Florida East Coast Business Car #90 SOLD
Henry Morrison Flagler 1830-1913
In the 20 years that Ozark Mountain Railcar has been in business, FEC #90 is undoubtedly the most stunning and original car we have ever had the pleasure of listing for sale.
The Gilded Age was a time of extreme wealth and it was common practice to flamboyantly display just how wealthy you were. It was a time of rapid industrialization of this country and vast fortunes were built overnight. The wealthy were often in competition with each other to see who could build the most elegant mansion both on the rails and off. If you had a stunning home then you must have a stunning private car and the art of elegant private car construction was born.
Henry Morrison Flagler rose through the ranks of Standard Oil, working side by side with John D. Rockefeller. They created one of the most powerful companies in the history of the United States. Always thinking outside the box, Flagler grew the interests in Standard Oil but also his own holdings. After a trip to Florida he fell in love with the under-developed state and its resources. It didn’t take long for Flagler to put Standard Oil in the back seat and he started to build grand hotels and resorts in Florida. But he quickly realized that there was no efficient way to get tourists from the east coast to his posh resorts. He quickly purchased various shortline railroads; linking them together he built a rail system that stretched the entire length of Florida. Eventually it included the Key West extension that traversed 128 miles of bridges and islands to bring rail service to Key West. So if it’s the late 1800’s and you have a railroad empire, you need a rolling palace! In 1899 Flagler placed an order with the Jackson & Sharpe Company to build a private car. It would rival the most ornate homes of the time and his primary requirement was the interior be light, and airy, not dark and stuffy which was common at the time. The result was an ornate and stunning car that incorporated the most modern (for the time) features and hand-carved woodwork that was nothing short of art. With Florida East Coast (The Flagler System) on the letter board with #90 on the side, the car would play a vital role in the building of multiple empires both large and small. In 1952 the FEC declared #90 as surplus and sold it to the struggling Central Indiana Railroad, who renamed the car to "Dutchess". Used to entertain customers and politicians, #90 felt right at home doing just what the car was built for and helped the almost broke CI Railroad bloom into a very busy shortline. In the 1960’s #90 was sold to Darby Wood Products of Hagerstown, Maryland. Anyone who is familiar with the passenger car industry may recall Darby Wood Products unexpectedly jumped into the passenger car business. They sold and restored many cars before Mr. Darby’s mysterious disappearance in 1970. #90 was moved to Darby’s siding near the Hagerstown freight depot for an in-depth restoration and when completed it shone like the day Flagler took delivery. Where would the car go next? Why back to Indiana of course and the restored car was placed in a building under cover and protected from the elements where it remained for the next 48 years.
When you first step aboard #90, you know immediately this is no average business car! Everywhere you look you see wood carvings and elements that add to the beauty of the car. Entering off the large observation platform you are welcomed into a spacious observation lounge that can seat ten guests in a satin wood-paneled room. The wood in this room actually glows when the light hits it from certain directions. In the first half of the lounge you have seating for four in original wicker furniture (this room can easily seat six). On the room divider you have a built-in wood desk and a small book case that has a built-in champagne bucket holder. Toward the back of the lounge are two upper and lower sections that will sleep a total of four guests. Both sections utilize the original berths and lower seats. You don't comprehend all the details in this room until you turn around and look toward the observation end; there are wood carvings and stained glass everywhere you look! Just past the lounge is the general hallway that leads to the dining room, but the first room is the General Toilet with a self-contained toilet and a full shower and sink. The next room down the hall is one of the most impressive: is the Master Bedroom. You will be hard pressed to find another master room on any business car like this one. It is equipped with a double bed that sits long ways in the room, a built-in ornate dresser with dressing mirror and toiletries table, a large closet plus attached toilet and sink (in an annex just off the main room). It should be noted that the craftsmanship that went into this car 117 years ago was of such high quality that to this day each door, cabinet and drawer fits as well as it did the day it was built. So much so that the desk in the lounge, the closets, lockers and cabinets create an air pocket making it impossible to slam anything shut! Next to the Master Bedroom is the Guest Compartment with a sliding pocket door that connects both rooms (or you can enter through the door from the hall). The compartment is equipped with an upper and lower berth, folding wash basin, toilet and closet. Expense was not spared on the Guest Compartment and this room has all the wonderful wood work that is present throughout the rest of the car. The next room on the car is without doubt the most stunning; the formal Dining Room! Capable of an intimate dinner party of two or a formal affair of up to six guests, this room is equipped with a marble gas fireplace, an intricately carved china buffet and the original table and leather backed chairs. Both the doors to the general hallway and the service hallway have handmade leaded beveled glass windows and all of the clerestory windows have hand-crafted leaded stain glass panels that let in the maximum amount of light. One of the more unique features of the dining room is the 3 foot wide folding bed next to the fireplace. This bed was probably reserved for the least-liked guest on the car! As you exit the Dining Room you enter the service hall that takes you past the Pantry and Kitchen. Both rooms are as-built and include the overhead copper water tanks, copper counter tops, ice bunkers and the original Sterns charcoal stove. The most interesting feature of the the kitchen is the hidden trap door under the sink used for the disposal of waste ash from the stove. Just past the kitchen is the crew room with an upper & lower berth, toilet and sink. And past the crew room is the boiler locker with a propane-fired heating boiler and then the rear vestibule with a 1960's refrigerator (still has factory tape on the shelves).
We can safely say that you will never find another car like #90! Due to her age the car can't operate on the mainline and would be restricted to a tourist or shortline railroad. It is on a landlocked railroad and will have to be trucked from its current location. A Buyer is able to arrange a storage agreement with the current property owner to keep the car at its current location in a secure building. #90 is a wood car on a light (not a girder center sill) frame and rides on a set of cast-bolted pedestal trucks with friction bearings. All wheels are thick and serviceable. The car does have a 220v single phase standby cable and an on-board propane generator. It also has a functioning water system with a 110v water-raising compressor and an electric hot water tank near the kitchen. Both ends of the car have a very rare Pitt type coupler and the car does come with a spare. The overall condition of this car is museum quality and really must be seen to be appreciated
Henry Flagler taking a break outside #90 circa early 1900's