Over the past several years, there have been a few attempts to start a scenic railroad along the train tracks owned by Florida Central Railroad (FCRR). The first attempt that I can remember was in Altamonte Springs. The Altamonte scenic railroad was on tracks that were behind the Wal-Mart shopping center near the intersection of 434 and 436. Actual FCRR locomotives and cars were used here, so I would assume that this was run by FCRR. They charged an insane amount of money for a ride on their railroad, and it wasn't very long before they closed up. Not long after, the tracks were removed due to road construction on 434 and the construction of a Lowes.
After the closing of the first attempt at a scenic railroad on FCRR tracks, a second attempt was made. This time it was on the tracks in Mount Dora. The railroad was called the Mount Dora, Tavares, and Eustis Railroad (MDT&E). Rather than using FCRR trains, the MDT&E railroad used their own trains. The very first train that they gave rides on was called the Dora Doodlebug.
A Doodlebug is basically nothing more than a train car with an added motor, making it self propelled. Doodlebugs are much like trolleys or streetcars, but I think the difference is that most of time Doodlebugs were originally normal passenger cars that were converted into a self-propelled vehicle.
When I rode this Doodlebug, it was very early in it's operation. It was either the first day that it was officially running, or it may have even been a test run soft opening of the railroad. The Doodlebug was based out of downtown Mt. Dora. The station was an old train car across the street from the Mt. Dora Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce building was once a train station itself, so they picked an appropiate location. My ride on the Doodlebug left from this station in Mt. Dora going east to just over the 441 overpass. Here, the Doodlebug reversed direction and headed back to the station in Mt. Dora. Total, the ride was about three miles round trip.
From what I understand, the route traveled by the Doodlebug was later expanded to pass by portions of Lake Dora. After running the Doodlebug for a while, the MDT&E Railroad later added a steam locomotive to go with their Doodlebug. The steam locomotive would pull dinner trains along these same tracks, sometimes going all the way to downtown Orlando. The railroad ran into trouble though when their locomotive broke, and they soon closed up. I guess the Doodlebug alone wasn't pulling in enough money to pay off the bills of purchasing an antique locomotive.
Today, another scenic railroad runs along these same tracks in Mt. Dora. This railroad is called The Inland Lakes Railway. They do not give any rides on the Doodlebug, but when I did ride their Santa Express train in 2006, I am pretty sure I did see the Doodlebug sitting there on a side track. I don't know if it still works, or if I did indeed actually see the Doodlebug rather than a normal passenger car, but it's nice to know that I did get to ride it when it was running...
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Florida Everyone Forgot
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