Gulf Wind

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Gulf Wind
Overview
Type Inter-city rail
System Seaboard Air Line (1949-1967)
Seaboard Coast Line (1967-1971)
Louisville and Nashville (1949-1971)
Termini Jacksonville, Florida
New Orleans, Louisiana
Operation
Opened 1949
Closed 1971
Technical
Line length 616.6 miles (992.3 km)
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Gulf Wind was a streamlined passenger train inaugurated on July 31, 1949, as a joint operation by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (Seaboard Coast Line after merger with the Atlantic Coast Line on July 1, 1967).[1] The Gulf Wind replaced the heavyweight New Orleans - Florida Limited as the premier train on this routing.[2] For much of the twentieth century, one or two other passenger trains, numbered but unnamed, also plied this route daily; these were much-slower local trains, stopping at each small town along the route, and were labeled simply as "passenger, mail, and express" in timetables.

The train's 617-mile route ran from Jacksonville, Florida via Tallahassee, Chattahoochee, Pensacola, Flomaton, Mobile, and Biloxi to New Orleans. Locomotives were changed at Chattahoochee, where the SAL rails met those of the L&N.

Gulf Wind route 1949-1971[3]
Distance Station
0 New OrleansL&N
Louisiana/Mississippi border
52 mi (84 km) Bay St. Louis
St. Louis Bay
67 mi (108 km) Gulfport
Biloxi Bay
80 mi (130 km) Biloxi
Mississippi/Alabama border
140 mi (230 km) Mobile
Mobile River
200 mi (320 km) Flomaton
Alabama/Florida border
244 mi (393 km) Pensacola
Escambia Bay
294 mi (473 km) Crestview
379 mi (610 km) Marianna
Apalachicola River
405 mi (652 km) ChattahoocheeSAL
447.6 mi (720.3 km) Tallahassee
553.8 mi (891.3 km) Lake City
616.6 mi (992.3 km) Jacksonville

With a schedule designed for passengers changing to or from the Seaboard's Silver Meteor at Jacksonville, the Gulf Wind originally departed both endpoints at 5 p.m. daily for the overnight run across the Florida Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast, arriving in the morning at the other end of the line.[1] The name was likely inspired by the success of another train carried partly over L&N rails, the Chicago-Miami South Wind.

The consist of the Gulf Wind included baggage cars, coaches, and Pullman sleepers, as well as an L&N diner between New Orleans and Mobile, and an SAL diner between Chattahoochee and Jacksonville.[4] A round-ended observation car was also a regular part of the Gulf Wind consist.

In its later years, as passenger numbers dwindled, the Gulf Wind was often combined with L&N's northbound Piedmont Limited from New Orleans to Flomaton, and with the southbound Pan-American from Flomaton to New Orleans. The Gulf Wind's daily schedule was cut back to triweekly in the late 1960s.[1]

The last run of the Gulf Wind occurred on April 30, 1971. Amtrak, which took over nearly all passenger train operations in the United States on the following day, elected not to continue running the Gulf Wind, which despite good equipment and service was not a profitable train at that point in time.[1]

The western portion of the Gulf Wind route from Mobile to New Orleans was briefly served by Amtrak's Gulf Coast Limited from 1984 to 1985, and again from 1996 to 1997.

The Gulf Wind route had no scheduled passenger train service between Jacksonville and Flomaton until the revived and extended tri-weekly Sunset Limited was inaugurated by Amtrak in 1993. The service was again suspended in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage to the Gulf Coast. It has not been resumed as of 2016.[5]

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