Jacksonville and Southwestern Railroad

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The Jacksonville & Southwestern Railroad (J&SW) was a railroad that served Florida from 1899 to 1904. It was purchased by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1904; some of the original right-of-way was converted to a recreational path in the rails to trails program in the 1990s.

History[edit]

The railroad was built by Wellington W. Cummer from his sawmill at Milldale, on the St. Johns River north of the then city limits of Jacksonville, Florida, to access timber lands near Newberry, Florida.[1] Chartered on March 11, 1899,[2] by November 1899 it was complete to Lake Butler, where connection was made with the Georgia Southern & Florida Railway (GS&F), and the terminus of Newberry was reached a month later. The company was closely held by the Cummer family at first: The original officers were W. W. Cummer of Jacksonville, President; Jacob Cummer, of Cadillac, Michigan, Vice-President; Arthur G. Cummer, Treasurer; and Waldo E. Cummer, Secretary. General manager of construction was George L. Davis.[3] An agreement with the new Atlantic, Valdosta & Western Railway (AV&W) allowed the use of their line from the junction at Grand Crossing near the Jacksonville city limits to a station adjacent to the AV&W depot at Catherine and East Bay streets. Excursions were run for Jacksonville's Gala Week in November, regular daily service began a month later. By then the President was James M. Barnett of Grand Rapids; Jacob Cummer as First Vice-President; W. W. Cummer Second Vice-President; Harvey Hollister of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Treasurer; Arthur G. Cummer, Secretary. Waldo E. Cummer was named Superintendent, and George L. Davis remained as Superintendent of construction.[4]

The road operated a round trip daily, leaving Newberry around 6 a.m. and arriving in Jacksonville four and a half hours later; the return left around 5 p.m. for a late evening arrival in Newberry. A close connection was made with GS&F trains at Lake Butler and package cars ran through via Lake Butler to Lake City and Gainesville.[5] The J&SW had many connections: In addition to the AV&W and the GS&F, it connected with the Florida Central & Peninsular Railroad at Jacksonville, Baldwin and Deep Creek Junction; the Plant System's Savannah, Florida & Western Railway at Grand Crossing; and the Atlantic, Suwannee River & Gulf Railway at LaCrosse.

The J&SW was built primarily to serve the Cummer mills, and though it crossed some valuable phosphate lands, the Cummers did little to develop that traffic. On July 1, 1903, C. W. Chase, President of the H. F. Dutton & Co., a Gainesville-based phosphate mining company, bought the J&SW and became its President. E. S. Spencer, the road's traffic manager, was named General Manager.[6] Within a month Chase announced that construction was to begin on a large phosphate port at Milldale. The road was extended a few miles west of Newberry to reach the Dutton mine.[7]

The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) expressed interest in the J&SW, and bought the road outright as soon as the Florida Railroad Commission approved the purchase on July 28, 1904.[8] The daily train continued to use the Catherine Street station for several months before being switched over to the Jacksonville Terminal on West Bay Street. The ACL extended the new line south and west; eventually it became the West Coast Route for trains to St. Petersburg from Jacksonville. Passenger service ended on May 1, 1971, with the advent of Amtrak, and most of the line was abandoned in 1972. In 1993, CSX sold 14 miles between Imeson Road (about three miles west of Grand Crossing) and State Road 121 near Baldwin to the Florida Department of Natural Resources for the Rails-to-Trails program.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Richard E. Prince, published by Richard E. Prince, Green River, Wyoming, 1974 printing; p.107
  2. ^ Poor's Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1903 Edition, Poor's Railroad Manual Co., New York, N. Y., p. 280
  3. ^ "The Florida Times-Union and Citizen, Jacksonville, Florida; May 1, 1899
  4. ^ "The Florida Times-Union and Citizen, Jacksonville, Florida; November 11, 1899
  5. ^ "The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida; Timetable published January 5, 1903
  6. ^ "The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida; July 5, 1903
  7. ^ "The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida; July 30, 1903
  8. ^ "The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida; July 29, 1904
  9. ^ "The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Florida; March 1, 1993