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Florida Railroad Museum 1/28/2022

by Chris Guenzler

I pulled into the parking lot and Elizabeth and I went inside to the ticket office/gift shop where a nice woman told us that Josh Long would take us to Willow.

Florida Railroad Museum History

The museum was founded in 1981 as the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum and has been operating weekend excursions out of Parrish since 1992. The museum is also active in the ghost town of Willow, where it has maintenance facilities. At Willow, there is a railroad spur that leads east off of the mainline to a Florida Power & Light Company plant. CSX Transportation provides rail service to the plant. The area of Willow is accessible from Willow Road east off US 301. The museum has a fence around its facilities here and cameras for security. It has constructed a new depot at Willow within this secured property.

The railroad line that the Florida Railroad Museum uses is a very small part of a 55-mile route that was built south from Durant to Manatee County and into Sarasota with construction starting in 1895. It was first incorporated in 1902 as the United States & West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company. It became the Florida West Shore Railway on May 9, 1903. On November 4, 1909 it was acquired by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company. In 1967, the merger of the Seaboard Air Line and the Atlantic Coast Line created the Seaboard Coast Line. The Seaboard Coast Line would later become a part of the Family Lines System. This would lead to the Seaboard System and that would become a part of CSX Transportation in the 1980s, although the segment from Durant to Willow was pulled up in 1986. The line is currently part of the CSX Palmetto Subdivision's Parrish Spur. It is Class I track with jointed, 75-pound rails.

The Florida Railroad Museum is one of three Official State Railroad Museums in Florida. It became a Florida state railroad museum in 1984 when it received statutory recognition by the Florida Legislature as meeting the following four criteria: its purpose is to preserve railroad history, it is devoted primarily to the history of railroading, it is open to the public, and it operates as a non-profit organization. It is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 4pm year-round. The train departs from Parrish at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm on these days, and the excursions from Parrish to Willow last about an hour-and-a-half round trip. The museum also offers specials events throughout the year such as Day Out With Thomas, Pumpkin Patch Express and North Pole Express.

Our visit

We started to look around while we waited for Josh to arrive.

Brooklyn Eastern District Terminal 0-6-0T 12 built by Porter in 1922. It was the largest of the four independent rail-marine terminals in Brooklyn and was the last operator of steam locomotives for freight service in New York, with steam locomotive operations ceasing on October 25, 1963. Operations continued until 1983 with diesel locomotives. In 1963, Ron Ziel bought 12 for $900. He intended to set up a tourist steam ride in eastern Long Island, the "Sag Harbor and Scuttle Hole Rail Road", rebuilding the old Sag Harbor branch of the Long Island Railroad, which had been abandoned in the 1930s. However, the venture never got off the ground and 12 sat on a siding in New Jersey until 1971, when it was bought by Robert Most in Tampa. It moved to various Florida locations during the next decade before being donated to the museum in 1982.

The display train at the museum in Parrish.

Fort Street Union Depot NW5 2 built by EMD. This diesel electric locomotive was one of only 17 NW5's and was the forerunner of the BL2 and GP series EMD locomotives. This one was used by Fort St. Union Depot in Detroit and later sold to Mississippi Export Railroad, then to Gardinier Phosphate Company as their 61. It was donated by Cargill Corporation. Hopes are to one day return the 61 to full operational status but funds are needed for this project.

Tropicana box car TPIX 250.

CSX SAMX covered hopper car 7710.

Atantic Coast Line hopper car 9600.

Water Car OH.

Seaboard Air Lines gondola car 6888.

Cheasepeake and Ohio caboose 900067. The Billboard caboose at US 301 and the museum's tracks started life in the 1920 for the C&O railroad. A member bought the caboose from CSX in the 1980's. The Florida Railroad Museum acquired it in 2007. Not having much "Florida" history, it was decided to use the caboose as a sign/billboard at the Parrish Complex. The caboose was painted and lettered in late 2016 early 2017 and placed on display.

An ore car.

Future tracks for me to ride.

Union Pacific baggage-express car 5642 which is the ticket office and gift shop. This car was built in 1954 by American Car & Foundry. It was later converted to a Maintenance-of-Way car and renumbered Union Pacific 904827. Union Pacific eventually sold it to the Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus and it became RBBX 60015 for use as an Animal Car.

Union Pacific baggage-express car 5663 built in 1954 as Union Pacific 24431. It later became Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus 60016. It currently houses the museum's Model Railroad.

The two former Union Pacific baggage cars in Parrish.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey trailer 56. Josh Long arrived and led us out to Willow where most of their equipment is stored.

Family Lines Seaboard Coast Line caboose 01188. This was "homemade" by the railroad in 1974 in its Rocky Mount Shops. The 01188 worked in regular freight train service well into the CSX era. In the early 1990s CSX put the caboose on display and used it as a Operation Life Saver classroom near the railroad's Tampa district offices. The 01188 became surplus to CSX in 2013 at which time the Florida Railroad Museum bought the caboose and moved it to Willow. The 01188 was shopped almost immediately and returned to service for the fall 2013 season.

