by Chuck Seaver, South Lake Tablet
Rick Cronin

Rick Cronin, author and historian, visited the Clermont Historical Village this week to speak about the historic Tavares & Gulf (T&G) Railroad that made its way to Clermont in 1887. A destination that would later become the headquarters for the railroad.

Glass signal wire insulator

The railroad was originally known as the Tavares, Apopka and Gulf Railway Company but was renamed T&G in 1890 when the railroad was sold under foreclosure. At the time of the sale, the company owned three locomotives, three passenger cars, two mail and express cars, and fifty-seven freight cars. The only water tank on the railroad was located in Clermont where there was a complete mechanic’s shop facility as well. The water tank was discontinued when the shop facilities were moved to Tavares sometime between 1910 and 1920.

Over time, the train became known by the locals as the “Tug and Grunt”. A nickname earned by the train’s struggles with Florida sugar sand and shifting railroad tracks. Historians report that frequent train derailments led to long arrival delays and misplaced passengers who would often have to seek alternate travel arrangements. Long-distance travel to destinations such as Tavares or Winter Garden was difficult by car or wagon due to the pine straw roads.
Apopka and Gulf Railway Company was renamed T&G. “Tug & Grunt”
Local legend has it that many of the early settlers of Clermont went to the train station to greet arriving passengers who had made their way to Clermont from various locations throughout the state and various parts of the United States. One such legend included Clermont native Oakley Seaver. Seaver was a young boy who visited the train station regularly to greet new visitors. On one such day in the early 1920’s, a train from Tavares would arrive with a family relocating to Clermont from Missouri. The Charles Baker family arrived, including a young girl named Sarah Jane Baker. Sarah Jane and Oakley became instant friends and in 1936 would pledge their wedding vows. The Clermont train station and the T&G were the beginning of many new relationships and business formations in the South Lake Community.
The T&G tracks were taken up in 1967 when a merger took place that absorbed the railway. Clermont residents of that time recall the old telegraph utility poles being dismantled along Lake Minneola Drive. Pallets of glass signal insulators were left along the railroad track path and were free to anyone who wanted them. The railroad track path is now home to the current South Lake Fitness Trail.
Railway track marker on Palm Street, Clermont
One of the last remaining artifacts of the railway path can be found on Palm Street, just east of Second Street in Clermont. A concrete rail marker still stands today on what was once the shoulder of the rail tracks. The marker posts were typically utilized as mile markers, directional markers and other location indicators for the train engineer and crew.
Visit the Clermont Historic Village, 490 West Avenue, Clermont to visit one of the remaining 1920’s era train depots
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