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Brightline - W Palm Beach to Miami

A Great Train Journey

Part One

NRHS 2023 Annual Convention in Deerfield Beach, Florida


Robin Bowers

September 03, 2023


Chapter Five

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent

Comments are appreciated

Brightline and Lighthouse

    Today started early with the commencement of the 2023 convention field trips. I went downstairs to the Spotted Stag Gastropub for a breakfast of pancakes then later walked to the hotel's north entrance and joined the queue for our bus ride to West Palm Beach and Brightline's Running Repair Facility tour. Buses were schedule to start boarding at 8:00am and I was on the second one, leaving around 8:20am.

    Our trio of buses arrived at the maintenance facility near 10:00am but there was nobody to welcome us so we sat and waited to leave the buses. Later we were told that members of the convention committer were in contact with Brightline representatives but news had not been passed to the people here at the facility. Then the higher-ups decided that we should exit the buses and walk around the facility with a few shop workers answering questions from the conventioneers. We had a full range to roam around and was probably exactly what had been planed in the first place.

    Brightline is a privately run inter-city rail route between Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida. Brightline began operating over its current route in January 2018 and the company is currently building an extension to the Orlando International Airport which is expected to enter service in 2023.

    All Aboard Florida ordered five Siemens trainsets in 2014. Each Brightline trainset initially consisted of four passenger coaches, with a Siemens Charger SCB-40 diesel-electric locomotive on each end. The coaches, with interiors designed by the LAB at Rockwell Group, feature ergonomic seating, Wi-Fi, level boarding and meet ADA compliance standards. Each trainset holds 248 passengers. Working with All Aboard Florida, the LAB also conceived the Brightline name, brand platform, and visual identity. The entire trainset, including passenger cars, were manufactured by Siemens in its solar-powered plant in Florin, California. Once the route to Orlando is in operation, the trainsets will be expanded to seven coaches, and five more complete trainsets will be purchased. The first of five trainsets departed the Siemens factory on December 8, 2016, and arrived in West Palm Beach on December 14. The fifth trainset arrived in South Florida in October 2017.

    The trains offers two classes of service, with one "Select" coach and three "Smart" coaches on each trainset. "Select" offers 2x1 and four-to-a-table seating with 50 21-inch-wide seats per car and complimentary snacks and beverages, while the slightly less expensive "Smart" fare coaches seat 66 with narrower 19-inch-wide seats, with snacks and beverages available for purchase. Each trainset is able to hold 248 passengers.


Brightline Service Green Train.






Brightline Charger SCB-40 diesel-electric 119 built by Siemens in 2021.


next car

Brightline Green Train Premium Service coach 1 built by Siemens in 2021.


Brightline Green Train coach 2 built by Siemens in 2021.


Brightline Service SCB-40 diesel-electric 108 built by Siemens in 2021.


Spare parts.



For a good look under the carriage.


Jacks to lift the cars.




Brightline Service Yellow Train with SCB-40 diesel-electric 106 built by Siemens in 2021.





Wheel lathe to turn wheels while still attached to car.



Scrap shavings.


Last look.

After everybody was back aboard and accounted for, we left for the short trip to the town center and the Brightline station.


Looking north from the station waiting room with Florida East Coast train at center left.

    Walking into the station at street level, you need to take the escalator up to the waiting area. A nice young lady was standing at the escalator collecting our tickets and while I am sure she thought she was doing a good thing and helping, but a BIG no-no. Our tickets had our seat number on them since It was assigned seating, not general admission. Hint ! Never surrender your ticket because it is your proof of purchase. Therefore at boarding time, it was like a cattle call on the platform or chickens with their head cut off. Strike two for Brightline.



Palm Beach station waiting area for coach passengers.


View looking south from the waiting area. Stations built across tracks offer great train watching.



A peek into the first class waiting area.


  Happy train riders.


Announcements are made on screens mounted on ceiling. Love the glass door that opens as you approach. The restrooms are all touch less. Nice.




More Miami.


Leaving our train in Miami.


Coach waiting area in Miami.


They like them tall down here.


First class lounge with snacks. 


From the other side of the buffet table.

