Facebook Page

Driving Day to Kissimmee, Florida and Riding the TECO Streetcar 1/16/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I awoke at the Quality Inn in Zephyrhills and after checking out, I drove us to the Breakfast Station Restaurant where we ate an excellent meal. After that, I drove us into Tampa and we parked near Union Station.

Tampa Union Station built in 1912. Its original purpose was to combine passenger operations for the Atlantic Coast Line, the Seaboard Air Line and the Tampa Northern Railroad at a single site. From here we drove over to Ybor City and parked in a lot near the Centennial Station for free since one does not have to pay for the first two hours. We walked over to a waiting trolley.

Tampa Teco Streetcar

In their heyday, Tampa's streetcars whisked passengers to and from Ybor City, Ballast Point, Hyde Park, Sulphur Springs and points beyond. Operated by uniformed conductors, the Birney cars were a welcome sight, and the familiar clang of the streetcar bell was music to the passenger’s ears. To ride the streetcar was to feel the pulse of the community.

Tampa's first electric streetcar lines built in 1892 quickly became an essential part of everyday life as workers took the streetcar downtown and to the cigar factories of west Tampa. And families climbed aboard for a picnic or ball game in DeSoto and Macfarlane parks. Reaching the peak of its popularity in the 1920s, with almost 24 million passengers in 1926, Tampa's streetcar system rolled to a stop in August 1946 following World War II as it was largely replaced by automobiles and buses.

Beginning in 1984, the Tampa & Ybor City Street Railway Society acted as a catalyst, promoting the return of streetcar service to Tampa. In October 2002, electric streetcars started operating again in Tampa, supporting expansive growth in downtown, the Channel District, and Ybor City; improving transportation capacity and shared parking capabilities (specifically related to the traffic peaks caused by large events); supporting Tampa's cruise and tourism industry; and to the degree possible, transporting workers to and from their jobs.

The initial phase of the TECO Line Streetcar System, Phase I, was designed to function as a single-track bi-directional line with six passing tracks. This configuration provides the flexibility needed to enable the simultaneous operation of the 10 replica double-truck streetcars and the single-truck Birney.

Phase II of the system, which represents the system as it exists today, was initiated in late 2003, and completed in December 2010 adding the 11th station to the system and an additional .3 miles of track (extended line is a single track from Dick Greco Plaza to Franklin and Whiting Streets, with a passing track north of Brorein Street) increasing the system to 2.7-miles, linking downtown Tampa with the Channelside and Ybor City entertainment districts, and providing passengers with a connection to the core of downtown Tampa.

Our Trip

Teco Trolley 431 built by Gomaco built in 2000. We were disappointed that this car was wrapped.

Interior photos of Teco Trolley 431. The trolley then departed and we were off on our first trip on this unique trolley system.

The builder's plate.

Two trolleys at the Trolley Barn along our route. We rode the whole route to the northwest end at Downtown Tampa Station.

Our route allowed us to see Tampa harbour.

Our trolley at the Downtown Tampa Station. Sit back relax and enjoy a ride on the Teco Trolley back to Centennial Station. I asked our operator if I could sit in the rear driver's seat to take pictures for my story and he said, "Yes, but be careful of the pedals on the floor! and I said "I would be!"

This was the entire route of the Teco Trolley.

One last view of Teco Trolley 431. Elizabeth and I really enjoyed our ride.

The drive to Kissimmee

We left Ybor City and I drove us to Plant City and a few surprises.

Atlantic Coast Line 20 ton switcher 508 built by Whitcomb in 1942.

Seaboard Air Line caboose 5735 built by International Car in 1963.

Plant City station built in 1908. The depot played an important role in the early development of Plant City, whose main industries of farming, lumber and phosphate mining depended heavily on the railroad. The station once served both the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and Seaboard Air Line Railroad. Mail also arrived in Plant City via this depot, and the Western Union telegraph service was based there. Plant City Union Depot continued to operate until 1971 and was added to the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1974.

The crossing diamonds here taken from the Train Viewing Platford, which is across from the depot. Trains Magazine rated the viewing platform as one of the top 75 best places to view trains in the United States. You can expect 15-20 trains maximum per day including the Tropicana Orange Juice train, TECO coal trains and ethanol trains, as well as Amtrak's Silver Star.

The sign in front of the station.

Information board about Plant City.

The crossing tower located here.

The Silver Star surprised me at this location. We then visited the museum inside the station.

Seaboard Coast Line Fairmont speeder M-19 261 built in 1958 as a master series inspection car.

Seaboard Air Line Fairmont speeder M-19 208 built in 1943 as a master series inspection car.

Atlantic Coast Line Fairmont speeder, number unknown.

Welcome to Okeechobee, Florida CSX.

Model trains on the wall.

CTC board of the area.

More displays in this museum.

They have a very nice model railroad.

The railfan tower and platform.

Atlantic Coast Line velocipede built by Sheffield-Fairbanks Morse in 1923.

Another Atlantic Coast Line velocipede.

What a great museum this is.

A hand car on display.

A picture of museum activities. We left the museum and walked over to the freight house.

Seaboard Air Line Plant City freight house. I drove us next to Auburndale.

Seaboard Air Line Auburndale station built in 1927.

The history plaque for Auburndale's station. Our next station would be in Haines City but had a surprise before we arrived.

Amtrak Silver Meteor at Haines City.

Atlantic Coast Line Haines City station built in 1923. City Hall was across the road from the station so Elizabeth went to see if they had a municipal pin, which they did. From here I drove us to Poinciana where we waited for SunRail. This is the current southern terminus of this commuter line. SunRail covers 32 miles from City of Debary in Volusia County to Sand Lake Road in Orange County and opened in 2014. We did not have time to ride Sunrail this trip but will do so when we return in September.

The SunRail train arrived.

The rear of this train.

SunRail MP32PH-Q 100 built from ex. Maryland Area Regional Commuter 52, nee Baltimore and Ohio GP40 3742.

SunRail emblem on the engine.

The whole two-car train.

SunRail coach 2001 built by Bombardier in 2013.

SunRail cab car 2002 built by Bombardier in 2013. We drove to the Kissimmee Amtrak station.

Kissimmee station built circa 1910. We checked into the Holiday Inn and walked over to Denny's for dinner before calling it a night.