The train has left the station

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One Island One Book, the Key West Library’s program now in its third year, is well underway. This year we’re reading “Last Train to Paradise,” Les Standiford’s book chronicling the construction of the Over-Sea Railroad, completed 100 years ago. The book also covers the railroad’s destruction in the harrowing Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

We’re in the final week of the online readalong on the One Island One Book blog— but you’re welcome to jump in at any point; the beauty of this is it can stay up there forever for anyone reading the book and we can continue the conversation as long as we want.

Next week things really pick up when the author himself, Les Standiford, arrives in town. He’ll be signing books at Key West Island Books, 513 Fleming St., at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26.

Then at 3 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, he’ll be at the Key West Library, 700 Fleming St., to talk about Last Train to Paradise. Later that day, at 6 p.m., he’ll be speaking at the Friends of the Library Lecture Series at The Studios of Key West, 600 White St. Both those events are free and open to all.

We’ve already had a couple great events — a presentation about how the old bridges went from rail to trail (many of them are now part of the Overseas Heritage Trail) and a guided tour of the Speedway to Sunshine exhibit at the Custom House. There’s another tour planned for 2 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 24 — the tour is free but you need to sign up; just stop by the library or call 305-292-3595.  And if that weren’t enough, the Art & Historical Society has generously offered free admission to the Custom House to anyone with a Monroe County Library card, until March 15.

Lots to do — and still plenty of time to read the book. They have them on sale at Key West Island Books and we have many, many copies in the library collection (still a couple available on the special exhibit shelf last time I checked). So please stop by, in person or online, and help make this really One Island One Book.

Most of the action, thus far, as taken place online in our first online readalong but the live events have started, wtih a presentation on how the original railroad bridges went from rail to trail (many of them are now part of a state park called the Overseas Heritage Trail) and a special guided tour of the Speedway to Sunshine exhibit at the Custom House (there’s another this Friday — you can still sign up by coming into the library or calling there at 305-292-3595).

About those images: One of the most fun parts of this year’s One Island One Book program, for me, has been spending time with our fabulous online archive of photographs. These are scanned, identified and uploaded by Monroe County Historian Tom Hambright and his team of dedicated volunteers. There are more than 11,000 images in the whole collection and 700 just related to the railroad. The slideshow above is a small sample of my favorites but I recommend checking this site out to anyone interested in Keys history. Another favorite from the same era I can’t resist revisiting: the waterfront passes that were required of workers in that area during World War I. The photographs are haunting and beautiful and the information provides a time capsule of Key West life in that era.


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Filed under book groups, Key West, Key West Library, nonfiction, recommended reading

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