Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean” as Want to Read:
Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad that Crossed an Ocean

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  1,098 ratings  ·  161 reviews
Last Train to Paradise is acclaimed novelist Les Standiford’s fast-paced and gripping true account of the extraordinary construction and spectacular demise of the Key West Railroad—one of the greatest engineering feats ever undertaken, destroyed in one fell swoop by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Brilliant and driven entrepreneur Henry Flagler’s dream fulfilled, the Ke ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published August 5th 2003 by Broadway Books (first published 2002)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Last Train to Paradise, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Last Train to Paradise

Alien Species Intervention Books 1-3 by J.K. AccinniBaby by J.K. AccinniTheir Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale HurstonA Land Remembered by Patrick D. SmithThe Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Best Books Set in or About Florida
19th out of 251 books — 144 voters
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert KingLast Train to Paradise by Les StandifordA Land Remembered by Patrick D. SmithThe Swamp by Michael GrunwaldFlorida Cow Hunter by Jim Bob Tinsley
Florida History
2nd out of 81 books — 13 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,168)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
If you're going to read one book about the building -- and destruction, less than three decades later -- of the Overseas Railway, this is the book to read. January 2012 will be the Centennial of the completion of the railroad, which transformed the Florida Keys from an isolated island chain into an artificial peninsula, an extension of South Florida. Only a determined and extraordinarily wealthy man like Henry Flagler -- one of the original partners in Standard Oil -- could have seen the project ...more
As Carl Hiaasem talks about in his comic thrillers, Florida has long been home to disreputable developers, business shysters and other unsavory characters who have raped the lush landscape of the state for fun and profit, and no one's name is more connected to Florida's notorious business practices than Henry Flager who not only built a hotel empire in Florida and almost single-handedly built Miami and Palm Beach, but also built an improbably railroads line from Miami to Key West.

Flagler who was
As a multi-millionaire and a major shareholder in Standard Oil, one could be forgiven for thinking that the aging Henry Flagler need do nothing else during the remainder of his life. But that would not have suited this remarkable, all-action man.

He had a vision of developing Florida and then providing a railroad across the Florida Keys to facilitate communications with Cuba and provide quicker access for the Keys, which previously were reached by ship. He was successful in providing hotels and o
This audiobook gets my biggest compliment: I will be listening to it again! It's full of interesting facts about Florida history that go far beyond the railroad (including lots of information about Hurricane Andrew). Since I live in the Keys, I especially enjoyed hearing about life here when the islands were only accessible by boat. The endearing tales of Flagler's ups and downs throughout his career and three marriages will keep your attention, as well as seldom-heard histories of others involv ...more
Wow! Reading this book I was perpetually inspired by the resolve of Henry Flagler and the engineers he employed. I wish engineers were routinely so daring and visionary now! At no point did I find the book to drag. Rather, it just seemed to move more quickly in some places than others. Some of the descriptions of events leading to the development of the project as well as it's eventual destruction are done so well that I could just see it despite having never been to the Florida Keys. Great read ...more
Seth Kramer
Standiford is a novel writer, and it shows. His tale of the Guilded Age industrialist-cum-hotelier Henry Flagler's quixotic plan to connect Key West, Florida's then biggest city, with the rest of the eastern seaboard via a railroad over vast expanses of open water, and it's subsequent catastrophic failure after one of the most powerful hurricanes in American history leaves the reader with no small amount of anticipation. As one familiar with the Overseas Railroad and Highway I found myself simul ...more
Don Inman
If there is such a thing as the indomitable American spirit it existed in spades in Henry Flagler. Robber baron or visionary, take your pick. After amassing a fortune with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil Flagler turned his sights to the state of Florida. He built lavish resorts and homes all down the east coast of Florida each one out shinning the last. Then he wanted to build a railroad. But not just any railroad. His railroad would allow people to board one of the well appointed sleepers o ...more
If you want to learn the history of Florida and, particularly, the monumental feat of building a railroad across the sea from Miami to Key West, this is your book. Standiford does well telling this story and bringing Henry Flagler, the man who turned Florida into a tourist mecca, to life. The book is also about a great hurricane that hit the Keys in the 1930s, but it's almost an afterthought. The real story here is about Flagler and the trials of building a railroad that no one thought possible.
Great non-fiction book about tycoon Henry Flagler, who had a vision and enough resources to make it happen. Against all odds, he built a railroad to Key West. There's an interesting section about Ernest Hemingway in the 1935 hurricane.
When I was recommended LAST TRAIN TO PARADISE, the true story of Henry Flagler and his decision to build a railroad from the Florida mainland to Key West, dubbed the train to cross an ocean, I was intrigued. I recognized the name by his association with John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company. I was unaware of his love affair with Florida or indeed his personal life, and least of all that there was a railroad that ran from Miami to Key West for about 22 years. Remember, the era we are t ...more
This was an interesting story on Henry Flagler - a partial biography, but focused on his development of the Florida East Coast Railway through the Florida Keys. Many do not know that Flagler was a co-founder of Standard Oil with Rockefeller. That was the source of his great fortune, a large part of which - $30 million - he dedicated to his passionate dream to build a railroad that would go all the way to Key West. It was a formidable job, taking 7 years and hundreds of workers, and many were los ...more
I'd never heard of Henry Flagler who was a cofounder of Standard Oil along with Rockefeller. But, Flagler spent a lot of his money developing Florida - from cities and hotels to railroads. One of his greatest feats was building a railroad that connected the tip of Florida to Key West... 156 miles or track with much of it being over water! Most people thought it couldn't be done. And, the weather sure didn't cooperate!

