Seminole Gulf Railway needs repairs to help SWFL recover from Ian

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
The Seminole Gulf Railway needs repairs to help speed up SWFL recovery from Ian. (CREDIT: WINK News)

Lumber, drywall, and stone are just some of the essential items being brought to the Southwest Florida area by the Seminole Gulf Railway.

The railway is a key feature in the rebuilding process for Southwest Florida, but damage from Ian is disrupting that vital link.

Think about it like this, what the trains can bring in through one railcar is the equivalent of five semi-truck loads of material.

The Seminole Gulf Railway. (CREDIT: WINK News)

That means one railcar can hold more than 117,000 board feet of drywall, which adds up to walls for more than 150 bedrooms.

The Seminole Gulf Railway can’t get any of that material to the area because the bridges over the Caloosahatchee and Peace River are down.

So, getting these trains back on track becomes paramount for Southwest Florida to recover.

But, it’s also another expense for the owners of the railway who hope to add the federal and state government’s tab.

Seminole Gulf Railway is home to the well-known murder mystery Dinner Train.

Bruce Fay and his family put in all that work because the train tracks mean to him a lot to him.

“You’re sitting in this dining car, it actually came out of Ringling Brother’s Circus. And we took, and we built this in house,” Bruce said. “We cut it all apart, put the windows in, put the tables in.”

“This is everything. This is my family’s business since 1987, so we’ve been here working on this as a private enterprise to serve Southwest Florida since that time,” Bruce said.

But this isn’t just everything to the Fay family, they need to make major repairs to the more than 100 miles of train tracks. That’s because the trains would really benefit and help Southwest Florida recover from Ian.

Train tracks on the Seminole Gulf Railway. (CREDIT: WINK News)

That’s exactly the reason why Bruce’s brother, Robert Fay, called upon elected officials, like representative Byron Donalds, to see the damage.

The hope is that state and federal funding will get the engines chugging North of the Caloosahatchee.

“We can transport the necessary goods as part of the critical infrastructure to rebuild Pine Island to rebuild Fort Myers Beach to rebuild Island Park on our own go. The countless communities that have been affected,” Robert said.

When asked if Robert believes the officials understood the urgency, Robert said he thought he did because seeing the damage in person can be a difference-maker.

“Once again it demonstrates the level of damage we’ve seen here and how deep it’s gone into every aspect of Southwest Florida,” Donalds said.

However, as one would imagine the price tag for the repairs is not cheap.

“Our estimate’s now it’s going to be in the neighborhood of $28 million,” Robert said.

Some of the damages to the Seminole Gulf Railway. (CREDIT: WINK News)

But Robert said the $28,000,000 would be well spent. That’s because the faster they get chugging, the stronger Southwest Florida stands against another disaster like Ian.

“Everything that makes up your backyard barbecue, or in this case, everything that we need to rebuild our homes and our community is what Trent Seminole golf railway transports,” Robert said.

Don’t forget, that this is a family business, and that means it’s privately funded. So government funding ordinarily doesn’t flow to the railway. In the end, however, they get the money the Fay family hopes to get the railroad up and running again within the next 90 days.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.