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Florida, Alabama and into Mississippi featuring the Wales West Light Railway 4/18/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I woke up at the Quality Inn and after checking the Internet, we checked out and got McDonalds but ate in the car. We tried to find the station but had no luck so we drove north to the railroad display north of the Marianna Park Department.

The railroad display.

Coronet Phosphate 0-4-2T 8 built in 1920.

Unknown flat car.

Seaboard Coast Line box car 27310.

Central of Georgia caboose. From here we took Interstate 10 west.

Interstate 10 as I drove us west to Milton and found our next destination.

West Florida Railroad Museum History

The Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad was chartered on March 4, 1881 to connect Pensacola with the parts of Florida east of the Apalachicola River, straight across the sparsely-populated Panhandle. The railroad company completed its surveys and began full construction on June 1, 1881. Official ground breaking ceremonies in Pensacola on August 22, 1881 brought into focus the importance of the West Florida enterprise and its evident relationship with the expanding Louisville and Nashville Railroad. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad L&N was operating the original Alabama and Florida Railroad and subsequent Pensacola Railroad route into Pensacola from Flomaton Alabama, forty-four miles to the north.

The Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad was constructed in less than two years' time with different sections of the railroad being built simultaneously by different contractors. The first Pensacola and Atlantic locomotive arrived in Milton in May 1882 by water and was placed in work train service constructing the railroad eastward from Milton. The first train over the newly constructed Escambia Bay Bridge arrived on August 15, 1882.

Upon completion of the Apalachicola River bridge west of Chattahoochee in February 1883, the river crossing at Sampson's landing was abandoned. Service from Pensacola to Jacksonville, Florida began the first week in May 1883 via connections with the Florida Central and Western Railroad, later Seaboard Air Line Railroad, at River Junction, Florida. Milton Depot.

The Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad received financial backing from the Louisville and Nashville Railroad during construction and ceased operating as an independent line on July 1, 1885 when it was incorporated into the Louisville and Nashville system. Ninety seven years later in 1982, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad merged with the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad, Atlanta and West Point Railroad, Georgia Railroad, Western Railway of Alabama and Clinchfield Railroad to form the Seaboard System Railroad. In 1985, the Seaboard system and the Chessie system merged to form CSXT Rail System.

When the Pensacola and Atlantic was constructed through Northwest Florida in 1881-1883 the Florida panhandle was sparsely populated. The only two areas that warranted a depot were Milton and Marianna, Florida. Other depots were quickly added as people moved in to settle the wild lands and traffic began to increase. There were sixteen depots built in the first years.

Passenger service peaked in the 1920's with six trains a day calling at Milton. With the coming of the automobile and airplanes that were heavily subsidized by the government, diner interior passenger service started going into the red. Four trains survived until 1967 when the Louisville and Nashville along with other railroads lost the mail contracts. The remnant of the streamliner "Gulf Wind", inaugurated in 1949 to replace steam-powered heavyweight cars, survived until Amtrak's formation. Its last run was on April 30, 1971.

The Gulf Wind's final years saw just token service consisting of one engine, one baggage car, one coach and one sleeper with a diner between Jacksonville and Chattahoochee only. The service had been reduced to three times a week in an attempt by the Louisville and Nashville and the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad to cut costs and to help support the discontinuance petition filed with the ICC. diner.

The Museum also commemorates the service to Northwest Florida of the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway, known as the Frisco. The Frisco started service to Pensacola in 1927 after buying earlier logging railroads and extending a line from Amory, Mississippi. Through service was provided to Memphis, the Midwest and the west coast by the "Sunnyland" passenger trains and Frisco's famous "Fast Freight" trains. The last passenger service to Pensacola was in 1955, and the passenger depot on the corner of Garden and Coyle streets was razed in the 1960's.

A Frisco freight locomotive was donated to the city of Pensacola and rests in the median of Garden Street in front of the old depot site. Freight service to Pensacola continues through the Burlington Northern, which purchased the Frisco in 1980. The track south of Flomaton, Alabama is now owned by the Alabama and Gulf Coast Railway.

Beginning on April 4, 1993 Amtrak's "Sunset Limited" provided through service across Northwest Florida from Los Angeles, California to Miami, Florida via New Orleans, Louisiana, and Jacksonville, Florida with stops at Pensacola and Crestview. The "Sunset Limited" ended a twenty-two year hiatus in passenger service across the Florida Panhandle.

In August 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed the main line along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast, thus ending Amtrak's "Sunset Limited" and passenger service in North West Florida.

Our Visit

We parked and started looking around.

The Milton Louisville and Nashville station built in 1907.

Louisville and Nashville bay window caboose 1148.

Louisville and Nashville flat car 21107.

Louisville and Nashville box car 18050.

A tool shed which was a Lousville and Nashville Modular passenger office from Cantonment, Florida and the Bridge Tender's House which is home to the West Florida Model Railroad Club.

Another view of the tool shed..

Frisco caboose 1102.

Louisville and Nashville baggage-dormitory car 1652.

Louisville and Nashville Dining Car 2722.

Museum scene.

The Milton station plaque. Elizabeth needed more film so I drove her to Walmart. From there we drove into Pensacola.

Louisville and Nashville Pensacola passenger station and Express Building on Gregory Street built in 1912.

