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Florida Guide > Travelling

Mount Dora to Tavares – by Train

The plan for our visit to Mount Dora had been to take a picnic for lunch, which would then be followed by our Segway excursion, booked for 2 o’clock, and then after a stroll around the town we would get a meal at a restaurant before viewing the Christmas Illuminations which had been lit the night before. Unfortunately, due to the threat of adverse weather we had to move to plan B!

Following a phone call from the Segway Tour operators we made an early start and arrived at Mount Dora for mid-day. We were soon on our way and arrived back at the tour start by about 1. 30p. m. , by which time it had indeed started to rain. So rather than our picnic lunch we headed for Choo-Choos, a diner just next to the Inland Lakes Railway station. After our lunch, during which the rain had come down in bucket loads, my wife and I decided that the best way to keep out of the rain and be entertained would be to take the scenic railway tour to Tavares and back. Luckily the next train was due out in about 15 minutes and so we joined the small band of visitors who, like ourselves, were prepared to spend an hour and a quarter riding the old tracks of the Florida Central Railroad to Tavares on a damp Sunday afternoon in late November.

As we pulled out of Mount Dora our conductor introduced himself and began to tell us the history of the railroad and the local area, known as the Golden Triangle. This area between Tavares, Mount Dora and Eustace was once the producer of the best citrus fruits in the world. It is said that, at one time, if you climbed the Citrus Tower all you could see were citrus groves; but now you have to climb the tower to see any at all!

Passing by the lakeside we saw homes that had started life as boat building sheds as well as some model homes that had originally sold for $10, 000 but were now worth well over $1. 5m. Tavares is the geographical center of Florida and is the county seat of Lake County, although it took several votes and some political skulduggery to achieve this. On arrival at Tavares we were treated to a quite unique experience as the train and carriages negotiated the ‘wye’ (Y) which would enable the engine and carriages to turn round for the trip back to Mount Dora. On the return trip to Mount Dora we were to learn that the signal made by the engine on approaching crossings was the mores code for the letter Q, and apparently this originated in England in Victorian times when trains carrying Queen Victoria signalled there approach by hooting the letter Q!

An enjoyable trip, if somewhat cool; partly due to the weather, and partly to the fact that the carriages do not have glass in the windows. The excursion costs just $12 for Adults, $10 for Seniors (over 55) and $8 for kids aged 2 -12, and tickets can be purchased at the waiting room – an old railway carriage which also sells souvenirs.

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Page added on: 4 January 2010
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