Urban Neighborhoods: Lackawanna

February 3, 2009 9 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Lackawanna originally saw growth as a streetcar suburb that was an attractive residential location for workers employed at the nearby massive Seaboard Air Line Shops and Terminals.Although the streetcar line and railroad shops are long gone, the community that owes its existance to them still lives on.

The community of Lackwanna is located adjacent to the former West Jacksonville railyards near I-10 and McDuff Avenue.


Seaboard Air Line Shops & Terminals


The date of the first West Jax Yard has to be in post Civil War Florida boom. 1880's. Seaboard bought into the F&J and also the line from Union Station to Chattahoochee about 1888. The shops date from the 1890's to 1920 when the 3rd and final Union Station opened. The facility employed as many as 1,000 workers in 1909.

The diesel shops were built in the WWII years. By the end of the war, a new 165 foot turntable was in place at the steam shops. The yards were greatly increased both in the circa "teens" and again in the late "40's".  Seaboard was already pioneering their demise. The Gross Cut-Off to Callahan and Baldwin were taking more and more freight through without another sort.

The shops became the home for almost all of the SEABOARD "ALCO" (American Locomotive Works) and "BALDWIN" diesels. The last of these, Alco, quit the business starting with a sell to Worthington Corp in 1964, they built their last diesels in the early 70's. They were then folded into Studebaker-Worthington subsidiary MONTREAL loco works. But MLW, didn't get any US orders from SCL.

As a specialist in Alco and Baldwin locomotives, WEST JAX did it all. These engines had one other thing that EMD (GM), or GE diesels lacked. Pound for pound it was said they could pull the socks off an equal power locomotive from the latter builders. They could also track better, and SCL wasn't known for good track - sadly CSX still suffers from this mind set. Hundreds of miles of branchlines in your home town area were --- HORRIBLE. But an old Alco would somehow dance along the rails with the train, another locomotive would be up to the foot plates in dirt.

When Rice Yard opened in Waycross, it was really Jacksonville's yard moved to a less congested junction. That move coupled with massive post regulation abandonment's spelled the end of West Jax. Remember railyards are train, time AND money killers.

WEST JAX is now a superfund site, home of CSX security - Railroad Police, train dispatching, and the company's office train cars.

West Jacksonville Yard history by Bob Mann

Current Site:

McDuff Avenue

McDuff Avenue serves as Lackawanna's main north-south thoroughfare, giving the community access to neighborhoods north of Beaver Street and south of Interstate 10. 

Many of the older commercial buildings along McDuff are former transit oriented development projects from a streetcar line that once ran along the corridor.  Today, a major streetscape project is well underway on McDuff to help beautify the commercial corridor.


Residential Lackawanna

Like most of Jacksonville's inner city districts, Lackawanna is dominated by narrow residential lots, gridded streets, and centralized public spaces.  However, unlike those closer to downtown, a significant portion of the community lacks sidewalks and sewers.






Photo Tour by Ennis Davis