Seaboard Air Line Railroad

Seaboard Air Line Railroad

Infobox SG rail
railroad_name=Seaboard Air Line Railroad
logo_filename=Seaboard RR logo.png logo_size=100

map_caption=1896 map with connections
locale=Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida
successor_line=Seaboard Coast Line
hq_city=originally Portsmouth, VA, later Richmond, VA
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad reporting mark|SAL, which styled itself "The Route of Courteous Service," was an American railroad whose corporate existence extended from April 14, 1900 until July 1, 1967, when it merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, its longtime rival, to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. The company was headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia until 1958, when its main offices were relocated to Richmond, Virginia.

The main line of the Seaboard ran from Richmond via Raleigh, North Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida, a major interchange point for passenger trains bringing travelers to the Sunshine State. From Jacksonville, Seaboard rails continued to such popular tourist destinations as Tampa, St. Petersburg, West Palm Beach, and Miami.

Other important Seaboard routes included a line from Jacksonville via Tallahassee to a connection with the L&N at Chattahoochee, Florida for through service to New Orleans; a line to Atlanta, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama connecting with the main line at Hamlet, North Carolina; and a line from the main at Norlina, North Carolina to Portsmouth, Virginia, the earliest route of what became the Seaboard.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Seaboard, along with its main competitors Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Florida East Coast Railway, and Southern Railway, contributed greatly to the economic development of the Southeastern United States, and particularly to that of Florida. Its primary revenues derived from bringing vacationers to Florida from the Northeast and carrying southern timber, minerals, and produce, especially Florida citrus crops, to the northern states.


Early 19th century

The complex corporate history of the Seaboard began on March 8, 1832, when its earliest predecessor, the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad was chartered by the legislatures of Virginia and North Carolina to build a railroad from Portsmouth, Virginia to the Roanoke River port of Weldon, North Carolina. After a couple of months of horse-drawn operation, the first locomotive-pulled service on this line began on September 4, 1834, with a twice-daily train from Portsmouth to Suffolk, Virginia, 17 miles away.cite book | last = Prince | first = Richard E. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Seaboard Air Line Railway: Steam Boats, Locomotives, and History | publisher = Indiana University Press | date = 1969, reprinted 2000 | location = | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0253336953 ]

By June 1837, the railroad was completed to Weldon, North Carolina, where a connection was made with the tracks of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad (later part of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad). In 1846, after suffering financial difficulties, the P&R was reorganized as the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad, known informally as the Seaboard Road.

Meanwhile, the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad had begun construction on November 1, 1836, with the first scheduled service between its endpoints beginning on March 21, 1840. After the Civil War, this was advertised as the Inland Air-Line Route. By 1853, the Roanoke and Gaston had connected with the Seaboard and Roanoke at Weldon, thus offering travelers through service on the 176-mile route from Portsmouth to Raleigh. Both railroads were built to standard gauge, 4 feet, 8½ inches, rather than the 5-foot gauge favored by most other railroads in the South; therefore, cars of both roads could run on the entire route, eliminating the need for travelers or freight to make a change of cars.

The "air line" name

"Air line" in the days before air travel became a reality, was a common metaphor for the shortest distance between two points: a straight line drawn through the air (or on a map), ignoring natural obstacles. Hence, a number of 19th century railroads used "air line" in their titles to suggest that their routes were shorter than those of competing roads.

The Seaboard never owned any airplanes. However, in 1940 the railroad did propose the creation of "Seaboard Airlines," but this idea was struck down by the Interstate Commerce Commission as violating federal anti-trust legislation.

During a spate of interest in aviation shares on Wall Street following Charles A. Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, Seaboard Air Line shares actually attracted some investor curiosity because of the name's aviation-related connotations; only after it became evident that Seaboard Air Line was actually a railroad did investors lose interest.cite book | last = Ross | first = Walter S. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = The Last Hero: Charles A. Lindbergh | publisher = Harper & Row | year = 1968 | location = New York | pages = 170-171 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = ]

Late 19th century

The railroads' prosperous operations of the 1850s, hauling passengers as well as valuable cargos of cotton, tobacco, and produce from the Piedmont to the tidewater port of Portsmouth, were interrupted by the Civil War, during which bridges and tracks of both railroads were destroyed at various times by Union or Confederate troops.

Prosperity returned after the war, with the efficiently managed Seaboard Road showing a profit even during the Panic of 1873, and paying stockholders an annual dividend of 8 percent for many years. In 1871, the Raleigh and Gaston acquired the Raleigh and Augusta Air-Line Railroad, which, however, reached only to Hamlet, North Carolina. When the R&G and its subsidiary fell into financial straits in 1873, the Seaboard's president, John M. Robinson, acquired financial control of them, becoming president of all three railroads in 1875.