Although I felt the book lagged a bit in the middle, over all this is an exciti
Interesting history about how southern Florida came to be what it is today, especially the Keys. Add enough money ($$$$$) to vision and anything is possible.
Joyce Vorbach
Many places I've lived in were beneficiaries of the same clique of 20th century capitalists. I grew up in a little town called Spring Lake, NJ and was married and attended St. Catharine Church, a beautiful replica of St. Paul's in Rome. It was built by Martin Maloney, a Standard Oil executive, and a protege of John D. Rockefeller. As a current resident of Southwest Florida the Florida Keys are close enough for getaways. The impressive engineering that went into creating the Overseas Highway and ...more
Christian Rodriguez
Really well written and enjoyable. The story draws you in from the first sentence, and Standiford's prose paints great imagery.
Jun 06, 2014 Suzanne rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Suzanne by: Mayor Susan Haynie
Last train to Paradise is a fascinating history of the construction of the railroad Henery Flagler built, connecting the keys to the rest of Florida. I found Les Standiford to be a wonderful writer and look forward to finding more of his work. He really brought to life Henery Flagler and caused me to develop a lot of respect for this man's remarkable character. I now know where a lot of our street names came from. More importantly I have a better understanding of the sacrifices that were made to ...more
If you are interested in reading about the construction of a railroad and the unfortunate destruction of a railroad, this is a book for you! Henry Flagler, an equal to Rockefeller in Standard Oil wealth, used his personal fortune to build the Overseas Railway from Miami to Key West.
Imagine a rail line running seven miles over open seas! Despite South Florida hurricanes and more than difficult environmental building conditions, the Overseas Railway line was built.
This is an extraordinary accoun
Josh Liller
I read this book at least a decade ago and reread it this month for a Florida book club. Interestingly, my opinion of the book did not change from them until now, but I can now better explain my opinion of the book.

This book is the story of Henry Flagler and the Overseas Railroad (through the Florida Keys). The first quarter of the book is mostly a condensed biography of Flagler and the actual construction of the railroad - considered an engineering marvel - takes up about half the book. The Ove
I want to give this book 4.25 stars, but since that is not an option, I am rounding down to 4. I had a few issues with the book, but it was still a very interesting and (mostly) captivating book about a subject that could otherwise be dry. The book has a brisk pace and isn't very long. It is also truly focused on Henry Flagler's railroad to Key West. The book gave background information on Flagler, his life, his tenure at Standard Oil, and his dealings up to the point of deciding to embark on th ...more
Frankly, I have no idea how I ran across this very interesting book. Henry Flagler, one of the last great industrialists and oil barons, built a railroad across the Florida Keys, a feat that had been considered impossible, in order to capitalize on the proximity of Cuba to the nascent Panama Canal. He had already virtually built the state of Florida by buying and developing land all along the east coast, then linking his hotel properties via rail. His Key West Railroad, an extension of the Flori ...more
I picked up this book while on vacation in the Florida Keys after I visited a museum of the Keys in Key West. The idea of constructing a railway through the Keys was so extraordinary that I had to know more. Les Standford, a resident of the Keys, imbued the toil of digging a railway and building bridges in the threat of heat, bugs and hurricanes in this story of the vision of a rich man who refused to say that his dream was impossible. Thankfully, he chose the right people to help his dream come ...more
This was an easy, informative read. I've always wanted to read about Henry Flagler since my first, of many, trips to the Keys and St. Augustine. In particular, I've always been interested in the story of his second marriage to the wife who supposedly went nuts.
This book didn't sensationalize anything, which is ok by me. On the whole, the emotion of the book was pretty flat except for the stories about the hurricane of 1935 and its devastation. Because of the personal stories in that portion, I t
Jun 19, 2012 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history buffs, Floridians, meteorologists, weather geeks, storm survivors, railroad tycoons
Recommended to Chris by: Palm Beach County Public Library
This historical book was interesting, even gripping at times, and highly readable. I love non-fiction that reads like fiction and this fits that category.

