Jacksonville’s Royal Palms

In December 1949 Southern Railway introduced there first Streamlined train into Florida. The seasonal “New Royal Palm” originating in Cincinnati had additional through cars from Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago with a joint operation with the New York Central. Southern handled the train from Cincinnati to Jacksonville by way of Chattanooga, Atlanta, Macon, Valdosta, Jacksonville, where its was handed over to the Florida East Coast for Miami.

The New Royal Palm ran from December until spring between 1949 and the 1954-55 seasons. The most distinguishing car on the train was its Five Bedroom Lounge Observation Car built by Pullman in 1950. Southern, CNO&TP, NYC, & Florida East Coast all bought these cars for Royal Palm service. The Southern cars were the Royal Arch, & Royal Court, CNO&TP was Royal Palm, NYC was Royal Crest, and FEC was the Azalea. The Southern cars were also in Crescent Service. Several other special cars were ordered for Royal Palm service, the Southern, CNO&TP, and FEC bought a Diner Lounge each built by ACF in 1950. Southern 3399, CNO&TP 3899, and FEC South Bay. Southern also used a 36-seat coach; Bar Lounge built by Budd in 1949, known as Radio Lounge Coaches, numbers 950-955. Budd, ACF, and Pullman Coaches were also ordered by Southern and FEC along with Pullman 10-6 sleepers in order to streamline both the New Royal Palm and year-round Royal Palm.

The Royal Palm started in November 1913 as a first class train from Cincinnati to Jacksonville with through cars from the Great Lake reigns, and through cars for Miami. The Royal Palm was streamlined in 1949 along with the creation of the New Royal Palm. In the off-season some of the New Royal Palm cars were placed in Royal Palm Service especially the 5 Bedroom Observation Lounge. In 1955 these cars became regularly assigned to the Royal Palm after the lose of the New Royal Palm. In 1958 the Observation car came off and the Southern & CNO&TP cars were rebuilt into 11 Bedroom sleepers. In 1960 the FEC Azalea went into Office Car Service, and the NYC car had been wrecked and destroyed earlier on the UP. By the late 1950’s the diner was no longer used south of Atlanta due to its early morning arrival in Jacksonville and late evening departure north. In 1964 Southern discontinued both the Ponce de Leon and Kansas City Florida Special into Jacksonville and withdrew from REA after the lose of RPO service. The once proud Royal Palm was now not much more than a local, often with autoracks and piggybacks from Atlanta to Simpson Yard just north of town. Jacksonville Terminal employee’s simply called the train Georgia 3&4. In the spring of 1966 the Royal Palm was discontinued south of Valdosta GA. This was the last Southern Passenger Train into Florida.

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