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"TWILIGHT RAILROAD" is Wiles' image of what is left of the world famous Henry Flagler railway which is seen here in the beautiful moonlight of the Florida Keys...
In 1912, railroad tycoon Henry Flagler completed his �railroad that went to sea,� connecting the Keys and Key West with the mainland for the first time and providing a way for wealthy visitors to travel to the region for warm-weather vacations.
In time the island chain�s industries died out, and the railroad�s heyday abruptly ended when a portion of the line was destroyed in a 1935 hurricane. The Keys faced a bleak future during the Depression years, and the city of Key West declared bankruptcy.
Yet local and federal officials decided the Keys still had something to offer � sea, sun and a pleasant year-round climate that would surely attract visitors. After the railroad�s demise, a highway to take its place was conceived, and the famed Florida Keys Overseas Highway opened in 1938.
Only three years later came the beginning of World War II, dashing prospects of tourist gold.
The U.S. Navy came to the rescue when it expanded its Key West base and enlarged the submarine base. Shrimp were discovered � the Keys� now-vital �pink gold� � and, following the war, visitors finally began to arrive in earnest.
Today, the region welcomes more than 3 million visitors each year. Many, unlike that early voyager Ponce de Leon and his historian shipmate, seem to have discovered their own fountain of youth � and fun � in the Florida Keys.
January 27th, 2012
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