Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean

by Les Standiford
4.3 24

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Overview

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean by Les Standiford

Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the strongest storm ever to hit U.S. shores.

In 1904, the brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler, partner to John D. Rockefeller and the true mastermind behind Standard Oil, concocted the dream of a railway connecting the island of Key West to the Florida mainland, crossing a staggering 153 miles of open ocean—an engineering challenge beyond even that of the Panama Canal.

“The financiers considered the project and said, Unthinkable. The engineers pondered the problems and from all came one verdict, Impossible. . . .” But build it they did, and the railroad stood as a magnificent achievement for twenty-two years. Once dismissed as “Flagler’s Folly,” it was heralded as “the Eighth Wonder of the World”—until a will even greater than Flagler’s rose up in opposition. In 1935, a hurricane of exceptional force, which would be dubbed “the Storm of the Century,” swept through the tiny islands, killing some 700 residents and workmen and washing away all but one sixty-foot section of track, on which a 320,000-pound railroad engine stood and “gripped its rails as if the gravity of Jupiter were pressing upon it.” Standiford brings the full force and fury of this storm to terrifying life.

In spinning his saga of the railroad’s construction, Standiford immerses us in the treacherous world of the thousands of workers who beat their way through infested swamps, lived in fragile tent cities on barges anchored in the midst of daunting stretches of ocean, and suffered from a remarkable succession of three ominous hurricanes that killed many and washed away vast stretches of track. Steadfast through every setback, Flagler inspired a loyalty in his workers so strong that even after a hurricane dislodged one of the railroad’s massive pilings, casting doubt over the viability of the entire project, his engineers refused to be beaten. The question was no longer “Could it be done?” but “Can we make it to Key West on time?” to allow Flagler to ride the rails of his dream.

Last Train to Paradise celebrates this crowning achievement of Gilded Age ambition, a sweeping tale of the powerful forces of human ingenuity colliding with the even greater forces of nature’s wrath.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781400051182
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 08/05/2003
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 98,277
File size: 7 MB

About the Author

Les Standiford is the author of eight critically acclaimed novels, including most recently Bone Key, as well as several works of nonfiction. He has received the Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs. Since 1981 he has lived in Miami with his wife and three children. They are themselves survivors of Hurricane Andrew.


From the Hardcover edition.

Hometown:

Miami, Florida

Date of Birth:

October 31, 1945

Place of Birth:

Cambridge, Ohio

Education:

B.A., Muskingum College; M.A. and Ph.D., University of Utah

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Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down. It read like a novel, but was completely non-fictional. The writer thoroughly researched all the information, and provides readers w/ an historical account that makes you never want to put the book down. Not only does the book provide you with the visionary insight and accomplishments of Henry M. Flager, but it addtionally provides you with historical accounts of what people used to go through during the past hurricane seasons. It is amazing to learn how limited forecasting was, how huricanes were never named until the 50's, and what amazing feats hurricane survivors achieved to live and tell their stories. Last Train to Paradise will not disappoint you. I promise. I NEVER READ BOOKS, and this book was so AMAZING that I plan to read it twice!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was truly absorbed in this book. For anyone interested in the Engineering field, it is truly an amazing feat that Henry Flagler did. I would suggest this book to teenagers as a motivation as to what they can do if they have the drive to do things that may seem impossible. Even though I am not an avid reader, this book kept my full attention and I read every word! What an amazing person Henry Flagler was and if we ever travel again to Florida I will most certainly visit the museum of his work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love stories of large engineering projects and the people who plan them. This one, though, was curiously weak. Perhaps teh story itself lost drama after the construction began, or after the first hurricane hit the RR in the making. Flagler comes out properly whitewashed (compared to John D. Rockefeller), and the story itself is tragic, but it sagged tremendously in the middle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book started out with a bang, and I was really excitd to read all about this engineering marvel, but not even midway through the book I got bored. It just bogged down -- too many details dragged out. I'm glad I read it for the information I gleaned, but I would be cautious as to whom I would recommend it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿Last Train to Paradise¿ is a nonfiction account of the construction of the railroad connecting Key West to the Florida mainland, a project headed by Henry Flagler. It is a well-researched and documented history of an exciting time in the exploration and development of Florida that reads like a novel. Building a railroad over 150 miles of water under the harshest of conditions was the vision of one man, Henry Flagler. Mr. Flagler used his personal fortune to make this dream come true. When he first arrived in Florida he was the second wealthiest man in the country. His fortune was made in partnership with John Rockefeller and the creation of Standard Oil. The ingenuity necessary to accomplish this task is absolutely incredible. The obstacles overcome included the brutal weather (heat and hurricanes), having to import every item from drinking water to food to nails. As I read the story I found the task more impossible with each accomplishment along the way. The closer they got to their objective, the more unattainable I thought the goal was. They truly did the impossible. That Mr. Flagler and his crew succeeded is a testament to the pioneer spirit of America. Dr. Standiford has written a fast paced book. He is a wonderful story teller. It is where truth and fact is so improbable, that one could not make up a superior fictional account. The photographs are a wonderful addition. With all the scandals in business today, it is enlightening to read the story of a man who put his reputation and own money on the line for what he believed in. As Dr. Standiford said: ¿Henry Flagler evolved from acquisitive robber baron to creator.¿ Henry Flagler may not have discovered Florida, but he saw all the state¿s possibilities and created the framework and infrastructure that made Florida livable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Grizzabella More than 1 year ago
My boss gave me this book a year ago - its been on my book shelf - and a couple of weeks ago (March 2015) I picked it up....I'm loving it. The weather has warmed up here in Georgia, with daylight savings now in effect, so I get a nice glass of red wine and sit in my garden...perfect combination. Fascinating book! Critics can say what they wish about the combustion engine on the train - the fact remains that Mr. Flagler has such vision - and poured the last half of his life into his dream. That courage no longer exists because we have too many rules and stockholders....
Taureau More than 1 year ago
"Last Train to Paradise" was exceptionally well written, full of historical information that you would not find anywhere. As a native Louisianan, who has spent 44 years working in the rail industry and mostly in the swamps, Les Standiford had me in his mosquito infested swamps building railroads. It was one of the best reads in a long time. I would certainly recommend purchasing this great work of non-fiction.
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great read, exciting to follow Flagler through Florida. have recommended it to my florida friends and anyone else. Although I knew some information about how our east coast of florida was built up, most of this was new to me. If you read this and The Land Remembered you will get a great picture of central and east coast Florida
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Michael Seko More than 1 year ago
Being from the west coast, local history east of Nevada is hard to come by. This story is fascinating, and well told. I read the book start to finish over two days, using all spare time. Loved it.
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Having just visited St. Augustine, Florida, I was well aware of Henry Flager's ability to make dreams reality. The hotels and churches he built there are testament to that. But "Last Train to Paradise" lays claim to Flager's even grander dreams, dreams that put Ft. Lauderdale and Miami on the map as well as a coastal railroad to Key West. Impossible to imagine in this day and age due to understandable environmental concerns, Lee Standiford's riveting book explains how a determined, aged Flager made the impossible possible, even in light of personal tragedy and natural disasters. Standiford's coverage of the 1935 hurricane that put a final end to Flagler's dream rivals Erik Larson's "Isaac's Storm" in intensity. Standiford does justice to this amazing story. Highly recommended.