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.
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
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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.
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
Passing through marshlands.
A shorebird enjoys the water along the rail line.
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.
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. Link: Georgia Coastal Railway https://thegeorgiatrain.com/ Phone: (904)370-3744