Gulf Coast Limited
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||United States Gulf Coast|
|First service||April 29, 1984
June 27, 1996
|Last service||January 6, 1985
March 31, 1997
|Start||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Distance travelled||145 miles (233 km)|
|Average journey time||3 hours 40 minutes (1984-85)
3 hours 10 minutes (1996-97)
|Catering facilities||Cafe lounge|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Track owner(s)||SBD (1984-85)
The Gulf Coast Limited operated over a 145-mile (233 km) route from New Orleans to Mobile, hugging the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of this route is now owned by CSX Transportation (NO&M Subdivision), save a few miles around the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal and East City Junction, which are owned by Amtrak and the Norfolk Southern Railway, respectively.:ES.2
The Gulf Coast Limited grew out of a feasibility study conducted by the Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama Rapid Rail Transit Commission in the early 1980s. The study sought a commuter rail service centered on New Orleans linking Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Slidell, Louisiana or Mobile, Alabama. In the end the Commission opted for a New Orleans—Mobile service, prompted in part by the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. The three states entered into a 403(b) arrangement with Amtrak; under this provision Amtrak undertakes to operate a service but the contracting states subsidize most of the cost. The first train ran on April 29, 1984.
In the fall Amtrak explored extending the Gulf Coast Limited from Mobile to Birmingham, Alabama (a route later served by the Gulf Breeze), but did not alter the train's route. The train was popular, but service ended on January 6, 1985 after Mississippi declined to continue its support.
Amtrak revived the Gulf Coast Limited on June 27, 1996 following the cancellation of the Gulf Breeze. The states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi each contributed $185,000 for a 90-day trial run. Amtrak estimated that yearly operation would cost $3.1 million. The train used the same route as its 1984 precursor but did not stop in East New Orleans. Initial ridership was higher than expected: a standard consist could seat 134, but weekend trains regularly carried 300, against 50-60 on weekdays. A federal appropriation allowed Amtrak to extend the Gulf Coast Limited six months beyond the trial period, but additional state money was not forthcoming. Service ended March 31, 1997.
- BURK-KLEINPETER, INC. (May 2006). "Gulf Coast High-Speed Rail Corridor: New Orleans to Mobile Corridor Development Plan" (PDF). The Southern Rapid Rail Transit Commission. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- Turner, Gregg (2006). Florida Railroads in the 1920s. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-4232-6.
- Stennis, Todd. "History". Southern High-Speed Rail Commission. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- "Birmingham-Mobile route to be tested by Amtrak". Gadsden Times. September 25, 1984. Retrieved 2011-12-26.
- Herbert, H. Josef (February 18, 1985). "Amtrak tries to improve service while cutting costs". Santa Cruz Sentinel. p. 36. Retrieved October 5, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- Russell, Kelly (October 7, 1996). "Amtrak's Gulf Coast Limited riding on borrowed time". Mississippi Business Journal – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- "Train of thought: Save the Gulf Coast Limited". New Orleans Magazine – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). November 1, 1996. Retrieved 28 October 2012.
- "AMTRAK TO CUT SEATTLE-CHICAGO PIONEER RAIL SERVICE". Seattle Post-Intelligencer – via HighBeam Research (subscription required). March 21, 1997. Retrieved 28 October 2012.