    After exiting the train, the conventioneers went downstairs to the waiting lounge and our awaiting box lunches. We all raced to the boxes piled on the table and  once Elizabeth G. had taken our lunch stubs except for about 10 or so who would be the first group to see the operations area. Each group would rotate with the next waiting group. After finishing my lunch, I waited for the next group to join. Shortly, we were called for our turn to visit the operations center.



The Brightline dispatcher's screen.




The Fort Lauderdale bascule bridge that has to be in the down position for Brightline trains to pass.



    After everyone had cycled through the operations tour, we waited for our return train to West Palm Beach to arrive which was a few minutes late. As a result, our train departed a bit late but we had pleasant and problem-free return trip, arriving at West Palm Beach at 3:05pm and proceeded to our assigned buses. After a head count, our buses headed south to Deerfield Beach and the Doubletree Hotel.


    My day with Brightline was both exciting and a learning adventure. I was able to see and ride in the passenger cars of the future on the Brightline. From the automatic opening of the glass doors to the touch less restroom operations and the snack cart traveling down the aisle, i.e. airplane style.

    Brightline built new stations that are very passenger-friendly. They are putting their money where you can see it. As the old Hollywood mogul said to the young producer: "Put your money up on the screen and not on fancy cars nor expensive restaurant meals." This company is spending big bucks and it shows. Remember, this is a freight railroad that is going into the passenger business. Back to the future.

    The original NRHS  plan for today was to motor coach  to Miami then board the Brightline for a journey to newly-open Orlando International Airport station. End point to end point. But plans did not come together in time for our convention and to Orlando did open until September 22nd. One of the route’s choke points is the single-track bridge over the St. Lucie River at Stuart, Fla. The U.S. Coast Guard regulation mandated once-hourly 10 and 15-minute openings and the railroad wanted openings only when necessary; so it was time for plan B. 

    Arrangements were made to motor coach to the Brightline Maintenance facility for a tour and then on to West Palm Beach’s new Brightline Station and then a ride to Miami. The tour the operations center where they dispatch both their freight and passenger traffic was a sweet treat.

    Living in Southern California, I have a serious interest in Brightline West, the $10 billion plan to connect the Los Angeles Basin and Las Vegas by putting a railroad down the median of traffic-clogged Interstate 15. The 218-mile electric railroad, with top speeds of 186 mph, would be world class.

    Plans call for the trains to whisk passengers between Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga, California, in 2 hours and 10 minutes, which is twice as fast as driving. At Rancho Cucamonga passengers would be able to connect to existing Metrolink service.

    Also there is talk of linking Brightline West with the California high-speed rail project via a new High Desert Corridor between Victorville and Palmdale. The state-run project is way behind schedule and massively over budget. I have always maintained that the state should first build a high speed rail, Los Angeles to Vegas. Get your experience building the smaller project and then tackle the jumbo project of Los Angeles to San Francisco.

End of Brightline

After returning to the hotel, Chris and I waited for Doug S. to return then we walked out to his car and drove to the lighthouse at Hillsboro Point at the Atlantic Ocean.


Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse.


Across the bay from the lighthouse.


    Hillsboro Point was designated as hazardous for the safe navigation of ships in 1855 and federal designation was sought, with a request for a lighthouse at the inlet was first made in 1884. The request was repeated yearly and rejected 17 times. In 1901, the United States Lighthouse Board persuaded Congress to authorize the construction of a lighthouse in the dark area between Jupiter Inlet Light and Fowey Rocks Light. The official order approved on February 12, 1901, called for a "first-order light at or near Hillsboro a cost not to exceed $90,000." No appropriation of funds was made in 1901 and in 1902 $45,000 was appropriated. The full funding to build the lighthouse was appropriated on March 3, 1903. Initially a site on the south side of the inlet was selected, however it was not feasible, so a site on the north of the inlet was chosen. The owner of the property did not want to sell at first but after beginning condemnation proceedings, an agreement to purchase the land was reached. The 3 acre parcel was purchased for $150 from Elnathan T. Field and Mary W. Osborn of Middleton, New Jersey who had bought the land for 70 cents an acre from the Trustees of the Internal Improvement Fun.


