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Record Group Number: 900000
Series/Collection Number: M96- 1
Creator: Krome family
Title, Dates: William J. Krome Key West Extension papers, 1902-1909.
Amount: 0.50 cubic ft.
Medium Included:
Organization/Arrangement: Arranged by record type, then chronological.
Terms Governing Use:
Biographical/Historical:     The Key West Extension was a length of railroad, built and owned by the Florida East Coast Railway, stretching from Homestead to Key West. The Florida East Coast Railway formed in 1895 from as many as 20 Florida railway lines and companies bought by land developer Henry Flagler (1830-1913) between 1885 and 1895. Flagler extended the railroad south, creating a continuous route down the east coast of Florida, paving the way for the development of the southeast part of the state. The railway reached Miami in 1896 and Homestead in 1904.

    In 1902, the Florida East Coast Railway began surveying areas for the construction of an extension of the railway to Key West. William J. Krome, a young engineer, led an expedition southwest from Homestead to Cape Sable and onto the Keys to Bahia Honda Key. The engineers decided that it would be impossible to build a railroad through the Everglades, so they decided upon a route across the entire length of the Keys. Construction on the extension began around April 1905, with J. C. Meredith in charge and Krome as his first assistant. After the death of Meredith in 1909, Krome became the project's Chief Engineer and he served in this capacity through the completion of the extension in 1912.

    The first official train arrived in Key West on January 22, 1912, a year ahead of schedule. Krome had pushed for an early finish so that the aging Henry Flagler could see the project completed. The extension was never as profitable as hoped, and the track was badly damaged by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. The railroad was subsequently abandoned, but the bridges and viaducts were later used in the foundation of Florida's Overseas Highway.

    William J. Krome was born at Edwardsville, Illinois, on February 14, 1876. He attended Northwestern, Depauw, and Cornell Universities. He worked in the railroad construction industry in the South and Midwest beginning in 1899 and took his position with the Florida East Coast Railway in 1902. In addition to working as an engineer, Krome also was a prominent fruit grower and farmer, serving as President of the Coral Reef Nurseries, Director of the Florida Citrus Exchange, and member of the Advisory Committee of the State Plant Board. He married Isabelle G. Burns in 1910, and they had four children. He died on October 2, 1929.

Summary:     This collection consists of photocopies of papers related to the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway, created and collected by William J. Krome, Chief Engineer on the project, and his family. The collection contains two types of records: correspondence and reports by Krome, and newspaper clippings on the Key West Extension and the Florida East Coast Railway.

    Krome's correspondence and reports (1902-1904) date from the period in which he was the leader of the FEC Railway expedition charged with surveying South Florida for the feasibility of constructing a railroad to Key West. Most of the letters are to officials of the FEC Railway and take the form of reports on the progress of the expedition. Other letters concern practical matters such as pay, camp conditions, supplies, and the hiring of new team members. Each of the two volumes contains a list of the recipients with the subject matter of the letter.

    The newspaper clippings (1905-1909) date from the period of the construction of the Key West Extension. The clippings originate from several Florida newspapers (including those of Tallahassee, Miami, and Key West) as well as out-of-state newspapers (St. Louis, New York, and Savannah) and national magazines related to engineering and the railroad industry. The articles concern the progress of the project, the construction process, news from the laborers' camps, and general information on Henry Flagler and the FEC Railway. Of special interest are the many articles dealing with the dangerous working conditions and with allegations of peonage and of laborers brought to Florida against their will.

Finding Aids: Folder listing available. 0
Additional Physical Form:
Reproduction Note: Photocopies.
Location of Originals/Duplicates: The original papers are owned by the Krome family.
Associated Materials:
Language Notes:
Ownership/Custodial History: These materials were collected and maintained by the Krome family and compiled, reproduced and donated to the Archives by Jerry Wilkinson of the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys.
Publication Note:
General Note:
Electronic Records Access:
Subject Access Fields: Flagler, Henry Morrison, 1830-1913
Florida East Coast Railway.
Railroads Design and construction Florida
Railroads Florida
Letters. aat
Clippings. aat
Bahia Honda Key (Fla.)
Everglades (Fla.)
Key West (Fla.)
Key West Extension (Fla. : Railroad)
Sable, Cape (Fla.)
Added Entries Krome, William J., 1876-1929