Floridian (Amtrak)

Floridian (Amtrak)

Infobox rail line
name = "Floridian"
color =

logo_width =

image_width =
caption =
type = Inter-city rail
system = Amtrak
status = Discontinued
locale =
start = Chicago, Illinois
end = St. Petersburg, Florida
Miami, Florida
stations =
routes =
ridership =
open = May 1, 1971
close = October 9, 1979
owner =
operator = Amtrak
character =
stock =
linelength = nowrap|convert|1601|mi|km (Miami)
nowrap|convert|1480|mi|km (St. Petersburg)
tracklength =
notrack =
gauge =
el =
speed =
elevation =

Amtrak Floridian
map_state = show
The "Floridian" is a former Amtrak route that ran from Chicago to Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida. Its route followed mainly that of several former Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger trains, including the "Humming Bird" (Cincinnati—Louisville—New Orleans). Originating in Chicago, the train served Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana; Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery and Dothan, Alabama; and Thomasville, Valdosta and Waycross, Georgia. At Jacksonville, Florida, the train split to serve two different routes, one serving St. Petersburg, Florida via Orlando, and the other serving Miami via Ocala and Winter Haven. These two legs crossed each other near Lakeland, Florida.

The "Floridian" was notorious for poor on-time performance, frequent problems owing to poor condition of equipment inherited from the private railroads, and poor condition of some of the trackage it traversed. The train used the lines of the L&N (in Indiana, over the former Monon Railroad, which merged into the L&N shortly before the formation of Amtrak), and Seaboard Coast Line. All are now part of CSX Transportation; some parts of the line have been abandoned.

Amtrak discontinued the train in October 1979. This left Louisville and Nashville without passenger train service, two of the largest such cities in the nation. (Louisville briefly regained Amtrak service with the "Kentucky Cardinal", which ran from 1999 to 2003).



The "Floridian" was originally known as the Pennsylvania Railroad's "South Wind", which operated on its home road from Chicago to Louisville via Logansport and Indianapolis, Indiana; the L&N from Louisville to Montgomery, Alabama; the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) from Montgomery to Jacksonville, and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to Miami.

The train, beginning service in December 1940, utilized a seven-car trainset built by the Budd Company. The set, which did not include sleepers, was similar to trains built for the Seaboard Air Line's for the New York-Miami "Silver Meteor" and the Southern's New York-New Orleans "Southerner", except that it was painted in the Pennsylvania's Tuscan Red, which required special preparation of the stainless steel that composed the cars' sides.

The "South Wind" ran every third day between its respective endpoint cities, in coordination with the "Dixie Flagler" (an FEC-owned train that used the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad (C&EI), L&N, Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway (NC&STL), Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad (AB&C), ACL and FEC) and the "City of Miami"--another colorful seven car Illinois Central Railroad train, which ran south of Birmingham by the Central of Georgia Railroad and ACL to Jacksonville, then on to Miami via the FEC. Additionally, when service was initiated, there were actually three every-third-day trains on each route. The "Dixie Flagler" was accompanied by the "Dixieland" and "Dixiana"; the "South Wind" by the "Florida Arrow" and "Jacksonian"; and the "City of Miami" by the "Sunchaser" and the "Floridan" (note absence of the second "i"). This coordination enabled passengers to have the convenience of daily service all along their respective routes between Chicago and Miami. The additional two trains per route were discontinued during World War II.

Originally the coordinated schedules of the three streamliners left Chicago in the morning, arriving Miami early the next afternoon. The trains were quickly turned and left Miami in the late afternoon arriving back in Chicago just before bedtime the next day. After World War II, the "Dixieland", "Sunchaser" and "Florida Arrow" were reinstated. Upon their discontinuation, the "City of Miami" and "South Wind" trains began running two days out of three. However, the tight Miami turnaround hampered operations, and after adding trainsets, the "City of Miami" and "Southwind" changed to every-other-day operation. The "Dixie Flyer" remained every third day. In 1954, it was re-equipped and renamed the "new" "Dixieland".

In December 1957 both the "Dixie Flagler" and the "Southland" were discontinued. The "Southland" had run daily from various midwestern cities through Atlanta and Albany directly to the west coast cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg, thus bypassing Jacksonville. At that time, west coast cars were added to the "City of Miami" and "South Wind". These cars were attached to the "West Coast Champion" sections going from Jacksonville to Tampa-Sarasota and to St. Petersburg via Trilby, which is now largely dismantled. After the merger of the ACL and Seaboard, the combined Seaboard Coast Line changed the west coast operations, in April 1968, to the single section to St. Petersburg with a motor connection to Tampa.

The 1963 strike of non-operating unions on the Florida East Coast Railway resulted in the abrupt end of all passenger services on that railroad. While passenger trains would return in two short E9-powered consists that operated due to a requirement in FEC's charter to provide such trains, the "South Wind" along with other named trains such as the "City of Miami", "Florida Special" and "East Coast Champion" continued to use the Atlantic Coast Line's Jacksonville-Palatka-Tampa main line between Jacksonville and Auburndale and the Seaboard Air Line route from Auburdale to Miami. This would be a harbinger of the future with the upcoming Seaboard Coast Line (July 1, 1967) merger and the eventual operation of this train by Amtrak.

While the train grew in size throughout the 1940s, and 1950s, the 1960s saw the decline that caught most passenger trains in the United States. The Pennsylvania Railroad merged in 1968 with the New York Central to form Penn Central, a railroad that was as hostile to passenger service as the Southern Pacific, though unlike the SP, the PC's services were noted for their poor quality and consistent efforts to reduce their scope.