Louisville and Nashville Pensacola wooden station built in 1886 on Alcaniz Street.

Amtrak Pensacola station built in 1993. We drove over to see the steam engine here.

St. Louis San Francisco 2-8-2 1355. From here we drove west to our next destination at Silverhill, Alabama.

Wales West RV Park and Light Railway background

The park's name and inspiration derives from the narrow gauge railways that still serve remote areas of Wales in Great Britain. On those "light railways", the locomotives and cars are smaller, and they run on a "narrow gauge" — the distance between the tracks is 2 feet instead of 4 ft. 8½ inches for a standard railroad.

Our ride

We followed the signs and parked the car then walked down the ramps and started to take pictures.

Dame Ann is an 0-4-2ST steam locomotive built by Exmoor Steam Railway in Bratton Fleming, England. She was delivered to the Wales West Light Railway in 2004. Dame Ann is based on the Penrhyn Port Class locomotive built by Hunslet Engine Company in the 19th century. At the time of her construction, she was the first Port Class Hunslet engine built in 83 years.

Huey, a diesel, and Dame Ann. One of the employees who saw us asked why we were here and we told her. She knew of our visit and offered to open the station for us.

The train that goes around the depot near the roof.

Model train display. Now we met the owners, Ann and Ken Zadnichek, who then arranged the first train ride for us. They were very friendly and full of information. We boarded their train and once the engineer had started it, we departed the station. Now sit back and enjoy a trip aboard the two foot gauge train.

The trip around the grounds to the barn. At Easter, Hallowe'en and Christmas, they decorate their park for the season and go all out, much to the delight of children of all ages. Here we stopped and had a tour we will never forget.

We first saw a model railroad layout which came from a person in Pensacola, which was excellent. Next we went upstairs and showed us the containers that hold the decorations. Now, the highlight of our tour was a trip through their haunted house. I have seen many haunted houses in my days but this ranks with the best. The displays, sound effects, lighting and characters were all excellent and it kept going until we returned to daylight. This nearly equals my experience at Universal Studios at Hallowe'en one year when Alice Cooper had all of his stage gear for us to walk through. What a thrill this place is. We returned to the train and continued our trip.

The rest of the trip back to Silverhill station.

Narrow gauge ballast cars.

Dame Ann.

Gareth is a Simplex 40S diesel locomotive built by British locomotive-building company Motor Rail in the mid 1960s. The two thousand pound locomotive was purchased from Alan Keef Ltd for use in the construction of the Wales West Light Railway. Gareth originally featured steam out-line body and had been used to pull a single car train in Scotland. His new owners replaced the steam out-line body with a body modeled after the Simplex-type diesels produced by Alan Keef in the 1980s.

A group picture.

The children's play car.

Hand-made cookies Christmas decorations.

More rides for the little ones. Ann asked us if we wanted to ride the other train and we said "yes!".

This engine pulled our train on the 7 1/2" gauge track. Now sit back and enjoy the ride on this train.

The half mile ride around the property.

This is their newest diesel.

It is unique in that it is the only miniature engine in the world to have a sander. Ann then asked us if we would like to see the rest of the collection, so our tour continued.

The new dragon was made to replace the dragon that burned.

The newest addition to the collection is this 7 1/2" gauge steam engine that is under construction. This ended our tour and Ann drove us back to our car. What an incredible experience we had just had. Elizabeth and I would like to thank Ann, Ken Sr. and Ken Jr. for the wonderful time on their railroads. We had no idea any of this existed and it really is a hidden Alabama gem.

Our Trip Continues

We left Silverhill and drove to Foley to the next stop on our adventure.

The Louisville and Nashville Foley station built in 1905. This is the home of the Foley Railroad Museum which was closed but we had permission to be here.

The City of Foley historical sign.

A miniature train display is here.

Louisville and Nashville SW1 13 built in 1941.

St. Louis-San Francisco box car 4722.

Louisville and Nashville box car 181606.

Louisville and Nashville caboose 158. This caboose was built as Alton Railroad C3049 then went to the Gulf Mobile and Ohio as 2605 then was rebuilt as wide vision caboose 2724. Finally it became Illinois Central Gulf 199005.

The display train.

A speeder on display.

Foley Railroad Museum sign. We left the museum and went to Jersey Mike's for lunch then I drove us into Mobile.

The incredible Gulf, Mobile and Ohio station built in 1907. The last trains to use it were the Gulf Coast Rebels in 1958.

The Southern Railway freight house in Mobile next to the station.

St. Louis-San Francisco 4-8-2 1527, built in 1926, on display at Langan Park in Mobile. From here we drove to Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

On the road to Hattiesburg.

Canadian National GP38-2 9608.

Grand Trunk GP38-2 4917 at Hattiesburg. We drove to the Amtrak station.

Southern Railway Hattiesburg station built in 1910.

Norfolk Southern C40-9W 9825 was in front of the station.

Bonhomie and Hattiesburg Southern 2-8-2 300 built in 1923.

Sign for Bonhomie and Hattiesburg Southern 300.

Southern Railway baggage car 4531.

The sign for the baggage car.

Hercules Powder Company 0-4-0F 21 built in 1935.

The sign for the Hercules Powder Company 21. From here we drove to the Days Inn and checked in. We did our usual checking of the Internet and worked on stories before calling it a night.