Florida Gulf Coast GP7 ex US Army Transportation Corps 1835 built in 1951 by EMD.

Seaboard Air Line 56-seat coach 6203, Built in 1939 by the Budd Company for Seaboard's premier train the Silver Meteor. The 6203 operated in mainline service into the Amtrak era, being retired by Amtrak in the early 1980s. The 6203 was acquired by the Orrville Railroad Historical Society and the Florida Railroad Museum bought it 2015. The coach has heat and air conditioning as well as a restroom, with reserved seating on select special events. The 6203 is in service on all weekend and special event operations.

Seaboard Air Line caboose 01061 built in 1952. After the merger with Atlantic Coast Line to form Seaboard Coast Line, the caboose was rebuilt into a M6 class, based on ACLs M5 class caboose. At that time, the 01061 was heavily altered and was given the 01061 number. It was painted orange with "Thanks For Using Coast Line" on the sides. The 01061 is still mostly intact as its rebuilt M6 appearance, and will be one day restored as such. The 01061 at some point along its life was acquired by the City of Kissimmee near Orlando and was placed in a city park. It was leased out over the years as a concession stand at the park. The City of Kissimmee donated the caboose to the Florida Railroad Museum in 2012 and it is currently stored awaiting funds for restoration.

Union Pacific 44-seat coach 5416 built by Pullman in 1950. The 5416 worked out west hauling passengers. In 1971 the 5416 was sold to the Alaska Railroad. After a chilly 20 years in Alaska, the 5416 was sold and moved to Georgia, being used on the state-owned New Georgia Railroad. The Florida Railroad Museum acquired the car from the State of Georgia in 1994.

Florida Railroad Museum baggage car 6324 was built by American Car and Foundry in 1962 for the Union Pacific Railroad. UP sold the car to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in the early 1970s. Ringling cut some air vents in the car and installed roof fans to use the 6324 for transporting elephants, which it did for 25 years. Ringling stored the car in the mid 1990s until 2012, when the Florida Railroad Museum acquired the car and converted it to an "open air coach".

Santa Fe 52-seat coach 3155 built by the Budd Company in 1946. The 3155 escaped the Amtrak consolidation being sold to the Metropolitan Transit Authority of New York in 1970 where it was renumbered 2438 and converted into an 86-seat car for commuter operations. In 1985 the MTA retired the 3155 and it was acquired by the Orrville Railroad Historical Society. The Florida Railroad Museum bought 3155 from ORHS in 2015.

Missouri, Kansas and Texas coach 1204 "Pryor" built in 1905 from Pullman Standard. It later became Northern Pacific 532 and Amtak 6454.

Trailer train flat car.

Louisville and Nashville Pullman 4 section-4 roomette-5 double bedroom-1 compartment sleeper "Florida Sunrise".

Outside braced box car number unknown.

Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey storage car 84801 with trailer on flat car.

Seabard Air Line signal bridge donated by CSX.

WW Cummer and Sons Cypress 2-6-2 104 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in April 1920. This model of locomotive was popular in Florida for logging operations. The 104 worked in north central Florida hauling cypress from the swamps to the sawmills. The 104 was capable of pulling a heavy train load of 35 cars of logs. At its retirement in the early 1960s, the 104 was donated to the City of Leesburg and was placed in Herlong Park. It was acquired by the Florida Railroad Museum in December 2015, moved to Willow and is now on display for museum visitors.

Union Pacific Baggage Express Car 5663 built by AC&F in 1954 to Ringling Brothers 60016.

RBBX Pie Car 63010 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1962.

Buffalo and Mount Pisgah Fire Department Truck 20.

The station in Willow, a replica of what used to be in Parrish.

Museum scenes.

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey trailer 64.

Atlantic Coast Line coach 250 built by Pullman Standard in 1954.

Borden Chemical Plymouth MDT 40-Ton 50 built in 1972 and moved to its Manatee County plant at Piney Point, where it would stay until January 2008.

Central of Georgia 10 section sleeper lounge platform "Monte Rosa" built in 1952 which became Progress Instruction Car 32802. It was later sold to Church Station in Orlando and donated to the Florida Railroad Museum.

Unknown passenger car.

Seaboard Coast Line caboose 01061. It was built in 1952 for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. After the merger with Atlantic Coast Line to form Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) the caboose was rebuilt into a M6 class, based on ACL's M5 class caboose. At that time, the 01061 was heavily altered and was given the 01061 number. It was painted orange with "Thanks For Using Coast Line" on the sides. The 01061 is still mostly intact as its rebuilt M6 appearance, and will be one day restored as such. The 01061 at some point along its life was acquired by the city of Kissimmee near Orlando and was placed in a city park. It was leased out over the years as a concession stand at the park. The city of Kissimmee donated the 01061 to the Florida Railroad Museum in 2012. The 01061 is currently stored awaiting funds for restoration.

