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Just like ships, trains can also be christened. Indeed, the lady in the bottom photo seems to be breaking a bottle on the locomotive. These images come from the 1939 Jacksonville dedication of an early Florida diesel, the Henry M. Flagler. It pulled a passenger train for the Florida East Coast Railway, linking Jacksonville and Miami on daily basis. Attending the ceremony were their mayors, G. S. Blume of the River City and E. G. Sewell of the Magic City.
This image depicts an engineer in the locomotive's cab. The old railroad man was witnessing the beginning of the end for steam.
Here's a steam locomotive on the south side of Jacksonville Terminal. In this undated image, the engine and tender are facing backwards, pushing a passenger car. The domed windows and arches in the background are now part of the Prime Osborn Center.
The steam railroad hub at Jacksonville's Union Station.
The image comes from a postcard that dates from about 1901 to 1904.
Sitting at The Landing downtown, you can still watch trains slowly cross the St. Johns River on this old railroad span next to the Acosta Bridge. This photo is undated. However, it must've been taken during or after the 1920s, for workmen double tracked the railroad bridge during the land boom of the Twenties. When the span was first opened in 1890, it served as the pioneer railroad bridge over the St. Johns. Trains could run from the northern states down the east coast of Florida into the Miami area. Consequently, the bridge helped launch the development of southeast Florida.
This outdoor scene at the old Jacksonville Terminal is now indoors. The area is enclosed in today's Prime Osborn Convention Center, part of a mammoth hallway that connects conference rooms. Cement pieces, such as the one marked with the "9," were located at the end of some of the tracks outside Jacksonville Terminal. The cement pieces have been left standing in the hallway, although the rails are long gone. The photo shows Atlantic Coast Line engine #1723 at Jax Terminal during the 1930s.

Steam Locomotives

STEAM: GONE WITH WIND — Do you remember the opening credits for the old TV show “Petticoat Junction”? (“Come ride that little train that is rolling down the tracks to the Junction…”) The montage showed the three pretty daughters of the owner of the hotel, the Shady Rest, skinny dipping in a water tower. This structure was used to replenish the liquid in the Cannonball Express, a fictional train that chugged between the hotel and Hooterville, the locale of “Green Acres.” A steam locomotive needs a continuous diet of water and coal or oil. These supplies are stored in a railroad car, called a tender, that is pulled immediately behind the engine. Nevertheless, a steam locomotive has to stop sometimes for fresh reserves of water and fuel.

Steam locomotives used to roll through Jacksonville, although the later ones were not as old-fashioned looking as the Cannonball Express. A major rail center, the River City saw its share of steam engines until about 1945 to 1955, when they were replaced by engines powered by diesel fuel. Lost to local history were the pungent smells and plumes of coal smoke from locomotives. And, of course, the whistle on a diesel doesn’t sound the same.

Most steam locomotives consume coal for fuel, although some rely on oil. The burning of coal or oil produces heat, which turns water in the locomotive’s boiler into steam. This is fed into cylinders, where steam pressure pushes against disks called pistons. These are connected to rods which move the wheels.

More often than not, the job of a train’s fireman was to keep the fires burning rather than putting them out. A very physically fit individual, he shoveled coal into the locomotive’s firebox, and he also kept watch on the water flowing from the tender’s tank. As time went on, however, larger locomotives became equipped with mechanical stokers that automatically conveyed coal from the tender into the engine.

WHY NOT STEAM? — When compared with diesel engines, steam locomotives suffer several disadvantages. Their problems include the following:

  1. Steam locomotives require a longer time to start, since a fire has to be lit and the boiler heated.
  2. They also take longer to stop and speed up.
  3. They need more servicing and cleaning.
  4. Steam locomotives are not fuel efficient. They require large amounts of coal to zip along, but most of this heat is wasted.
  5. They must stop rather frequently for fuel.
  6. Steam engines may look neat chugging along, but they create more air pollution than diesels.

After World War II ended in 1945, the era of the diesel locomotive dawned. The conflict had worn out many of America’s locomotives, so numerous replacements were needed. Nowadays, over 20,000 diesel locomotives operate in the U.S., yet fewer than 50 steam engines still make runs in the nation, mostly serving as tourist attractions.

What does the future hold for the motive power of America’s locomotives? Most European railroads have been electrified with power from a third rail that runs parallel to the regular tracks. Electric locomotives offer many advantages over diesels. Therefore, electrification may very well be the direction in which U.S. trains travel in the 21st century.

LOCAL RAILROAD RELICS — The Jacksonville area offers at least two examples of old steam locomotives, even though they don’t roll down any rails. Permanently parked in Jacksonville Beach is a train engine that weighs 28 tons and dates from 1911. It is located at the Pablo Historical Park on Beach Boulevard, near the intersection with A1A. Next to the locomotive is a local station master’s house from the 1800s, as well as a train station that used to serve Mayport.

Another steam locomotive, with a tender car, sits in the middle of a parking lot at the Prime Osborn Center, just west of downtown Jacksonville. This large engine was built in Richmond, Virginia, to haul troops during World War I. Although the conflict ended before the vehicle could do its military duty, it ended up as the pride of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. Locomotive 1504 pulled premier passenger trains in & out of Florida, exceeding 70 mph on wheels taller than an adult. After its retirement in December 1953, the engine stood in front of the Atlantic Coast Line Building (later CSX) in downtown Jax from 1960 to 1986. The vehicle was finally donated to the City of Jacksonville, which refurbished it and gave it a new home at the Prime Osborn.

~written by Glenn Emery


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