|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Status||Suspended until October 3rd, 2022|
|Locale||East Coast of the United States|
|First service||February 2, 1939|
|Current operator(s)||Amtrak (1971–present)|
|Annual ridership||187,013 (FY21) −47.1%[a]|
|Termini||New York City|
|Distance travelled||1,389 miles (2,235 km)|
|Average journey time||27h 44m|
|Train number(s)||97, 98|
|Disabled access||All train cars, all stations|
|Catering facilities||Dining car, Café|
|Baggage facilities||Overhead racks, checked baggage available at selected stations|
|Rolling stock||Amfleet, Viewliner|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||Up to 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) (Northeast Corridor)|
|Track owner(s)||Amtrak, CSXT, CFRC, SFRTA|
The Silver Meteor is a passenger train operated by Amtrak between New York City and Miami, Florida. Introduced in 1939 as the first diesel-powered streamliner between New York and Florida, it was the flagship train of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad and one of its flagship trains of its successor, the Seaboard Coast Line. It was handed to Amtrak when it took over intercity rail service in 1971.
The train is part of Amtrak's Silver Service brand, along with its sister train, the Silver Star, SAL’s other former flagship streamliner. The two trains are the remnants of the numerous long-distance trains that operated between Florida and New York for most of the 20th century.
During fiscal year 2019, the Silver Meteor carried 353,466 passengers, an increase of 4.9% from FY2018.  In FY2016, the train had a total revenue of $36,652,426, a decrease of 4.7% from FY2015.  The train is currently suspended until October 3rd, 2022 due to staffing and equipment shortages.
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) inaugurated the Silver Meteor on February 2, 1939. The name was selected via contest, with 30 people among 76,000 entrants proposing the winning name. It was the first diesel-powered streamliner to Florida, and its introduction prompted its competitor, the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to introduce its own New York-Florida streamliner, the Champion, in December 1939. The SAL emphasized the train's modernity, referring to it as the "Train of Tomorrow" and having its first trip to Florida begin not from New York Penn Station, but from the Long Island Rail Road station at the 1939 New York World's Fair. The train used seven new cars manufactured by the Budd Company. The original schedule took 25 hours.
The Pennsylvania Railroad carried the train from New York to Washington along its main line–now the Northeast Corridor–under a haulage agreement. Between Washington and Richmond it used the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, jointly owned by the SAL and five other railroads. From Richmond south SAL's own track was used via Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, Savannah, Georgia, Jacksonville, Florida and Ocala, Florida. Until the late 1960s the Silver Meteor split at Wildwood, Florida, with one section continuing to Miami, and the other to St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Venice on Florida's west coast.
The SAL merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad in 1967, and in 1968 the new railroad reshuffled the Florida streamliners. The Silver Meteor lost its west coast section and began serving Miami only. The Pennsy merged with the New York Central Railroad to form Penn Central, which inherited the longstanding haulage agreement for the Silver Meteor. Amtrak retained the train when it took over most intercity passenger trains on May 1, 1971.
From December 17, 1971, to April 15, 1972, and September 10, 1972, to April 27, 1973, the Silver Meteor bypassed Jacksonville, running over the track between the Georgia state line and Baldwin, Florida. Between November 14, 1971 and January 16, 1972, the Silver Meteor made the major shift in its route, shifting from its traditional path on the old SAL mainline through Columbia to the old ACL mainline through Florence and Charleston, South Carolina. Between June 11 and September 10, 1972 the Silver Meteor was extended to Boston and called the Meteor. Service to St. Petersburg returned with the train splitting at Auburndale.
On several occasions during the 1970s, the Silver Meteor was combined with its old rival, the Champion. In the summer of 1972, Amtrak split the trains in Savannah, with the Champion continuing to St. Petersburg and the Meteor continuing to Miami. They were combined again for the summers of 1975, 1976 and 1977, splitting in Jacksonville. Finally, in 1979, the Champion was permanently folded into the Silver Meteor as a St. Petersburg section. Although the Champion name was preserved for a time, it disappeared with the October 1, 1979 timetable.
On September 30, 1979 the Silver Meteor was rerouted between Savannah and Jacksonville over the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad route, due to the abandonment of the old SAL route. On January 31, 1984 the Silver Meteor's Florida west coast terminus was cut back from St. Petersburg to Tampa, ending almost 100 years of rail passenger service to St. Petersburg. By October 26, 1986 the Silver Meteor had shifted to the old ACL route north of Savannah, as the abandonment of the SAL route north of Raleigh affected only the Silver Star. On June 11, 1988 the tracks between Coleman and Auburndale, Florida were abandoned, then removed to create the General James A. Van Fleet State Trail, shifting the Miami section west to Lakeland.
By the end of 1988, the Silver Meteor's Miami section had train numbers 97 and 98, while the Tampa section had train numbers 87 and 88. The Tampa section (87 and 88) was discontinued in 1994, and the Miami section (97 and 98) was rerouted through Orlando, and are still used today.
