Facebook Page

National Railway Historical Society Convention US Sugar Railroad Trip 9/4/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I arose early and after preparing ourselves for the day, we went downstairs to the Spotted Stag where I had a waffle and Elizabeth had French Toast then while Elizabeth attended to the registration room, I returned to our room to get my camera and laptop then returned to where the buses would load. Skip Waters, a good friend, was the bus host for the first of three buses for today. Once everyone was aboard, the buses were fleeted to Clewiston and I took a few pictures along the way.

We crossed the sawgrass country on the way there.

Cirrocumulous clouds were blocking the sun.

Later we reached the sugar cane and would have that on the way to Clewiston. Skip made a few announcements and we soon arrived at the US Sugar parking lot.

US Sugar Background Information

U.S. Sugar Corporation is a privately-owned agricultural business based in Clewiston, Florida. The company farms over 230,000 acres of land in the counties of Hendry, Glades and Palm Beach. It is the largest producer of sugar cane in the United States by volume, producing over 700,000 tonnes per year. The company is also a large producer of refined sugar, sweet corn and oranges.

U.S. Sugar is considered in South Florida, along with Florida Crystals and the 54-member Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, as Big Sugar. The company is one of the largest job providers in the Glades region, employing more than 2,500.

US Sugar History

In 1931, industrialist and philanthropist Charles Stewart Mott purchased assets near Clewiston, Florida from a 1920s bankrupt sugarcane company, Southern Sugar Company, to form the United States Sugar Corporation.

Mott later transferred shares to his Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. In 1969 with a law passed limiting private family foundations could hold a corporation, the foundation gave a large number of shares to the Mott Children's Health Center, a Flint charitable medical organization founded in 1939, to be below the 35% limit.>{?

In 1962, the company opened the Bryant Sugar House, which at the time was the largest and most advanced sugarcane processing mill in the world. The mill had a capacity of 5,000 tons of sugarcane per day. After C.S. Mott died in 1973, C.S. Harding Mott, his son, took over as chairman of the corporation. With sugar at 60 cents a pound in the 1970s and purchasers switching to corn syrup, the company expanded into other areas of farming including cattle, citrus and vegetables. In 1980, U.S. acquired South Bay Growers. South Bay Growers produced 13 percent of the US's leafy vegetables growing lettuce, celery and others. In late 1985, U.S. Sugar began planting orange trees. In 1983, the company formed an employee stock ownership plan in an attempt to go private.

The ESOP and Mott group of owners in October 1987 offered $80 per share for the other 110,000 voting shares held by 500 public shareholders. This took the company private and reduced its reporting costs.

Most of South Bay Growers was closed down on September 4, 1994 after four out of five prior years of losses including 10 million in 1994. South Bay's salad processing plant with customers like McDonald's and Burger King and 146 employees would continue to operate while seeking new ownership.

Big sugar moved in the early 1990s to mechanical cane harvesters. The displaced cane field workers filed a class action lawsuit in which the company paid $5 million plus in 1998. In 2004, U.S. Sugar closed a mill and laid off workers. Its Bryant mill was closed in 2007.


On 24 June 2008, Florida's Governor, Charlie Crist, announced the state was in negotiations to buy 187,000 acres of land and all of its manufacturing and production facilities for an estimated $1.7 billion from the company as part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. Under the proposals, the company would continue to farm the land for the next six years and convert the land back to its original natural marshland state. In November 2008, the agreement was revised to offer $1.34 billion, allowing sugar mills in Clewiston to remain in production. Critics of the revised plan say that it ensures sugarcane will be grown in the Everglades for at least another decade.

In October 2010 the company sold 26,800 acres of land to the South Florida Water Management District for the "River of Grass" Restoration Project.


According to the Florida Sugarcane League, sugarcane farming has a $3.2 billion impact and supports more than 12,500 jobs. With more than 2,500 employees, U.S. Sugar is one of the "largest agribusiness employers in the Everglades region.

