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Robert W. Willaford Railroad Museum highlights Plant City's rich train history

Willaford Railroad Museum
Posted at 5:05 AM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 07:57:22-04

PLANT CITY, Fla.  — Spend some time in Plant City, especially through downtown, and you'll hear and see an important piece of the area's history.

Trains used to run right through downtown all day and night. Back in the early 1900s, the railroad was a primary source of distributing fruits and vegetables and getting people to Tampa.

"The other more important role was telegrams, Western Union, that was all located in the depot. Newspapers were dropped off here, even though there wasn't a local paper," Benito "Bennie" Lubrano, Jr. Executive Director of the Robert Willaford Railroad Museum said. "When they had telephone service, they probably were the first ones that had a phone. So you'd come and make a call, you know, somewhere. So it was the hub of the community. I mean, if you wanted to know anything, and wanted to go anywhere, this is where you had to come."

Today, Plant City's original railroad ticket booth is the Robert Willaford Railroad Museum.

Robert Willaford is a local resident who spent 43 years working on this very railroad. Most of the items inside and outside were his and were placed here about eight years ago when the museum was created.

Next to the museum is a train watching platform so you can see all the trains go by. They also have streaming cameras that you can watch by clicking here.

"Most, unfortunately, most of the old railroad stations around in Florida are gone. Other ones have become parts of redevelopment downtown areas, Winter Haven, Winter Park, those areas, Lake Wales that still have the original depots, and are being used either as railroad museums or history museums. So we feel very fortunate that we're here. The building has withstood an awful lot through the years and we hopefully will see it for years to come," said Lubrano.