The best timing for Amtrak's Silver Meteor between Miami and New York City was 27 hours in 2008; SAL's first edition took 25 hours in 1939. Late trains often add more hours to today's schedules, most often caused by freight delays.
In the January 2011 issue of Trains Magazine this route was listed as one of five routes to be looked at by Amtrak in FY 2011 as the previous five routes (Sunset, Eagle, Zephyr, Capitol, and Cardinal) were examined in FY 2010.
As of 2019, the train's dining car no longer serves freshly cooked meals in a traditional setting. They have switched to the “flexible dining” system, which consists of pre-prepared meals which are then heated at the time of purchase.
On July 6, 2020, Amtrak reduced the frequency of this train to four times per week as opposed to daily due to the impact of ridership from the worldwide COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. Southbound Silver Meteor trains departed New York Monday through Thursday, while Silver Star trains departed Friday through Sunday. Similarly, northbound Silver Meteor trains departed Miami Sunday through Wednesday, while Silver Star trains departed Miami on Thursday through Saturday. Both trains resumed daily services on June 7, 2021, after additional Amtrak funding was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
In 2021, Amtrak reached out to FDOT to begin negotiations again for utilization of the Miami Intermodal Center. This comes after years of disagreement over the platform length at the MIC, as Amtrak normally adds cars to the Silver Meteor and Silver Star during the winter season to accommodate increased demand. In February 2022, negotiations restarted between FDOT and Amtrak. Later in March 2022, a test train operated into and out of the station and proved that the platforms are sufficient in length to hold a standard 10 car train. However, the platforms are not long enough to accomodate an 11 to 12 car train, which could be possible in the winter months. In September 2022, Amtrak management announced that it had restarted lease negotiations with FDOT regarding use and maintenance of the terminal. One issue however, is the deadheading move that will need to take place between the MIC and Hialeah. Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner has stated that "the company is evaluating technical and operational aspects of the move."
From January 24 to October 3, 2022, the Silver Meteor was suspended due to the Omicron variant surge of the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on staffing and equipment availability. During this period, the Silver Meteor's sister train, the Silver Star, continued to operate. Additional coach and sleeping car capacity was added to the Silver Star, creating a train that carried as many as six coaches and five sleepers. The Silver Star provided once-daily service to stations normally served by both trains between New York and Rocky Mount, NC as well as between Savannah, GA and Miami, FL during this period. Furthermore, a stop was temporarily added at Jesup, GA, which is usually only served by the Silver Meteor. Once-daily service remained available to Silver Meteor stations between Rocky Mount, NC and Savannah, GA via the daily daytime Palmetto, which operates between New York and Savannah.
The original Silver Meteor used lightweight cars built by the Budd Company. Three consists were needed for a daily train between New York and Miami; each had a baggage-dormitory-coach (22 seats), three 60-seat coaches, a tavern-lounge-coach (30 seats), a dining car, and a coach-observation-lounge (48 seats). Some of the coaches were owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Budd delivered more cars in November–December 1940, allowing daily service to St. Petersburg: three baggage-dormitory-coaches (18 seats), seven 56-seat coaches, two dining cars, and three coach-buffet-observation cars (30 seats).
By the early 1960s, the SAL's Silver Meteor typically had 17 cars or more, consisting of nine Pullman sleeping cars including its highly touted glass-topped Sun Lounge introduced in 1956, several coaches, two dining cars, and an observation car with tavern.
The Silver Meteor now uses Amtrak's standard long-distance single-level equipment: Viewliner baggage cars, Viewliner sleeping cars, Viewliner dining cars, Amfleet cafe-lounges and Amfleet coaches. An ACS-64 electric locomotive is used between New York City and Washington, D.C, while two GE P42DC diesel electric locomotives are used for power south of Washington, D.C.
A typical Silver Meteor consist as of June 2021 includes:
- 1 ACS-64 engine (New York–Washington)
- 2 P42DC engines (Washington–Miami)
- 2-4 Amfleet II Coaches
- 1 Amfleet II Cafe/Lounge
- 1 Viewliner II Diner
- 2-3 Viewliner I/II Sleepers
- 1 Viewliner II Baggage Car or Baggage-Dormitory Car
- New York – Washington D.C. (Amtrak)
- Washington D.C. – DeLand, FL (CSXT)
- DeLand - Poinciana, FL (SunRail)
- Poinciana - Mangonia Park, FL (CSXT)
- Mangonia Park - Miami, FL (Tri-Rail)
The Silver Meteor uses the same route as the Silver Star – the other train in the Silver Service brand – excluding two segments, Selma, NC – Savannah, GA and Kissimmee, FL – Winter Haven, FL. Between Selma and Savannah, the Silver Star takes an inland route over the CSX S-Line to serve the Carolinas' state capitals of Raleigh and Columbia, while the Silver Meteor stays closer to the coast on the CSX A-Line and serves Fayetteville, NC and Charleston, SC. At Auburndale, FL, the Silver Meteor turns south to go directly Miami, while the Silver Star continues west to Lakeland, FL and Tampa, before coming back to Auburndale and turning south to Miami. In addition to these diversions, between Sebring, FL and West Palm Beach, FL, the Silver Meteor makes no intermediate stops, while the Silver Star makes an additional stop at Okeechobee, FL. Inversely, between Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL, the Silver Meteor makes an additional stop at Jesup, GA, while the Silver Star makes no intermediate stops. The daytime Palmetto uses the same route as the Silver Meteor but terminates in Savannah.