US Sugar 4-6-2 148 Information

Sugar Express steam locomotive No. 148, a 4-6-2 type steam engine, is our pride and joy. It is a 100-year-old icon of American ingenuity. No. 148 is now again back operating on the U.S. Sugar rail lines, after it has seen multiple owners, and many uses over its hundred year career.

Thanks to the vision of U.S. Sugar CEO Robert H. Buker, Jr., No. 148 was re-acquired by U.S. Sugar for restoration to operation in 2016. A team of outside railroad preservation experts and more than two dozen U.S. Sugar employees completed the project in April 2020.

Number 148 was manufactured in April 1920 by the American Locomotive Company of Richmond, Virginia, for use by the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). By that time, FEC had taken receipt of dozens of nearly-identical locomotives to haul its many passenger and freight trains. Given the flat topography of their route, these light weight engines were well suited to hauling passenger as well as freight trains.

The FEC operated the famous "Overseas Railroad", a 128-mile extension that it built between 1905 and 1912 to connect Miami to Key West. This route was home to passenger and freight operations and No. 148 hauled trains across this line. The route was only in service until 1935, when the Labor Day Hurricane partially destroyed many of the long viaducts between the island chain. This, combined with the ongoing Great Depression, spelled the end of this unique line.

By the time of the Labor Day Hurricane, FEC had begun to dispose of its older 4-6-2 type locomotives, either scrapping the older versions or selling them to other railroads. In the 1930s, U.S. Sugar purchased sister FEC steam engines Nos. 98, 113, and 153 to haul the sugarcane from the harvest field to their processing plant. Engine No. 148 continued its service for FEC until 1952, when it too was sold to U.S. Sugar.

A thoroughly modern operation even at the time, U.S. Sugar relied upon the rail system to efficiently transport raw materials as well as to ship out finished product.

U.S. Sugar operated its fleet of steam locomotives into the early 1960s, at which point they were replaced by more efficient diesel-electric locomotives. While locomotive Nos. 113 and 153 were donated to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum, Engine No. 148 was sold by U.S. Sugar to Mr. Sam Freeman in 1969. Mr. Freeman transported the locomotive to New Jersey for operation on the Black River & Western Railroad (BR&W). It operated at the BR&W from 1971 until 1973, when it was moved to New Hope & Ivyland Railroad for boiler and mechanical work.

After this overhaul, No. 148 operated across multiple tourist railroad lines in New Jersey. Upon the death of Mr. Freeman in 1982, No. 148 was donated to the Connecticut Valley Railroad Museum, and it was sold to a private party in 1988. This resulted in the locomotive being transported to Michigan in the early 1990s after being sold to yet another owner. Engine No. 148 was shipped to Monte Vista, Colorado, in 2005.

After being purchased by U.S. Sugar for restoration to operation in 2016, it was returned to service in 2020.

Our Roundtrip

A nice lady handed us tickets and a liability waiver which we had to sign under a tent by where we would board.

US Sugar GP11 312, ex. South Central Florida Express 9027, exx. Illinois Central 8741, exxx. Illinois Central Gulf 9331, nee Illinois Central 9331 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1972, was at the shops.

I took a foursome of seats and Elizabeth found me in Southern coach 644. She was still working and helped to collect tickets from the members of the public who were aboard since this trip was open to anyone.

US Sugar GP11 311, ex. South Central Florida Express 9026, exx. Illinois Central 8746, exxx. Illinois Central Gulf 8746, nee Illinois Central 9214, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1972, was also at the shops.

Good friend Doug Scott was chasing the train to Lake Placid and back since he had already ridden this line.

US Sugar GP40 501, ex. Electro Motive Division 196, exx. Soo Line 2004, exxx. Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific 2004, nee Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific 184, built by Electro- Motive Division in 1966, was across the shops.

The motive power across from the shops.

The US Sugar mill, the only company in the country to utilize rail-based shipping from the sugar cane fields by train to the plant.