By 1881, the Seaboard and Roanoke, the Raleigh and Gaston, and others were operating as a coordinated system under the Seaboard Air-Line System name for marketing purposes, combining the nicknames of the two principal roads. [ Classic Trains Magazine - Railroading History, Train Travel, Steam Locomotives - Fallen Flags: P-S ] ] In 1889, the Seaboard leased the still-unfinished Georgia, Carolina, and Northern Railway, providing a link from Monroe, North Carolina (on the Seaboard line to Charlotte, North Carolina, acquired in 1881) to Atlanta, Georgia (completed in 1892).

During its heyday in the 1890s, the system prided itself on offering excellent passenger service between Atlanta and the northeast. A daily coach and Pullman train, the "S.A.L. Express", ran from Atlanta to the Seaboard Road's depot and wharf at Portsmouth, where passengers could transfer to steamships for direct passage to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. The system's premier train, however, was the "Atlanta Special", running in daily service between Atlanta and Washington, using the Atlantic Coast Line's tracks from Weldon to Richmond, and the tracks of the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac from Richmond to Washington.

Between 1898 and 1900, Seaboard affiliate Richmond, Petersburg and Carolina completed the laying of track from Norlina to Richmond, thereby providing an all-Seaboard route from Atlanta to Richmond.

As important as the route to the major railroad hub of Atlanta was, access to Florida resorts and markets would be even more important to the railroad's success in years to come. In the last two decades of the 19th century, the pieces of the route to Florida began to fall into place. Between 1885 and 1887, the Palmetto Railroad, later reorganized as the Palmetto Railway, had built soutward from Hamlet, N.C., on the Seaboard main line, to Cheraw, South Carolina. In 1895, the Seaboard took control of the Palmetto Railway and extended the tracks to Columbia.

Meanwhile, by construction and acquisition, the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad had established a line from Columbia, South Carolina via Jacksonville, Florida to the Gulf Coast port of Tampa by 1894. The Seaboard system acquired control of the FC&P in 1899 and merged it in 1903.

In 1895, the Savannah, Americus and Montgomery Railway, a Savannah-to-Montgomery route connecting with the FC&P at Savannah, was bought by a syndicate that included the Richmond bankers John L. Williams and Sons. John Skelton Williams, a son of John L. Williams, became president of the line, renaming it the Georgia and Alabama Railway. Thereafter, Williams and his financial backers began planning to incorporate all of the Seaboard Air-Line System roads into a unified body.

Early 20th century

In 1900, under the younger Williams' leadership, the owners of the Georgia and Alabama Railway acquired controlling interest in the stock of the Seaboard Air Line System companies and in the Florida Central and Peninsular Railroad. On April 14 of that year, the Seaboard Air Line Railway was incorporated, comprising 19 railroads in which it owned all or most of the capital stock. Williams was the first president of the new corporation.

On June 3, 1900, through service from New York to Tampa, Florida was inaugurated, with trains operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York to Washington, D.C.; by the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad from Washington to Richmond; and by the Seaboard from Richmond to Tampa, an arrangement that lasted until the creation of Amtrak in 1971. On July 1, 1900, the Seaboard formally assumed operation of the Georgia and Alabama, the Florida Central and Peninsular, and the Atlantic, Suwanee River and Gulf railroads.

In 1904, Seaboard subsidiary Atlanta and Birmingham Air Line Railway, purchased the previous year, completed construction and extended the Atlanta route to Birmingham, Alabama, the largest center of iron and steel production in the South, and a valuable endpoint for the Seaboard.

Unfortunately, the new 2600-mile railroad did not prosper as expected in its early years. Following the Panic of 1907, the Seaboard fell into bankruptcy in 1908, from which it did not recover until 1915.

Along with most other U.S. railroads, the Seaboard was nationalized during the railroad crisis brought on by World War I and was run by the United States Railroad Administration from December 28, 1917, to March 1, 1920.

With an influx of tourists traveling to rapidly developing Florida, the Seaboard enjoyed a prosperous decade thereafter.cite book | last = Solomon | first = Brian | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = CSX | publisher = MBI Publishing Company | year = 2005 | location = | pages = 32-34 | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 0760317968 ] However, in 1930, the railroad again entered bankruptcy following the collapse of the Florida land boom of the 1920’s (during which the road had completed [1926] an expensive extension from the main line at Coleman, Florida, to West Palm Beach and Miami, ending at Homestead) and the onset of the Great Depression. It was controlled by a court-appointed receiver until 1946, when it was reorganized as the Seaboard Air Line "Railroad".

Nevertheless, by aggressive marketing and technological innovations that drew travelers to the line, such as the highly popular Silver Meteor streamliner introduced in 1939, Seaboard managed to regain its financial footing. The economic boom of World War II also helped replenish the railroad's coffers. In 1944, the Silver Meteor alone turned a profit of over $8 million, nearly as much as the deficit of the whole railroad had been in the Depression year of 1933.

Quick to recognize the cost savings of diesel power over steam in the postwar period, the Seaboard dieselized all of its mainline trains by 1953. In the same decade, the railroad installed CTC signaling across most of its system, generating further savings of time and money, as well as improved safety. Like all American railroads, Seaboard saw a decline in revenues, especially in passenger traffic, from the 1950s into the 1960s, in the face of growing competition from airlines, trucking companies, and the Interstate highway system.

teamship operations

In 1922, the Seaboard acquired control of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company, the "Old Bay Line," which operated steamships between Norfolk, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, carrying mail and freight as well as passengers and vehicles on the overnight run. The Old Bay Line's president, S. Davies Warfield, an uncle of the Baltimore-born Duchess of Windsor, was named president of the Seaboard as well as the Old Bay Line in 1922.

In 1941, the Chesapeake Steamship Company, jointly owned by the Atlantic Coast Line and the Southern, was merged into the Old Bay Line. Due to the decline of business with the rise of interstate highways and air travel, the steamship company was liquidated in 1962.

Named trains

A partial listcite book | last = Welsh | first = Joseph M. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = By Streamliner: New York to Florida | publisher = Andover Junction Publications | year = 1994 | location = Andover Junction, New Jersey | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9780944119143 ] of named Seaboard Air Line (SAL) passenger trains, some of which were continued by successors Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) and Amtrak. Trains originating in New York were handled by the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York to Washington; by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad from Washington to Richmond; and by Seaboard from Richmond to points south.

*"Seaboard Florida Limited", inaugurated 1903::Heavyweight, winter-season only (December - April), all-Pullman, New York to Tampa; later renamed the "New York-Florida Limited"; by 1941 renamed the "Palmland." Reduced to New York - Columbia, S.C., in May 1968; discontinued April 30, 1971.
*"Southern States Special", inaugurated early 20th century::Heavyweight, coach and Pullman cars, New York to Florida; renamed the "Sun Queen" by 1941, renamed the "Camellia" on May 18, 1947; renamed "Sunland" in December, 1948.
*"Orange Blossom Special", November 21, 1925 - April 26, 1953; due to wartime restrictions, did not run in the years 1942 - 1945.::Heavyweight, winter-season only, all-Pullman, New York to Tampa/St. Petersburg, and West Palm Beach, later to Miami as well. The most luxurious SAL train of its time, the OBS was immortalized in an extremely famous fiddle tune of the same name.

The following trains constituted Seaboard's widely advertised, very popular "Silver Fleet" of streamliners, with fluted-side stainless steel cars pulled by colorful EMD diesel locomotives:
*"Silver Meteor," inaugurated February 2, 1939::Initially an all-coach train (Pullman sleepers added in 1941), first streamliner to serve Florida, New York to Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami. Preserving its reputation as "one of the finest [trains] in the country," cite book | last = Welsh | first = Joseph M. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = By Streamliner: New York to Florida | publisher = Andover Junction Publications | year = 1994 | location = Andover Junction, New Jersey | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9780944119143 ] the Meteor retained its round-ended observation cars until Amtrak took over operation in 1971. Still in Amtrak service today with updated equipment.
*"Silver Comet", May 18, 1947 - June 1969::Streamliner, coach and Pullman cars, New York to Atlanta and Birmingham.
*" Silver Star", inaugurated December 12, 1947::Streamliner, coach and Pullman cars, New York to Tampa/St. Petersburg and Miami. Still in Amtrak service, with updated equipment.
*"Gulf Wind", July 31, 1949 - April 30, 1971::Streamliner, coach and Pullman cars, Jacksonville to New Orleans. Handled jointly by SAL and the L&N, with motive power changed at Chattahoochee. [ [ Gulf Wind ] ] [ [ Routes and Trains on the Eve of Amtrak ] ]

ignificant firsts

As the underdog in its competition with the wealthier Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard often strove to bolster its passenger revenues by offering innovative services. Seaboard was the first Florida railroad to: cite book | last = Welsh | first = Joseph M. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = By Streamliner: New York to Florida | publisher = Andover Junction Publications | year = 1994 | location = Andover Junction, New Jersey | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 9780944119143 ]
*operate air-conditioned Pullmans (1933)
*install reclining seats in coaches (1936)
*dieselize its passenger trains (1938) and
*offer streamlined trains between New York and Florida (1939)

uccessor lines

As a strategic move to reduce costs and counter the competition of airlines and trucking companies, merger with the parallel system of Seaboard's chief rival, Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) was first proposed in 1958, but was not approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission until 1967. On July 1 of that year, SAL and ACL merged to form Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (SCL). The seeming redundancy of the name stems from combining the most common short forms of the two railroads' names: the public and the railroads themselves for many years had referred to SAL as "Seaboard" and ACL as "Coast Line."

On May 1, 1971, SCL turned over all its passenger operations to the newly formed Amtrak, which continued to operate the profitable Silver Meteor and Silver Star, while eliminating others.

By 1972, Seaboard Coast Line and its corporate relatives Louisville and Nashville, Georgia Railroad, West Point Route, and Clinchfield Railroad began advertising themselves as the Family Lines System, and applying the Family Lines logo to their rolling stock. However, the Family Lines name was merely a marketing strategy, and all the railroads remained separate legal and operating entities. [ [ The Family Lines System ] ]

Seaboard Coast Line, together with the Chessie System, became subsidiaries of the newly created CSX Corporation on November 1, 1980, but continued to operate as separate railroads. [ TRAINS Magazine - Railroad News, Web Cam, Railroading Video - CSX Transportation ] ] The Family Lines name and logo were dropped when SCL and L&N merged on December 29, 1982, to form the Seaboard System. cite web|url= |title=CSX Transportation |accessdate=2008-05-23 |last=Van Hattem |first=Matt |date=2006-06-02 |work=Trains magazine ]

On July 1, 1986, the Seaboard System's name was changed to CSX Transportation. Subsequently, the Chessie System was merged into CSX Transportation on August 31, 1987.

ee also

*List of Seaboard Air Line Railroad precursors
*Atlantic Coast Line Railroad
*Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
*Orange Blossom Special
*Silver Meteor (passenger train)
*Silver Star (passenger train)
*Silver Comet (train)
*Gulf Wind


External links

General Seaboard history

* [ Atlantic Coast Line & Seaboard Air Line Railroads Historical Society]
* [ "Florida Rails: Seaboard Air Line" Railroad]
* [ Johnson, Robert Wayne. "Seaboard Air Line in Montgomery." "Old Alabama Rails" website.]
* [ Mayer, Mike. "Seaboard Air Line Railroad: Unofficial Home Page."]
* [ Storey, Steve. "Seaboard Air Line Railway." " Georgia's Railroad History and Heritage".]


* [ SAL route map from The New World Atlas and Gazetteer, 1922.]
* [ SAL route map from the December, 1950, time table]
* [ Schematic map of SAL lines, with some connecting railroads shown]


* [ Duke University Ad*Access website; type "Seaboard" in the search box at left of page to bring up Seaboard advertisements from the 1940s and 1950s]

Locomotives and rolling stock

* [ Carlson, Neil. "Steam locomotive profile: 2-6-6-4." "Classic Trains Magazine" online, June 17, 2006.]
* [ "Lawrence Scripps Wilkinson Foundation: Orange Blossom Special"]
* [ "Lawrence Scripps Wilkinson Foundation: Silver Meteor"]
* [ Seaboard Air Line Mikados]
* [ Sun Lounge car Hollywood Beach]
* [ More picture of the Hollywood Beach]
* [ Links to pictures of all three Sun Lounge cars built for Seaboard]


*Calloway, Warren L., and Paul K. Withers. "Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company Motive Power". Withers Publishing, 1988. ISBN 0961850310.
*Johnson, Robert Wayne. "Through the Heart of the South: The Seaboard Air Line Railroad Story". Boston Mills Press, 1995. ISBN 1550461443.
*Prince, Richard E. "Seaboard Air Line Railway: Steam Boats, Locomotives, and History." Indiana University Press, 2000. (reprint of 1969 edition) ISBN 0253336953.
*Solomon, Brian. "CSX". MBI Publishing Company, 2005. (SAL history is summarized on pp. 32-34.) ISBN 0760317968.
*Welsh, Joseph M. "By Streamliner: New York to Florida". Andover Junction Publications, 1994. ISBN 9780944119143.

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