Thursday, August 7, 2014

ACL: Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Overview

The ACL served points from Richmond, Virginia, to Florida and west to Birmingham, Alabama.

American Rails has a more readable overview map.

However, in Florida, ACL goes about everywhere except the Atlantic coast because Henry Flager's Florida East Coast Railway beat the ACL to that market. The Florida Railroad Museum documents:
Henry Plant took over the Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railroad and expanded into Tampa to connect with his steamship lines running to Cuba and other destinations. He also built hotels and key locations along this line in the 1890s. In 1900, Henry Plant died and his railroad interests were soon purchased by the Atlantic Coast Line, along with several other acquisitions in Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia. The Atlantic Coast Line made Tampa its major destination on the West Coast with maintenance shops, yards and shipping facilities located there. The ACL Florida main line ran from Jacksonville to Tampa via Orlando, Lakeland and Plant City.
Because of the tourist traffic in Florida, ACL's passenger service was always profitable. In fact, they were still building new stations and depots in the 1960s when many railroads were cutting back their passenger service. The holding company that built the ACL at the end of the 18th century expanded with the purchase of the Plant System in 1902 and control of the Atlanta, Birmingham & Coast in 1926. The holding company also bought control the of the Louisville & Nashville in 1902 by purchasing J.P.Morgan's L&N stock. Note that the American Rails map depicts the system after the 1926 purchase of the Birmingham line. The AB&C was important because that allowed the ACL to connect with the L&N at Birmingham, Alabama.

ACL merged with the Seaboard Air Line in 1967 to form the Seaboard Coast Line.

A book on the ACL history is available online.

I assume the track southeast of Perry is abandoned because I noticed an abandoned right-of-way along US 19. This would have been part of the Perry Cutoff between Thomasville, Georgia, and Dunnellon, Florida, that was constructed in 1928 to considerably shorten the route between the Midwest and west coast points (Wikipedia). I was able to confirm it is ACL track that was abandoned along US 19.

The Champion passenger train was ACL's first streamlined train. It was started in 1939 in response to SAL's Silver Meteor. ACL's passenger trains from the Northeast used the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York to Washington DC and the Richmond, Federicksburg & Potomac Railroad to Richmond, VA. Passenger trains to Miami transferred to the Florida East Coast at Jacksonville, FL, until 1963 when the FEC ended passenger service because of a long-lasting strike. Then the ACL transferred Miami-bound trains to SAL rails at Auburndale, FL. (Wikipedia)

EMC 501 pulled the Champion passenger train

Bill Molony posted
Pennsylvania Railroad train #304, The South Wind, easing across the PRR's lift bridge near 21st Street in August of 1951.
On this particular day, it was powered by two Atlantic Coast Line EMD E7A locomotives.
The South Wind operated over the PRR between Chicago and Louisville, the L&N between Louisville and Montgomery, the ACL between Montgomery and Jacksonville, and the FEC between Jacksonville and Miami.
This train was equipped with reclining seat coaches, a lounge car, a dining car, Pullman sleeping cars and an observation broiler-buffet lounge coach.
[I wish I have been keeping notes on the various routes between Chicago and Florida. Different Chicago railroads would have different partners to get to Florida.]
Brian Watt commented on Bill's post
[The different railroads would pool power and cars.]

Randall Thornton commented on Jeff's comment on the fourth photo of a post concerning the depot in Okahumpka.
Here is a map of the ACL in Florida. You can follow the line from Ocala to Leesburg, Okahumpka and over the the west coast of Florida.

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