It was a great look at the man -- Henry Flagler. I knew a little about him, and his works in Florida, but I didn't know about his role in Standard Oil and I had no idea he was so wealthy and powerful in his time. The author portrays him as a visionary and it felt accurate.

This is also a great "storm story". The sections of the book that describ
Jul 18, 2011 Trena rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Trena by: Random browsing in Goodreads
Henry Flagler was the co-founder of Standard Oil, along with John D. Rockefeller. Why have you not heard of him? (Or at least, why had I not heard of him?) Partly because his descendants don't seem to have held onto his wealth, but mostly because he ended up spending most of his money developing Florida. This book tells the story of the building of a railroad from the Florida mainland out to Key West, a route that can today be driven by car as the Overseas Highway, much of which was laid on the ...more
Bill Hall
"Last Train to Paradise" is popular history at its best. This is the story of an era that is no more--a time when one man with unlimited resources, and more importantly, unlimited vision could accomplish something wondrous. Henry M. Flager, who co-founded Standard Oil with John Rockefeller, left his active role in the company 15 years after its birth to pursue his new passion: building the modern state of Florida. At the heart of this book is Flager's drive to see the Key West Railroad completed ...more
Nov 25, 2007 Lori rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who loves the Florida Keys and wants to learn more about them.
I never thought I'd enjoy reading nonfiction so much, but this book, and the one I read previously on the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair have turned out to be two of my favorites. I guess I enjoy history more than I even knew. Plus, both of these books have proven handy when answering questions before my husband does when we are home watching Jeopardy!

Henry Flagler was a visionary. He looked the impossible in the face and succeeded where others thought was nothing but folly. He was a co-owner with J.D

An amazing story of Henry Flagler and how he got started. He had an 8th grade education and left home at age 14. I lived in Jacksonville, FL for 16 years and about all I knew about Flagler was Flagler College in St. Augustine. I did not know that Flagler was one of the owners of Standard Oil Company with John D. Rockefeller. In fact, Rockefeller after having met Flagler in the 1860s needed capital to invest in his new oil refining venture and he asked Flagler for capital and they became partners
I wanted this book to be more but I blame my disappointment not on the book itself but on the fact that I read it directly after finishing Grunwald's fine tome "The Swamp," which blew my little mind. In "Last Train," Standiford tells the story of how Henry Flagler, the financial brains behind Rockefeller's Standard Oil, sunk much of his fortune into developing Florida and building a railroad down the east coast and across the ocean from the mainland to Key West. But having just read "The Swamp," ...more
Thoroughly enjoyable account of mogul Henry Flagler's efforts to build a railway all the way down through the Florida Keys, a heroic effort nearly on a par with building the Panama Canal and other feats of notable civic engineering. Flagler was John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil partner, so of course he had huge resources at his disposal. But what becomes evident early on is that Flagler was a visionary, and he had a very clear vision of what he wanted Florida to become. (Florida, for some reaso ...more
I'd heard bits & pieces of Last Train to Paradise: Henry Flagler and the Spectacular Rise and Fall of the Railroad That Crossed an Ocean on The Radio Reader last March [2002]. I sent a recommendation to the local library and got to be the first reader of the copy they purchased.

As noted in the subtitle - the book is a history of Henry Flagler's Florida projects, most notably the construction of the Key West Railroad in the first decade of the 1900's. While there is some biographical backgro
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 72 73 next »
  • The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise
  • The Everglades: River of Grass
  • Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals
  • Books: A Living History
  • Bayou Farewell: The Rich Life and Tragic Death of Louisiana's Cajun Coast
  • Firestorm at Peshtigo: A Town, Its People, and the Deadliest Fire in American History
  • A Thread Across the Ocean: The Heroic Story of the Transatlantic Cable
  • The Scent of Scandal: Greed, Betrayal, and the World's Most Beautiful Orchid
  • Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam's Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned
  • A Man and His Ship: America's Greatest Naval Architect and His Quest to Build the S.S. United States
  • Blood, Iron And Gold: How The Railways Transformed The World
  • Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald
  • The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885
  • Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1980s
  • Sudden Sea: The Great Hurricane of 1938
  • A Land Remembered
  • PT 109
  • Empire of Mud: The Secret History of Washington, DC
Les Standiford is a historian and author and has since 1985 been the Director of the Florida International University Creative Writing Program. Standiford has been awarded the Frank O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, and belongs to the Associated Writing Programs, Mystery Writers of Ameri ...more
More about Les Standiford...

Share This Book

“Permanent construction of the sort Flagler was referring to would not come cheaply, however. Early in 1910, Flagler wrote to John Carrere, designer of the Ponce de Leon Hotel in St. Augustine, that repairing the damage caused by the hurricane had actually cost him $1 million, and reiterated that it had taught him a valuable lesson about upgrading the quality of the work. He estimated that it would require at least another $9 million to push the track to Key West, a figure that did not include the costs of a terminal and docking facilities.” 0 likes
More quotes…