International Minerals & Chemicals Company CF-7 204. Built for the Santa Fe as F7A 238 it was later converted to a CF7 by the Santa Fe. International Minerals and Chemicals Company sold it in 1988, where it was used at Port Sutton in Tampa. It was acquired from the Port by the Florida Railroad Museum in late 2016. The locomotive is complete and in relativity good condition. The 204 will be moved to the shop in due time to evaluate the condition, and maybe return it to service.

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Pie Car 600012 built in 1961 by American Car and Foundry.

Conrad Yelvington S2 152, ex. International Minerals & Chemicals Company 201, nee Ontario Northland 1201.

Florida Gulf Coast 100 is a 44 ton center cab diesel electric locomotive built by General Electric. Formerly assigned to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station as US Navy 65-00345, the Navy then donated the locomotive to the Museum in 1995. It is used by the museum for switching activities and the occasional excursion train.

Frisco 0-6-0 3749 was built in 1913 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. It weighs 154,500 lbs and has 51" drivers and 20 1/2 x 26" cylinders. Operating at a boiler pressure of 185 psi, it delivered 33,700 lbs tractive effort. The 3749 was the last Frisco steam locomotive still on the active SL&SF roster to run in regular service. It was leased to the Alabama State Prison in Atmore, Alabama in 1954 and worked there until the fall of 1956. In 1963, it was sold to Pensacola Scrap Processors, who donated it to Historic Pensacola Preservation Board in 1976 and later sold to Bob Snow. It was repainted to represent Seaboard Air Line 223 and moved to Church Street Station at Orlando. This former Frisco Steam Engine never pulled the Orange Blossom Special; the logo that appears on this locomotive was a (fake) publicity stunt by Orlando to draw attention to the Church Street Station Tourist Area in downtown Orlando. It was acquired by the Florida Railroad Museum in 2012.

Unknown express car.

Illinois Central GP10 8330 which was originally Union Pacific GP9Bu 183B built in April 1954. It as rebuilt at Paducah as 8330 in December 1977 and is currently out-of-service.

Another unknown express car.

Pennsylvania Railroad RS-3 8604 built by Alco in 1955 and is preserved in PRR paint. It is not running today but could be restored for future operation.

Department of Defense GP7 1822 built in 1951, this locomotive generates 1,500 horsepower. This locomotive was based at the Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal in Sunny Point, North Carolina. The 1822 is a sister to the 1835, the 1822 is non-operational and is used primarily for parts.

Ontario Northland Railroad FP7 904. It was later transferred to GO Transit and converted to a cab car. The 904 and a dozen cars were then sold to Tri-Rail in Miami. The Florida Railroad Museum acquired the locomotive in 2005 for display and eventual cab car operation. The future plans are to paint the 904 in ACL colors to represent the passenger locomotives that once served Florida.

Museum scene.

FGCX Express Car 1020.

Museum view.

Seaboard Air Line RS-3 1633 built as New York Central 8277. It was used in commuter passenger service, later came under Penn Central ownership and finally was Amtrak 133. It was acquired by trade when the museum traded a Santa Fe baggage car to Amtrak for it in 1987. The engine is painted in Seaboard Air Line Railroad colors to approximate the SAL locomotives that once served the line through Parrish. The 1633 was used on weekend trains until 2007 when it went out of service and stored waiting parts and funding.

Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Housing Car 410304 built by Budd in 1949. This brought the guided tour to a close. We happened to meet Alan Maples, President of the Everett Railroad in Pennsylvania and gave him our cards. After thanking Josh for his time and information, we drove back to Parrish and thanked the lady in the ticket office and bought some souveniors. I then drove us to Bradenton to our next station of the trip.

The Bradenton Station historical board. The name changed from Bradentown to Bradenton.

The Bradenton Atlantic Coast Line station built in 1920. We then drove to Sarasota for the next station.

The Sarasota station is a Pennslyvania Railroad station from Kentland, Indiana and it is home to the Sarasota 400 Restaurant. From here we drove to Venice.

Louisville and Nashville caboose 6445 masquerading as Seaboard Air Line.

Louisville and Nashville 6-4-6 sleeper 3464 "Short Leaf Pine" built by Pullman-Standard in 1953, which eventually became MC-247. It was sold to Auto-Train as their 611 in 1974 and used as a dorm. Retired in 1978 and sold to Ringling to become MC-247 on the Gold Unit Monte Carlo Train of 1979. It was at Ringling Brothers' former winter quarters in Venice as late as 1993 (two years after the winter quarters and most equipment moved north). It was later sold to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in Miami, then to the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish as RBX 99. An effort began in 2014 to bring the car back to Ringling's old winter quarters in Venice for display near the historic depot. The Venice Area Historical Society purchased the car December 9, 2016 and moved it to Venice on December 21. In 2017 the car was being refurbished at the Uni-Glide Trailer Company, under the direction of Bob Dills.

The Legacy Trail built on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad right-of-way.

Venice Seaboard Air Line station built in 1927.

Venice station historical sign.

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers plaque. I then drove Elizabeth to the Super 8 Motel in Fort Myers and we rested a few minutes after we checked in.