National Geographic : 1896 Jun
204 ACROSS THE GULF BY RAIL TO KEY WEST which can float the largest ships of the United States Navy, has four entrances. The southwest passage has 33 feet of water on the bar, the main ship channel 30 feet, the southeast 22 feet, and the northwest 14 feet. A vessel leaving the harbor of Key West by the southwest passage would have to sail but 10 miles before she could shape her course for her port of destination, and through the main ship channel she would have only five miles to run before she was at sea. Ships putting into Key West for stores or repairs need go out of their course but 10 miles, an advantage possessed by no other port in the United States. The Government is now engaged in deepening the northwest passage to 21 feet, and when this is completed ships trading in the gulf will pass through the harbor of Key West, coming in at one of the main channels and passing out over the northwest bar, thus saving 70 miles and avoiding the dangerous reefs around the Tortugas islands. That Key West will within a short time be connected with the mainland by a railroad, no one who has noted the trend of rail road building in Florida can doubt. The ultimate object of all railroad construction in this state is obviously to reach deep water at an extreme southern point, and Key West meets these re quirements to the fullest degree. The first survey of a railroad route to Key West was made by Civil Engineer J. C. Bailey for the International Ocean Tele graph Company as long ago as 1866. General W. F. Smith, better known as " Baldy " Smith, at that time president of the company, obtained from the Spanish Government an exclusive landing for a cable on the coast of Cuba for forty years. The company had under consideration two plans for reaching Key West with its telegraph system. One contemplated a land line to Punta Rassa, Florida, and thence by cable to Key West; the other a continuous land line along the keys. It was proposed to drive iron piles into the coral rock in the waters separating the keys, and to socket them about 10 feet above high-water mark with wooden poles, and Mr Bailey was employed to make the survey. While engaged in this work he surveyed the route for a railroad to Key West, and embodied in his report to the com pany his opinion of its feasibility and cheapness as compared with the popular idea of what such a road would cost. When the Western Union Telegraph Company obtained control of the International Ocean Telegraph Company this report came into its possession, and it is still on file in its offices in New York.