    Russell Wheel and Foundry Co. of Detroit, Michigan awarded the contract for a skeletal lighthouse of 136 feet high to the lens room and a total of 147 feet at its highest point.

    The official description of the the lighthouse is: 'The structure is an octagonal, pyramidal cast iron skeleton tower with a central stair cylinder; the lower third of the structure is painted white; the upper two-thirds are painted black. There are three white one-and-one-half story light-keepers dwellings in a row, about 100 feet northward of the light tower and a red brick oil-house stands about 50 feet to the westward of the tower. There is also a boathouse near the inlet with boatways 60 feet long.'

    Barbier Benard et Turenne, of Paris, France awarded contract for lens and turning mechanism. The second order lens height is 8 feet in diameter, Rated at 550,000 candle power for a cost not to exceed $7,250.

    G.W. Brown Construction of West Palm Beach, Florida awarded the contract to build 5 buildings for a cost of $21,500. The buildings are: 3 houses, 1 oil-house and 1 barracks.


    Lighthouse is completed, inspected, and approved for service in Detroit.

    January - The lighthouse is disassembled and shipped via Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, Mississippi River, Gulf Mexico, around Key West, and north to the Hillsboro Inlet - for a total of 4,000 Nautical-Miles.

    The lens is shipped from Paris, France to Miami, Florida and then north to the Hillsboro Inlet.

    J.H. Gardner Construction Co. of New Orleans, Louisiana awarded the contract for clearing the land-laying foundation, re-assembling and erection for a cost of $16,792.


    Leaving the lighthouse, we drove north about seven miles to Boca Raton to find the cars at the Boca Raton station that Chris had seen earlier this afternoon from the train returning from Miami. We found Boca Raton easily but after driving up and down South Dixie Highway, we had no luck in finding the ghost cars. So what are you going to do when you are lost and confused. Why, you call the British Spy, for sure. Shortly, Doug received a text with the address.



    Duquesne Slag Products 0-6-0T 12, nee American Bridge Company built by Baldwin in 1930. American Bridge was founded in 1900 by consolidation of twenty-eight of the largest steel fabricators in the United States. In 1902, it became a subsidiary of United States Steel as part of the Steel Trust consolidation. In 1943, 12 was sold to the dealer Birmingham Rail & Locomotive Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and then on to the Duquesne Slag Products Company, where it was renumbered 69 and was used to haul slag for concrete, ballast, road building materials, roofing and other industrial products.

    It was donated to the Pennsylvania Railway Museum in Scranton in 1964 and some time later, was acquired by the Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum. It is on display at the historic Boca Raton Rail Depot on South Dixie Highway.




Atlantic Coast Line caboose 0771 built by the railroad in 1966.


    Boca Raton Florida East Coast station built in 1930. Historically, the station served several long-distance trains and one or two local trains. Into the early 1960's, passengers could take one of two Chicago-bound trains (on alternating days), the City of Miami or the South Wind (both via Birmingham) and the New York City-bound East Coast Champion, Havana Special and Miamian from the FEC's station. Into the latter 1950's, passengers could take the Dixie Flagler to Chicago via Atlanta from the station. The FEC operated local passenger service between Jacksonville and the Miami area until July 31, 1968.


Seaboard Air Line dining car 6113 built by the Budd Company in 1947.


Seaboard Air Line 59 seat lounge-observation car 5843, later became 6603 "E. M. Lynn" then Amtrak 3343, built by Budd Company in 1947. In 1983, it was sold to the Boca Raton Historical Society.




Leaving here we drove a couple of miles south to Deerfield Beach to where we search for a caboose that Chris knew was hiding among some trees, but where. After driving around a park, we spotted our hidden gem.




Seaboard Coast Line caboose 0896 built by the railroad. The three of us drove over to Jersey Mike's where Doug and I picked up dinner (number 6 for me) and Chris bought dinner for Elizabeth and himself . We returned to the hotel, I went to my room to have dinner and read some emails. The end of a long and first day of convention trips.

Thanks for reading.

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Text and Photos by Author, Robin Bowers

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent

Comments are appreciated