The "South Wind" was not immune and the PC stopped handling it between Chicago and Louisville in December 1969, choosing instead to operate a coach only connection. This left the L&N and SCL to carry on the service until May 1, 1971 when the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) assumed responsibility for the provision of passenger services over the L&N, SCL, and Penn Central, among others.


Amtrak restored the "South Wind"--later renamed "Floridian"--as a through daily Chicago-Miami train. However, the train was rerouted away from Logansport to the "James Whitcomb Riley" route, changing its northern terminus to Chicago's Central Station (owned by the Illinois Central), which it shared with Amtrak's "Panama Limited" (the re-named "City of New Orleans" and not the original IC All-Pullman flagship) until that facility was vacated later in favor of consolidating all services at Chicago's Union Station.

The new "Floridian" had to contend with Penn Central's poor track conditions, which resulted in its using at times the former Chicago & Eastern Illinois and Chicago Indianapolis & Louisville (Monon) routes north of Louisville. One winter, the "Floridian" also froze to the tracks reminiscent of a similar incident thirty years earlier that resulted in Pullman ladders being used as firewood aboard the "City of San Francisco".

Amtrak, which came into being May 1, 1971, also began serving the west coast of Florida by splitting the now daily "South Wind" at Auburndale, with a section to St. Petersburg via Tampa. Amtrak's abandoned the Jacksonville Terminal/Jacksonville Union Station located at the corner of Bay & Water Streets in favor of a new station along the former Atlantic Coast Line on the Kings Highway. For the now renamed "Floridian" (and the other Florida trains), this mean the end to the need to back in and out of Jacksonville Terminal, which was stub-ended for all trains except those of the FEC--which was still operating freight-only under strike. Today Jacksonville Terminal survives as a convention center that pays homage to its rail heritage, and only sees the freight trains of the FEC pass by.

During Amtrak's tenure, it continued to utilize E-units from many railroads before replacing them with the SDP40Fs which began arriving in the mid 1970s. Unfortunately, these engines had a tendency to derail, especially on rickety PC trackage. The train suffered abominable time keeping and not infrequent derailments, including one at 10 mph. The consists remained steam-heated until the end and at times included dome cars along with the regular complement of coaches, Pullmans, and food service (diners and lounges) cars.

The Floridian was briefly combined with the Louisville—Sanford run of Auto-Train. This resulted in consists of AT U36B locomotives and purple, red, and white auto carriers mingling with Amtrak platinum mist, red, and blue cars. Unfortunately, the success with the original Lorton—Sanford Auto-Train did not replicate itself on the Louisville-Sanford run, in part due to the poor timekeeping of the "Floridian" and this train was discontinued before Auto-Train itself finally succumbed to financial difficulties in the early 1980s.

A similar end would come for the "Floridian" as it ceased operations in 1979, along with the "National Limited", "North Coast Hiawatha", "Lone Star", and "Champion", thus helping to roll back some of the key parts of the original Amtrak system and gains made since its May 1, 1971 founding. The discontinuance was the outgrowth of a DOT report compiled during the Carter Administration that recommended the reduction of services on several routes that did not meet a metric for cost coverage. This report also recommended the discontinuance of the Chicago—Oakland (San Francisco) "San Francisco Zephyr"--which as the "California Zephyr" has gone on to become one of Amtrak's most popular trains.

Proposed revival

There has been no concrete effort to re-establish a Chicago-Miami service, either on the route of the "South Wind"/"Floridian" or on that of its partners the "City of Miami" and "Dixie Flagler". During the early 2000s, Amtrak extended the "Kentucky Cardinal" to a re-opened Louisville Union Station, then followed that act by discontinuing the train again. Any future service restoration will depend upon the interest of the private sector in the project which will be needed to restore infrastructure to its 1950s-era utility and undertake the market-building necessary to make such trains great again.

Recently, articles have appeared in the "Tennessean" (July 2007) noting that people are hoping to see Amtrak in Nashville in the future. Officials advise that no one should expect anything soon, as Nashville is facing a transit funding deficit for the next ten years.


In the diesel era, the South Wind was originally powered by Pennsylvania Railroad engines. Later, when a second train set was added, the train was typically headed by the E-units of the Pennsylvania on one set, and the Atlantic Coast Line on the other set. Apparently diesels of the Florida East Coast Railway were sometimes used. Though the train used the L&N for a significant portion of its run, a run-through agreement between the PRR & ACL provided that L&N units were only used in emergencies.

Soon after the Central of Georgia took delivery of E8s 811 and 812, they were sent to Chicago and repainted in Illinois Central colors, returning to the CofG only on diesel run-throughs of Illinois Central power. They were used all over the IC system. As a result, the IC supplied power to the "City of Miami" from Chicago to Miami and in the mid-1960s on the "Seminole" between Chicago and Columbus, Georgia. These engines were returned to the Central of Georgia after Amtrak came into being, but were immediately retired from service.

The "Dixie Flagler" was originally steam powered with each railroad supplying their own power. Some had specifically designated streamlined engines.

External links

* [http://www.saveamtrak.org/floridian.html SaveAmtrak.org - History of the "Floridian"]
* [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c103:H.R.1090.IH: Floridian Passenger Rail Service Reestablishment Act of 1993 (failed Congressional bill)]

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