St. Cloud and Sugar Belt Railway

The St. Cloud and Sugar Belt Railway

Originally posted October 11, 2021
Updated July 25, 2023

The St. Cloud and Sugar Belt Railway, built in 1888 by Hamilton Disston to serve his $350,000 sugar mill transported sugar, vegetables and citrus as well as passengers between Kissimmee and St. Cloud. It was built as a 3' narrow gauge railroad, but converted to standard gauge around the turn of the century.

Kissimmee station June 28, 1901. The St. Cloud and Sugar Belt track diverged to the right near the top of the photo. CFRHS Collection.
Kissimmee station June 28, 1901. The St. Cloud and Sugar Belt track diverged to the right near the top of the photo. CFRHS Collection.

The route traveled from the Kissimmee station, where it connected with the South Florida Railroad and Florida Midland Railroad, east along today's Neptune Road before passing through downtown St. Cloud, a distance of 9 miles. The route grew another 4.34 miles when it was extended to Narcoossee, where a locomotive turntable was built for reversing the engines.

SCSB Route from Open Railway Map. Route in yellow. Spur in blue. Turntable in green. Click to enlarge.
SCSB Route from Open Railway Map. Route in yellow. Spur in blue. Turntable in green. Click to enlarge.
 
Route Map in 1917. Personal collection.
Route Map in 1917. Personal collection.
 
St. Cloud Flyer, Sugar Belt RR, Kissimmee, FL. Florida Memory Photo.
St. Cloud Flyer, Sugar Belt RR, Kissimmee, FL. Florida Memory Photo.
 
ACL 4-4-0 #532 at the St. Cloud Depot, c. 1910, Ex-SF&W #223 and SFRR #23, Baldwin 1890. Florida Memory Photo.
ACL 4-4-0 #532 at the St. Cloud Depot, c. 1910, Ex-SF&W #223 and SFRR #23, Baldwin 1890. Florida Memory Photo.
 
Sugar Belt tracks departing Kissimmee and headed east (left) toward St. Cloud, circa 1925
Sugar Belt tracks departing Kissimmee and headed east (left) toward St. Cloud, circa 1925. Personal collection.
 
Sugar Belt tracks departing Kissimmee and headed east (right) toward St. Cloud, circa 1925
Sugar Belt tracks departing Kissimmee and headed east (right) toward St. Cloud. Personal collection.
 
Trestle east of Kissimmee with Idora Park in distance. Neptune Road now parallels this former line. Personal collection.
Trestle east of Kissimmee with Idora Park in distance. Neptune Road now parallels this former line. Personal collection.
 
ACL Timetable Kissimmee to Narcoossee, 01MAY1916 . CFRHS Collection.
ACL Timetable Kissimmee to Narcoossee, 01MAY1916. CFRHS Collection.
 
Camp Idora Motor Court with Sugar Belt Railway in foreground. Road is now known as Neptune Road.
Camp Idora Motor Court with Sugar Belt Railway in foreground. Road is now known as Neptune Road. Fisk collection.
Dual gauge Sugar Belt Railway, photo believed to be at St. Cloud during conversion from narrow gauge to standard gauge around 1896. Fisk collection.
Dual gauge Sugar Belt Railway, photo believed to be at St. Cloud during conversion from narrow gauge to standard gauge around 1896. Fisk collection.

At the St. Cloud Canal, located between Kissimmee and St. Cloud was Hamilton Disston's sugar mill. A spur line from Peghorn Junction (also known as St. Cloud Junction) to the mill provided rail access to move the sugar to Kissimmee and northern markets.

St. Cloud Sugar Mill in operation. Note railcar in distance. CFRHS collection.
St. Cloud Sugar Mill in operation. Note railcars in distance. CFRHS collection.
SCSB 1889 Tariff. CFRHS Collection.
SCSB 1889 Tariff. CFRHS Collection.

The line operated as the St. Cloud and Sugar Belt Railway Company from 1888 to 1892, when it was leased to the South Florida Railroad Company before being merged into the company in 1893. It was sold to the Plant Investment Company that same year.

In 1902, it was sold to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which owned the line until it was abandoned in 1942 and scrapped shortly thereafter. The Bill Johnston Memorial Trail, which parallels Neptune Road follows some of the roadbed of the former rail line.

St. Cloud depot with ACL train car. CFRHS collection.
St. Cloud depot with ACL train car. CFRHS collection

In Narcoossee, the locomotive could be turned on a hand-pushed turntable, the remnants of which remain today behind the feed store on private property. There was also a station and water tower at the end of the line. The photo below shows the locomotive pulling the train in reverse direction, giving the impression that the turntable was either not utilized or out of service at the time of this photo.

Narcoossee Station 1902. Personal collection.
Narcoossee Station 1902. Personal collection.

With decreasing passenger and freight, the final Atlantic Coast Line train traversed the line on September 29, 1941. The Veterans of the Foreign Wars Post 3227 purchased the building to use as their post headquarters in 1943, and remains their post to this day.

St. Cloud Last Train 29SEP1941
Last train to operate on the line was on September 29, 1941. Pictured at St. Cloud. Florida Memory photo.

 

St. Cloud Depot VFW Post 3227. VFW Post 3227 Photo.
St. Cloud Depot VFW Post 3227. VFW Post 3227 Photo.
St. Cloud Sugar Mill ruins. Personal collection.
St. Cloud Sugar Mill ruins. Personal collection.

There are few signs of the St. Cloud and Sugar Belt today, however three items remain; the St. Cloud Depot, ruins of the sugar mill located along the St. Cloud Canal, and the concrete base of the turntable in Narcoossee. My family was involved with the Disston operation, and used the Sugar Belt for shipping. I'll post those stories at another time.

If you have photos or information on the St. Cloud and Sugar Belt Railroad or Hamilton Disston, I'd like to hear from you. Leave a comment below and I'll be in touch. Thanks for reading!

Sources:
Personal collection
Central Florida Railway Historical Society (CFRHS)
Fisk Collection
Florida Memory
VFW Post 3227
Open Railway Map