For museum professionals, every artifact, both large and small, has its own story to tell. Here at Manatee Village one of those objects is an iconic piece of Bradenton history.
In November of 1913, at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, construction was completed on a steam engine locomotive. Constructed of steel, oak and yellow pine, this particular engine had a uniquely shaped smoke stack which would later lead to the creation of its iconic nickname, “Old Cabbage Head.”
Upon completion of construction, this 1913 Baldwin Locomotive first arrived in Florida to be used by the Taylor County Lumber Company and the Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company. Here, the locomotive was given the name “Locomotive Number 2” and was used to haul logs throughout northern Florida. Thirty-five years after arriving in Florida, Old Cabbage Head continued its journey and arrived in Manatee County in 1948.
Upon arriving in Manatee County, Old Cabbage Head began to work for the Manatee-Nocatee Crate Company. First formed in 1921, the Manatee Crate Company made both fruit and vegetable containers out of the logs it acquired from local lumber businesses, along the East and West Coast Railway. The Manatee Crate Company had trackage rights over a portion of the line and owned several locomotives besides Old Cabbage Head.
While in operation by the Manatee Crate Company, Old Cabbage Head would travel east toward Pine Level, where it would collect cut timber, and return the timber back to the mill where the timber would then be constructed into crates. Old Cabbage Head traveled the rails until 1951, under the operation of Solomon Williams, Florida’s first black train engineer. Though Old Cabbage Head was done traveling the railways, the historic locomotive’s journey throughout Bradenton was not over yet.
After the closing of the Manatee Crate Company during the 1950s, Old Cabbage Head sat in East Bradenton near Ninth Avenue, where it was being overgrown by weeds. In 1954, afraid of losing this historic artifact to scrap, the Manatee County Historical Society began fundraising to purchase and preserve the historic engine. The sum of $900 was raised by the community and the train was purchased from the Jacksonville Metal and Iron Company.
After purchasing the train, the historical society restored it and brought it to Bradenton’s waterfront where it would greet visitors arriving in Bradenton. The train was first placed at a site near the South Florida Museum and later moved to Rossi Park. While along the waterfront, Old Cabbage Head acted as a backdrop for tourist photographs and was explored by the children of the community.
In 1984, 30 years after the locomotive’s move to the waterfront, Old Cabbage Head was in need of repairs. The well-used structure had begun to deteriorate, and so in March of that year, the train was turned over to the city and extensive restoration began through a volunteer effort.
Nearly 50 years after Old Cabbage Head’s original move to Bradenton’s waterfront, the historic train was moved once again. In 2002, the City of Bradenton donated Old Cabbage Head to Manatee Village Historical Park. Today, the historic train that greets visitors of the museum is once again in need of restoration, which will be led by the Manatee County Historical Commission.
To raise awareness for the restoration efforts, please tag Manatee Village (@manateevillage) on Facebook and Twitter in photographs you have with the train. If you would like to have your photographs considered for display in an upcoming temporary exhibit on Old Cabbage Head, please email photographs to Manatee.Village@manateeclerk.com.
Bridget Donahue-Farrell loves learning about local history and showing how it relates to larger topics within the scope of the United States history. She can be reached at Bridget.Donahue-Farrell@manateeclerk.com.