Jacksonville Terminal As The Job Maker

May 11, 2011 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

To get a train rolling, you need the manpower to push it. Bringing Amtrak and passenger rail back to downtown will create an array of potential jobs.

The Jacksonville Terminal Company

Photo of Jacksonville Terminal courtesy of Eleatherberry, via Flickr

The Jacksonville Terminal Company was incorporated in 1894 by Florida East Coast Railway owner Henry Flagler. Its first Union Depot opened February 4, 1895 and was completed January 15, 1897. It came to be known as the Flagler Depot - the fact that some kept calling it that long after each the Atlantic Coast Line, Seaboard Air Line and Southern Railway achieved equality, if not superiority in 1919, is just another Jacksonville vesper tale. The second Union Depot (the largest railroad station south of Washington D.C.) opened in 1919 on the site of the original one. It was last used January 3, 1974 (Amtrak, for now, stops several miles north).

In the mid-20th-century image above, the Baggage Master ("baggage smasher" in railroadese) goes out to meet the train. Note the baggage cart, which will be at the wrong end of the train as soon as it stops. Don't worry though, this is Jacksonville, and half of that train will go right back out the same way it came in. Everything will be rearranged before the scheduled departures, one for Miami which will cross the river downtown, and the other heading west and, hence south through Gainesville. This scene could never be recreated with an airline, but this is a classic case of the train (rearranged) going to meet the baggage rather than the other way around.

* Railroad buffs should note this is the Southwind from Chicago, (long before it was allowed to go to hell in a hand basket). The Pennsylvania Railroad Tuscan Red Cars are the dead giveaway. Before Amtrak operated as a single railroad sponsoring a train Southwind, City of Miami, etc., it was common for all participating railroads which forwarded it to its ultimate destination to use the sponsors' color scheme for consistency and beauty. So would one have found an Atlantic Coast Line car in Pennsylvania or Central Illinois colors? You bet.

Photo Courtesy of The Rockford Register Star

Amtrak employee Larry Myers defends the National Railroad Passenger Corporation onboard The City of New Orleans. Jacksonville residents should take note that the City's sister train which left the City of New Orleans route just above Memphis and swept through Jacksonville, was the popular City of Miami. The City of Miami ran full until it's final day, so what did the fledgling Amtrak Corporation do? Chose the clunky Southwind, which by 1971 was a near-death experience. Today we have no Midwest - Florida service, gee, wonder why?

Photo R. Mann

All trains split in Jacksonville; here one of the local crews is putting together the Palmetto for it's next-morning departure and doing it with an ancient, 1940, vintage Baldwin Switcher in not-so-long-ago Jacksonville.

Photo By R. Mann, Courtesy of Florida State Photographic Archives, inset by Union Pacific

In this older view, a Jacksonville Terminal Switcher is pulling a cut of cars off of the Florida East Coast Railway. These sleepers will be shoved forward on an adjacent track and leave northbound in the afternoon for New York City.

Photo Courtesy of Amtrak

Job Potential

How many jobs are represented by this photo? Did you know that Amtrak already spends over $27,900,000 dollars a year in Jacksonville? Imagine that exponential increasing to include the linen service, carpet cleaners, upholstery shop, catering companies, restaurant supply, floral delivery, glass companies, janitorial supplies, ice, bottled water, liquor. Did somebody say jobs? Hey, "Let's get to work Jacksonville."

Photo Courtesy of Amtrak

Just another little accessory we could reinstall - certainly if we start operating a commuter fleet of any type, we're going to need a car wash. Parlay that into contract cleaning of entire trains, as well as private cars such as the one President Obama used during his election (cars that are based here by the way), and you've just added another small fortune to our job potential.

Photo Courtesy of Amtrak

As a fleet operator, we might as well plan on some contract work in the realm of rolling repairs. A small shop facility, or even a shop shared with a shortline or private contractor, would make major-station status for Jacksonville all the more likely.

Photo Courtesy of Collett Vacations

...And of course, no train story is complete without those who make it all possible: the on-board operating crewmembers. Nothing to sneeze at, an Amtrak conductor with some seniority is making every bit as much as your friendly commuter airline pilot.

If the station reopens, the aforementioned job possibilities will become just that - possible. In addition to Old Jacksonville Terminal jobs being recreated, an array of jobs could be created with a lot of tactical brainstorming and a dash of hope.

Smile folks, it's an oncoming train...

Article by Bob Mann