Sunday, February 14, 2021

Leesburg to Wildwood by Train

Leesburg Station – since repurposed as a fitness center by Beacon College 

Starting at Leesburg station I follow the rail trail through Montclair where the train would have made its first stop. As I continue the trail unfortunately ends at the Leesburg city limit a half mile before Whitney where the train would have stopped at packing houses to deliver supplies and pick up produce.

 From Whitney Road you can see the easement extending west through the trees. I continue west on SR 44 to the next stop at Bamboo about a half mile east of Morse Blvd, where a now vanished sawmill used the rails to transport lumber.
 The sawmill at Bamboo – you can see a train on the right.
Then I turn right off 44 onto CR 143 which parallels the rail easement which is on my right. At the entrance to Lake Deaton you can see old railroad ties in the grass. When I reach the jog to the right that crosses the easement onto 44A I am in the center of Orange Home, a settlement squeezed between Lakes Deaton and Okahumpka. Here the train would have picked up citrus and vegetables and delivered supplies.
Continuing on 44A the easement is now on my left and I see the beautifully conserved Baker House on my right. Senator David H. Baker completed the home just before 1895 in time for the great freezes that destroyed the area citrus industry. Disaster for many but it enabled him to accumulate 1200 acres of land at bargain prices. As he had donated land for the railroad the train would have stopped here on request and his family traveled free.
 The Baker House

From there it is non-stop to Wildwood and I ride along 44A where the easement is easily identified on my left. As I enter Wildwood across from the Elementary School I can see the remains of the track which is now occasionally used to turn around locomotives.

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