The Railroad & Lake Wales

The railroad played an important role in the city's early development. Situated at a junction of the state's main east-west and north-south rail systems, Lake Wales enjoyed the advantages of easy access to distant markets and accessibility to tourists, land-seekers, and pioneers in quest of a new lifestyle.

Before the arrival of the railroad, Lake Wales could only be reached by sand trails. The extension of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad from Haines City to Lake Wales in 1911 ended the community's isolation and encouraged early settlement. The original Atlantic Coast Line depot, a crude unpainted shack and platform, was the first building constructed in Lake Wales. It was replaced in 1913 with a large frame structure that stood on Scenic Highway near Park Avenue. The new depot was capable of accommodating both freight and passengers, and, as people and supplies began to flow in, it served as the starting point from which the present town evolved.

First Train

In April 1915, the first train over the Lake Wales section of the east-west Seaboard Air Line tracks came through from Bartow, and early residents celebrated their status as a 2-railroad town. In 1916, a small depot was constructed just east of the intersection of Kissimmee Avenue and Scenic Highway to accommodate rail traffic on this line.

New Depot
In 1928, a new passenger depot was constructed several blocks south of the original depot to relieve congestion in the downtown area. A freight room and loading platform were added in 1938.

End of Service
Passenger service to Lake Wales ceased in 1954. In 1966, Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line merged to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railway. In 1974, freight service shifted to the West Lake Wales station, and trains no longer stopped in Lake Wales.
The Railroad and Lake Wales
Scenic Highway and Park Avenue, 1913-14
Atlantic Coast Line Depot, 1928