Facebook Page
By Jack M. Turner
A new excursion train operator recently kicked off service in southeast Georgia over the rails of the St. Marys Railroad.  The passenger operation runs under the name Georgia Coastal Railway.

Our train departs from the St. Marys depot on Saturday, May 8 at 12:01pm and begins its leisurely 8 mile westbound run to Kingsland.  We are assigned to Bedroom E in the Belleville, an 11 double bedroom sleeping car wearing the name of an Illinois Central sleeper but missing the distinctive chocolate brown with an orange stripe paint scheme.  The exterior actually is stainless silver with fluted sides.  The letterboard above the windows is lettered Pullman and the car bears the number 800217 which indicates certification to operate on Amtrak trains.  Further research indicates this car originally was operated by Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and was named Silver Quail.  At that time the car was designated as a 6 double bedroom-5 compartment sleeper and its primary assignment was on the California Zephyr.
(Click any image in this report for a full-screen image.
Your browser may have a magnifying glass with a “+” which allows you to zoom in even further in the photo.
Click BACK arrow in your browser to return to this report.)


 St Mary’s RR GP15 # 1547 leads the westbound train.


Sleeper Belleville is actually Ex-CB&Q Silver Quail.


The author relaxes in a bedroom in the Belleville.

Up front St. Marys RR GP-15 # 1547 leads the six car train which formerly operated as the Royal Palm excursion train in Central Florida.  Behind the engine is a generator car followed by dining car Silver Tureen, once a mainstay in the Burlington fleet.  Next up is coach Golden Triangle which is painted in the distinctive IC livery followed by the Belleville.  Trailing our car is former Norfolk & Western sleeper Ohio State University wearing N&W Tuscan red paint.  This car has been converted to a food service/coach and beverage service provided by an on-board hostess is based out of that car.  Former Burlington sleeper Silver Plain is next with Tennessee Valley GP9 engine 1912 bringing up the rear.

 Illinois Central coach


Dining car Silver Tureen


N&W Ohio State University

A couple of minutes after departure we run around several open coaches, two cabooses, an Illinois Central coach, Amtrak baggage car 1226 and a Southern railway post office car.  Shortly we pass a string of tank cars stored on a siding.  There are various freight cars stored along the railway and this is obviously a source of revenue for the St. Marys RR.

Soon we cross a large marsh and enjoy the peaceful scene which includes numerous birds as the train crawls slowly through the area.  Continuing west the rails pass several houses and 20 minutes later the scenery turns to commercial development with many small businesses.  This soon gives way to hotels, restaurants, and other establishments located near an exit from Interstate 95.  We pass below I-95 at 12:41pm then spot the Hampton Inn where we stayed a few years ago during a trip to follow our favorite high school football team.  At 12:50 the train reaches the westernmost point in its trip and stops behind a Kingsland neighborhood.

Passing through marshlands. 


 A shorebird enjoys the water along the rail line.

Kingsland was once served by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad whose Palmland offered coach and sleeping car service to and from New York and Miami well into the 1960s.  SAL’s other trains, the Silver Meteor, Silver Star, and Sunland, ran through Kingsland without stopping.  Amtrak also travelled via Kingsland in its early years before consolidating all services on the former Atlantic Coast Line through nearby Folkston.  The former Seaboard line was later sold by CSX to a short line which operated southward to Jacksonville.  The tracks were pulled up north of Woodbine, a few miles north of Kingsland several years ago.
After stopping in Kingsland for just two minutes, our train reverses direction with GP9 # 1912 leading.  Hanging on the front of the engine is a Silver Meteor drumhead complete with the same logo displayed on the SAL/SCL Silver Meteor’s observation car’s tail sign.  Back in the Belleville, bedroom E contains a crosswise sofa that can seat up to 3.  First class space on this train is sold in groups of 3 in a bedroom or 5 in a bedroom suite.

Ex-SAL GP9 #1912 has led the eastbound run.

As we retrace our route back to St. Marys, we enjoy a hamburger lunch delivered by a member of the train staff.  A pleasant chat with the general manager of the passenger service accompanies the meal then we arrive back in St. Marys at 1:50pm.  It has been a most enjoyable journey and one I can recommend for a nice outing.
The Georgia Coastal Railway operates from St. Marys, GA, a small coastal town about 30 minutes north of Jacksonville, FL.  Amtrak’s stops in Jacksonville and Savannah, GA are convenient for rail travelers wishing to rent a car and ride the Georgia Coastal.  Excellent vacation destinations are just a short drive including the beautiful beaches of Ponte Vedra Beach and Amelia Island in Florida, the historic city of St. Augustine and the fine beaches and charming resorts of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island, Georgia.  Railfans will find the railfan viewing site in Folkston conveniently located just 28 miles west of St. Marys.
Georgia Coastal operates many themed trips in addition to its regular excursions.  Among these are a Wild West train, Great Gatsby train, Pizza Express, Murder Mystery train, and Halloween and Santa trains.  Further info can be found at the following locations.
Georgia Coastal Railway   Phone: (904)370-3744

Slide show of all photos: