The Tallahassee Flyer
This photo, taken in 1936, shows the “Tallahassee Flyer”; a gasoline powered “doodlebug” rail car on the old Seaboard Air Line Railroad.Â The train traveled from Jacksonville to River Junction (near Chatahoochee).Â At the time, River Junction was a major rail interchange between the Seaboard, trains going west to New Orleans and trains going north to Atlanta.
Doodlebugs were popular in the day for short run passenger operations but because of their gasoline fuel, proved dangerous and after a 1940 disaster in Ohio where a doodlebug hit a freight train and exploded, gasoline powered rail cars were removed from service.
The last “pre-Amtrak” train to service Tallahassee was the Seaboard Coast Line Gulf Wind which made it’s last run in 1971.Â Amtrak briefly ran a “tri-weekly” through Tallahassee, the Sunset Limited.Â The Limited ran from Los Angeles to Jacksonville and stopped in Tallahassee three times a week in each direction.Â When hurricane Katrina destroyed several bridges to the west of here, the service was temporarily discontinued between Jacksonville and New Orleans.Â The bridges were quickly repaired but the service is still “on hold”.
Passenger rail is a great way to travel and it’s sad that Amtrak is ignoring Tallahassee.Â In other states, passenger rail is taken seriously, with state officials lobbying for increased service.Â Our local and state officials should be doing the same.
The photo of the Tallahassee Flyer is courtsey of the Florida State Archives.