In its present form, the southbound Silver Meteor leaves New York in mid-afternoon, arriving in Washington at dinner time and traveling overnight through Virginia and the Carolinas for arrival at breakfast time the following morning in Savannah, rush hour in Jacksonville, lunchtime in Orlando, and early evening in Miami. Northbound trains leave Miami just before rush hour, arriving in central Florida at lunchtime and Jacksonville in late afternoon and dinner time in Savannah, then passing through the Carolinas and Virginia overnight for arrival at breakfast time in Washington, mid-morning in Philadelphia and lunchtime in New York.
Like other long-distance trains operating on the Northeast Corridor, local travel between NEC stations is not allowed on the Silver Meteor. Northbound trains only stop to discharge passengers from Alexandria, VA northward, and southbound trains only stop to receive passengers from Newark, NJ to Washington. This policy is in place to keep seats available for passengers making longer trips. Passengers wanting to travel locally must use the more frequent Northeast Regional or Acela trains. Additionally, the Silver Meteor, like the Silver Star, does not allow local travel between West Palm Beach and Miami. Southbound trains only stop to discharge passengers, while northbound trains only stop to receive passengers bound for points beyond West Palm Beach. This is due to the availability of Tri-Rail, South Florida's commuter rail system.
- "Amtrak Fiscal Year 2021 Ridership" (PDF). Amtrak. September 30, 2021. Retrieved February 28, 2022.
- Amtrak FY19 Ridership
- Amtrak FY16 Ridership & Revenue
- "Silver Meteor return, daily Crescent and City of New Orleans postponed again". Trains. Retrieved July 18, 2022.
- Wegman, Mark (2008). American Passenger Trains and Locomotives Illustrated. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. p. 90-91. ISBN 978-0-7603-3475-1.
- "Seaboard's Silver Meteor Dedicated at World's Fair". Palm Beach Daily News. January 22, 1939.
- "St. Petersburg Made West Coast Rail Hub". St. Petersburg Times. April 13, 1968.
- Amtrak nationwide schedules, November 14, 1971, page 59
- Amtrak nationwide schedules, January 16, 1972, page 59.
- "Amtrak cuts Florida service". St. Petersburg Times. August 30, 1979. Retrieved September 28, 2013.
- Amtrak Timetable effective October 30, 1994, p. 13 http://timetables.org/full.php?group=19961110n&item=0029
- "Amtrak's Improvement Wish List", Trains, January 2011, 20-21.
- "Amtrak Flexible Dining".
- Tate, Curtis. "Amtrak to reduce New York-Florida trains starting July 6, with more cuts coming Oct. 1". USA TODAY. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
- "Silver Star and Silver Meteor Schedule Changes effective July 6, 2020". Amtrak. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
- "With Increased Demand and Congressional Funding, Amtrak Restores 12 Long Distance Routes to Daily Service". Amtrak. March 10, 2021. Retrieved March 10, 2021.
- Chardy, Alfonso; Viglucci, Andres (October 31, 2013). "Long trains, short platforms at new Miami airport train station won't force permanent street closure". Miami Herald. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
- "Amtrak Begins Active Preparations To Launch Service To Miami Intermodal Center". The Next Miami. Retrieved March 13, 2022.
- "Video Shows Amtrak Train Fitting Into The Miami Intermodal Center In First Test Run". The Next Miami. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
- "Amtrak switch to Miami airport station again moving forward". Trains.com. Retrieved September 29, 2022.
- "Amtrak to Decrease Service on Most Routes January 24 to March 27".
- Wayner, Robert J., ed. (1972). Car Names, Numbers and Consists. New York: Wayner Publications. p. 80. OCLC 8848690.
- "Equipment of Through Main Line and Local Trains", Seaboard Railroad Time Tables (December 16, 1961), p. 5.
- "Amtrak - Silver Meteor". Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- "Silver Service / Palmetto Train". Amtrak. Retrieved April 25, 2019.
- Amtrak. "Silver Service / Palmetto". Retrieved November 23, 2013.
- Mike Schafer, Amtrak's atlas, Trains June 1991
- PRR Chronology
- Amtrak's First Trains and Routes
- Amtrak timetable, November 14, 1971
- Amtrak timetable, late 1988 (Northeast Corridor only)
- Amtrak's Fiscal Year (FY) runs from October 1st of the prior year to September 30th of the named year.