Looking ahead from the baggage car doors.

Looking back at the US Sugar shops.

Taking the first curve on the railroad.

The United States flag blowing in the wind at the US 27 Highway as we left Clewiston behind.

Two views of the Caloosahatchee River crossing as we crossed the drawbridge in Moore Haven.

Rounding the first of two curves before Fisheating Creek.

The second curve.

Crossing one of the channels of Fisheating Creek.

Crossing the main channel of Fisheating Creek.

Passing the Palmdale siding.

The train on the way to Lake Placid.

The newest US Sugar loading facility.

Orange groves before we arrived at Lake Placid.

Lake Placid.

Nearing Lake Placid.

We passed the Milepost 887 signpost.

Doug Scott talking with his wife, Ellen.


The Lake Placid station and Seaboard Air Line caboose 20932, later Seaboard Coast Line 0932 built by the railroad. We then arrived with everyone detraining. There were a few restaurants open this Labor Day holiday and a list had been distributed to all passengers. There was a food truck beside the station where I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich and then had a ice cream cone.

The railroad and the station mural in Lake Placid.

A steam train crew member cheking the steam connections.

US Sugar 2-8-2 148 being serviced here.

The train in Lake Placid taking water.

The train and the station.

US Sugar 148 built by American Locomotive Company in 1920.

The map of our route. At 1:50, we departed with the air conditioning out on our car so both Elizabeth and I moved a car forward. Soon, we stopped for a photo runby at Milepost 896.

US Sugar GP11 310.

US Sugar power car 5758, ex. Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus 53005, exx. Union Pacific 904819, nee Union Pacific Postal Storage 5758, built by St. Louis Car Company in 1962.

Southern Railway coach 644 "Fort Oglethorpe", nee Central of Georgia 664 "Fort Oglethorpe" built by Budd in 1947.

US Sugar Express coach 1002 "Lake Okeechobee", ex. United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey, exx. New Jersey Transit 5333, exxx. Central Railroad of New Jersey 123, exxxx. Great Northern 1002, nee Union Pacific 5471, built by American Car and Foundry in 1953.

US Sugar baggage car 333 "Miami Locks", ex. United Railroad Historical Society of New Jersey, exx. New Jersey Transit 5333, exxx. Central of New Jersey 123, exxxx. Great Northern 1002, nee Union Pacific 4571, built by American Car and Foundry in 1954.

US Sugar coach 1137, nee Great Northern built by American Car and Foundry in 1950.

US Sugar dining car "Palmdale", ex. Amtrak lounge car 3332 "Anthony Wayne", exx. Amtrak 3637, exxx. Penn Central 7137 "Anthony Wayne", nee Pennsylvania Railroad parlour-drawing room 7137 "William Penn" built by Budd in 1951.

US Sugar 4-6-2 148.

Finishing the reverse move at Milepost 896.

Photo runby one at the newest sugar beet loader at the Childs loadout, Milepost 896.

The reverse move with US Sugar 310, ex. South Central Florida Express 9024, exx. Ilinois Central rebuilt GP11 8710, exxx. Illinois Central Gulf 9330, nee Illinois Central 9330 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1957 as a GP9, now leading our train.

Next we started back at Milepost 896, going through Moore Haven and on to the location of the second photo runby, at the big curve above the US 27 highway crossing.

The Atlanic Coast Line timetable for this trip.

The boat graveyard in Moore Haven.

Doug Scott at the Caloosahatchee River.

Taking a few curves leaving Moore Haven. We then made our way to the next photo runby on the big curve at Milepost 942.

The rear of the train.


Southern Railway coach 643.

The reverse move.

Photo runby two at Milepost 942.

Reverse move at Milepost 942.

US Sugar 148 for the final time. The train returned to Clewiston and everyone boarded the buses for the DoubleTree Hotel. Upon our arrival, I checked my e-mail and finished today's story while Elizabeth finished up her registration room duties then we called it an early night.