In the very early morning hours of Tuesday, Dec. 19 — like 2 a.m. in the morning — a historic landmark is making a historic move. The train car located on Knights Key, the former gift shop for the Pigeon Key Foundation, is moving up the road to Crane Point Museum.
“It will make Crane Point a more visible location as a tourist attraction in the city,” said Crane Point Board Chairman George Garrett, also the Marathon Deputy City Manager. “It represents some of the history that Crane Point is there to promote, and it serves to preserve a piece of history.”
While this particular train car did not run on the Florida Overseas Railroad, it was a part of the Florida East Coast Railway from about the same era. It does not fit into the design of the luxury resort being built on Knights Key, though it is being handled with meticulous care. The process has already started by creating a level surface in front of where the train car is now so that it can be loaded onto a dolly with a crane to be moved.
“My understanding is that it will be driven by remote control,” said Charlotte Quinn, director of Crane Point Museum. “It will take hours. But once it gets to Crane Point, I want to drive it!”
Quinn said there is already a grant in place to build bathrooms behind the train car. Her next step, she said, will be securing grants to build a train station and platform to augment the train car’s presence.
“Crane Point is the original location of the train station in Marathon,” she said.
The movement of the train car to the front of the Crane Point Museum will displace the Incredible Fruit Stand, a Saturday pop-up serving the Marathon community for 17 years. (And the seasonal Christmas Lobster Trap Tree must be removed for the train car and crew to have room to maneuver.) The management of Crane Point said it offered Marie and Peter Pittman a long-term, open-ended lease on the highway right-of-way on the west end near the Marathon Garden Club.
Crane Point Museum leases the U.S.1 right-of-way from the city. The land was purchased from FDOT by the Monroe County Land Authority for $125,000 and it transferred the property to the City of Marathon.
“That’s about $2 per square foot,” said Garrett. “That’s a good deal.”
Crane Point Museum was projected to receive 35,000 visitors this year, but the storm forced the facility to close for two months.