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The Floridian at Winter Park in 1973.
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||Eastern United States|
|First service||November 14, 1971|
|Last service||October 9, 1979|
|End||St. Petersburg, Florida
|Distance travelled||1,597 miles (2,570 km) (Miami)
1,481 miles (2,383 km) (St. Petersburg)
|Average journey time||38 hours 40 minutes (Miami)
38 hours 33 minutes (St. Petersburg)
|Train number(s)||56, 57|
|Class(es)||Sleeping cars and reserved coach|
|Catering facilities||Dining car and on-board cafe|
|Observation facilities||Dome coach|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Track owner(s)||LN, SCL|
The Floridian was a train operated by Amtrak from 1971 to 1979 that ran from Chicago to Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida. Its route mainly followed that of several former Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger trains, including the Humming Bird (Cincinnati—Louisville—New Orleans). Originating in Chicago, the train served Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana; Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery and Dothan, Alabama; and Thomasville, Valdosta and Waycross, Georgia. At Jacksonville, Florida, the train split to serve two different routes, one serving St. Petersburg, Florida via Orlando, and the other serving Miami via Ocala and Winter Haven. These two legs crossed each other near Lakeland, Florida.
The Floridian was notorious for poor on-time performance, frequent problems owing to poor condition of equipment inherited from the private railroads, and poor condition of some of the trackage it traversed. The train used the lines of the L&N (in Indiana, over the former Monon Railroad, which merged into the L&N shortly before the formation of Amtrak), and Seaboard Coast Line. All are now part of CSX Transportation; some parts of the line have been abandoned.
Amtrak discontinued the train in October 1979. This left Louisville and Nashville without passenger train service, two of the largest such cities in the nation. (Louisville briefly regained Amtrak service with the Kentucky Cardinal, which ran from 1999 to 2003).
The Floridian as conceived by Amtrak was a combination of the Pennsylvania Railroad's South Wind, which operated over PRR track from Chicago to Louisville via Logansport and Indianapolis, Indiana; then L&N from Louisville to Montgomery, Alabama; the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) from Montgomery via Waycross to Jacksonville; and then either the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to Miami or the Atlantic Coast Line to St. Petersburg.:79–80
Amtrak restored the South Wind—later renamed Floridian—as a through daily Chicago-Miami train. However, the train was rerouted away from Logansport to the James Whitcomb Riley route via Indianapolis, changing its northern terminus to Chicago's Central Station (owned by the Illinois Central), which it shared with Amtrak's Panama Limited (the renamed City of New Orleans and not the original all-Pullman flagship) until that facility was vacated later in favor of consolidating all services at Chicago's Union Station. The Floridian began using Union Station on January 23, 1972.:82
The new Floridian had to contend with Penn Central's (PC) poor track conditions, which resulted in its using at times the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois and Chicago Indianapolis & Louisville (Monon) routes north of Louisville. In January 1977, the Floridian was cancelled for two weeks due to severe winter weather in Chicago.
Amtrak, which came into being May 1, 1971, also began serving the west coast of Florida by splitting the now-daily South Wind at Auburndale, with a section to St. Petersburg via Tampa. Amtrak's abandoned the Jacksonville Terminal/Jacksonville Union Station located at the corner of Bay and Water Streets in favor of a new station along the former Atlantic Coast Line on the Kings Highway. For the now-renamed Floridian (and the other Florida trains), this meant the end to the need to back in and out of Jacksonville Terminal, which was stub-ended for all trains except those of the FEC—which was still operating freight-only under strike. Today Jacksonville Terminal survives as a convention center that pays homage to its rail heritage. CSX freight trains ply the rails outside the station.
During Amtrak's tenure, it continued to utilize E-units from many railroads before replacing them with the SDP40Fs which began arriving in the mid 1970s. Unfortunately, these engines had a tendency to derail, especially on rickety PC trackage. The train suffered abominable time keeping and not infrequent derailments, including one at 10 mph. The consists remained steam-heated until the end and at times included dome cars along with the regular complement of coaches, Pullmans, and food service (diners and lounges) cars.
The Floridian was briefly combined with the Louisville—Sanford run of Auto-Train. This resulted in consists of AT U36B locomotives and purple, red, and white auto carriers mingling with Amtrak platinum mist, red, and blue cars. Unfortunately, the success with the original Lorton—Sanford Auto-Train did not replicate itself on the Louisville-Sanford run, in part due to the poor timekeeping of the Floridian and this train was discontinued before Auto-Train itself finally succumbed to financial difficulties in the early 1980s. As part of this move Amtrak stopped serving Union Station in Louisville on November 1, 1976, instead using Auto-Train's suburban station. This continued until the Floridian's discontinuance.:221
A similar end would come for the Floridian as it ceased operations in 1979, along with the National Limited, North Coast Hiawatha, Lone Star, and Champion, thus helping to roll back some of the key parts of the original Amtrak system and gains made since its May 1, 1971 founding. The discontinuance was the outgrowth of a DOT report compiled during the Carter Administration that recommended the reduction of services on several routes that did not meet a metric for cost coverage. This report also recommended the discontinuance of the Chicago—Oakland (San Francisco) San Francisco Zephyr—which, as the California Zephyr, has gone on to become one of Amtrak's most popular trains.
There has been no concrete effort to re-establish a Chicago-Miami service, either on the route of the South Wind/Floridian or on that of its partners the City of Miami and Dixie Flagler. During the early 2000s, Amtrak extended the Kentucky Cardinal to a re-opened Louisville Union Station, then discontinued the train again.
While there have been no proposals to restore Amtrak service to Nashville, there have been repeated calls from residents. However, in 2007 Tennessee state officials said resumption of service was unlikely due to scarce federal funding. "It would be wonderful to say I can be in Memphis and jump on a train to Nashville, but the volume of people who would do that isn't anywhere close to what the cost would be to provide the service," said Ed Cole, chief of environment and planning with the Tennessee Department of Transportation. Ross Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, said rail trips would catch on if routes were expanded, but conceded that it would be nearly impossible resume to Amtrak service to Nashville without a substantial investment from the state.
In the diesel era, the South Wind was originally powered by Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) engines. Later, when a second train set was added, the train was typically headed by the E-units of the PRR on one set, and the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) on the other set. Though the train used the L&N for a significant portion of its run, a run-through agreement between the PRR and ACL provided that L&N units were only used in emergencies.
Soon after the Central of Georgia (CofG) took delivery of E8s 811 and 812, they were sent to Chicago and repainted in Illinois Central (IC) colors, returning to the CofG only on diesel run-throughs of IC power. They were used on the IC system. As a result, the IC supplied power to the City of Miami from Chicago to Miami and in the mid-1960s on the Seminole between Chicago and Columbus, Georgia. These engines were returned to the CofG after Amtrak came into being, but were retired from service.
The Dixie Flagler was originally steam powered with each railroad supplying their own power. Some had specifically designated streamlined engines.
- Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. OCLC 61499942.
- "Amtrak Floridian Back In Service". Retrieved 2013-11-22.
- Howard, Kate (July 2, 2007). "Fans of rail want Amtrak here; Nashville not ready to support train service, state says". The Tennessean. Retrieved October 30, 2012.
- Media related to Floridian at Wikimedia Commons
- Floridian Passenger Rail Service Reestablishment Act of 1993 (failed Congressional bill)
- 1979 timetable