for children of all ages. Admission is free.
For info, visitwww.willafordrailroadmuseum.com or call 719-6989.