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The Floridian was an Amtrak route that ran from Chicagomarker to Miamimarker and St. Petersburg, Floridamarker. Its route mainly followed that of several former Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger trains, including the Humming Bird (Cincinnati—Louisville—New Orleans). Originating in Chicago, the train served Lafayettemarker and Bloomington, Indianamarker; Louisvillemarker and Bowling Green, Kentuckymarker; Nashville, Tennesseemarker; Decaturmarker, Birminghammarker, Montgomerymarker and Dothan, Alabamamarker; and Thomasvillemarker, Valdostamarker and Waycross, Georgiamarker. At Jacksonville, Floridamarker, the train split to serve two different routes, one serving St. Petersburg, Floridamarker via Orlandomarker, and the other serving Miamimarker via Ocalamarker and Winter Havenmarker. These two legs crossed each other near Lakeland, Floridamarker.

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).

History

Pre-Amtrak

The Floridian as conceived by Amtrak was a combination of the Pennsylvania Railroad's South Wind and the Illinois Central's City of Miami, which operated over Penn Central track from Chicago to Louisville via Logansportmarker and Indianapolis, Indianamarker; then L&N from Louisville to Montgomery, Alabamamarker; the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) from Montgomery to Jacksonville, and then either the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to Miami or the Atlantic Coast Line to St. Petersburgmarker.

Amtrak

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 Stationmarker (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 Stationmarker.

The new Floridian had to contend with Penn Central's (PC) 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 and 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. Active freight service provided by CSX, plys the rails outside the station.

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.

Motive Power

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 E8 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.

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