Royal Palm (train)

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Royal Palm
Royal Palm Southern Railway.JPG
Postcard depiction of the New Royal Palm
Overview
Last service 1970
Former operator(s) Southern Railway
Route
Start Cincinnati, Ohio
End Miami, Florida

The Royal Palm was a named train of the Southern Railway which ran from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Jacksonville, Florida, and then on the Florida East Coast Railway to Miami, Florida. The train was discontinued in 1970.

Operations[edit]

The Royal Palm provided connections with the New York Central Railroad at Cincinnati for passengers headed to Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo. A through sleeper and coach between Miami and Detroit operated until 1957. The Royal Palm operated overnight between Atlanta and Jacksonville and during daylight hours to the north to Cincinnati. The Ponce de Leon alternated with the Royal Palm on a reverse schedule between Cincinnati and Jacksonville, and the heavyweight companion was actually just as fast as the Palm during the 1950s and 1960s.

The Royal Palm (Train #3) departed from Cincinnati going south via the Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway to Chattanooga, Tennessee, then on Southern's former East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia main on to Atlanta, Georgia, and Macon, Georgia, then via the Georgia Southern & Florida to Jacksonville, Florida.

History[edit]

Train accident[edit]

The Ponce de Leon and Royal Palm collided on December 23, 1926, in Rockmart, Georgia. The northbound Ponce de Leon struck the Royal Palm with the result that 19 people were killed and 113 were injured, most on the Ponce de Leon.[1]

The accident was also the subject of a song: "The Wreck of the Royal Palm" by Vernon Dalhart.[2]

Post-war winter schedule[edit]

The Royal Palm at Danville, KY station on April 11, 1963.

In 1949, an order for twelve EMD E7s was delivered to Southern Railway for use on its passenger trains. On December 15, 1949, the New York Central, Southern and Florida East Coast began operation of the streamlined New Royal Palm winter-only train that replaced the Florida Sunbeam, which had run down Southern's (GS&F) Palatka branch to Hampton, where it connected to the Seaboard to Miami.

The New Royal Palm was a Detroit-Miami streamliner which carried through-sleepers for Chicago, Cleveland and Buffalo. Each train carried up to 20 cars, including a dining car and tavern-lounge car. In the off-season, the equipment was used on the Royal Palm, where it was permanently assigned after the New Royal Palm ceased to operate in April 1955.

Stylish coaches provided by Southern and Florida East Coast featured spacious men's and women's smoking lounges and large color photo murals of Florida scenery on both bulkheads. Both trains carried an elegant Pullman-built split-level observation lounge car (with tall rear windows) for sleeping car passengers until 1957. (Click on Royal Street link below).

Coach passengers could socialize and relax in an intimate little bar-lounge next to the diner.

Until 1957 African-Americans were carried in the "colored" coach (RP-1), a combination baggage-coach behind the diesels. The dining car was segregated, and the coach-lounge was strictly off-limits to black passengers.

The amenities provided on the Royal Palm were gradually curtailed as Southern Railway attempted to reduce operating losses. The train was discontinued in segments - first between Jacksonville and Valdosta, Georgia, in 1966 when the diner and sleeper were dropped - but the Palm carried its coach-lounge right up to the end of its long career.

Ironically, the Royal Palm name was kept even though the train no longer served Florida where royal palms thrived on the lower East Coast. Later the two-car remnant of the once-proud sunliner was discontinued south of Atlanta, then the section between Somerset, Kentucky, and Dalton, Georgia, was cut, leaving two disconnected trains, which were finally discontinued in 1970.

Southern did not join Amtrak in 1971, at which time had only four trains, the Southern Crescent, the Piedmont, and two unnamed runs, one each in North Carolina and Virginia, the latter three being dropped in 1975.

Southern ended passenger operations on January 31, 1979, and joined Amtrak, with its only remaining train being the Crescent.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mintz, Duane "Cowboy", Train Collision: Tragedy of Christmas 1926, Rockmart Journal, December 24, 1997 [1]
  2. ^ The Wreck of the Royal Palm by Vernon Dalhart