locked Florida Sunbeam via Crawford, FL?? and Southern OC-5

George Eichelberger

We had a productive work session at the SRHA/TVRM archives this weekend. When someone comes to the archives for the first time, we usually suggest that the simply open one of the Presidents' archive boxes and look through its contents. As every item will never be cataloged, or even seen, it is impossible to predict what might be found.

For those that read the article in the current "TIES" about the Southern/Seaboard junction at Hampton, FL, I found an interesting telegram while scanning the file on the post war "Florida Sunbeam" and "The New Royal Palm" (Box 523A, File 1).

Apparently, there had been discussions to abandon the Palatka line earlier than a telegram dated Sept. 13, 1945. (A logical idea; WWII was over and the logging and lumber operations at Palatka and along the St. Johns River were winding down. If the line had been abandoned, the Southern would have missed the development of the phosphate mines near Lake City and the large paper mill built outside of Palatka.)

The gist of the 9-13-1945 telegram was a suggestion to discuss moving the Sou/SAL route of the "Sunbeam" from Hampton to Crawford, FL. Crawford is on the GS&F between Valdosta and Jacksonville and would have removed the Sunbeam from the Palatka line completely. Although slightly longer, Sou. VP Harry DeButts, thought the schedule to and from St. Pete would be "just as good" because of the slow speed on the Palatka line. 

A third item in the short telegram mentioned that President Norris would approve operating the train but only if it included coaches and Pullmans rather than an all-Pullman train.

Dates for the remaining 2019 archives work sessions are posted on the SRHA web site at www.srha.net.

And...in late breaking TVRM news....Norfolk Southern Official Car No. 8 "Tennessee", ex Southern car No.5, has been acquired and will be moving to Chattanooga soon. The purchase price has been donated but probably another $60,000 will be needed for the move and to restore it as Southern 5. For potential operation off of TVRM, if possible, the car will be upgraded to Amtrak specifications (Much of that work has been completed.) The Hayne Shop maintenance records in the SRHA archives for car 5 begin with the conversion from Pullman car "Point Richmond" in 1956. Anyone interested in helping with the effort please contact me off list.


Stephen Warner

Interesting about the 1940's abandonment of the Palatka line.  During the "rush" re the "new era of NS-CST cooperation" in the 80's (Foley Line Trackage rights allowing CSXT to abandon an entire sub, the SC Project which remained a thorn in our side until Tony went to CSXT and solved it.  I was then involved (I was in Jack Martin's group, although it was a CP&D project) in the trade of CSXT Haulage Jax to Palatka in exchange for abandoning the southern end of the Palatka Line.  However, NS MKTG rarely used the haulage and we essentially left the Palatka Market, Seminole Electric notwithstanding.  So how did NS come out smelling like a rose after the "exciting cooperation?  More like a wilted flower.

George Eichelberger


Was the haulage not used because the plan was to shift the Palatka paper mill traffic to Triple Crown trucks out of Jacksonville?


I included an “epilogue” about the Palatka line that was not published with the Hampton article that you may know something about.

The line was torn up from the ACL crossing (already abandoned) at Lake Butler to Palatka but the segment from Lake City to Lake Butler remained in place but unused as a potential route to get coal to the Gainesville Electric generation plant near Gainesville. The “word” in Florida was that Gainesville Electric would acquire the ACL roadbed south of Lake Butler, put tracks in place and receive coal via NS.

When CSX got word of the plan, they negotiated a long term lowball rate to keep the business away from NS. The Palatka line was torn up back to Lake City. (I do not know if the Sou/SAL crossing at Lake City exists today).

Can anyone confirm?