SAL passenger service south of Miami?

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SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Tue Mar 22, 2011 7:32 am

The 1926 SAL extension in Florida went (and still goes) all of the way down to Homestead. The Miami terminal was on a spur a couple of miles or so east of Hialeah junction, with the line to Homestead continuing south from the junction. I have a 1936 OGR that says service between Miami and Homestead is freight only. Yet I haven't been able to verify whether or not, for that 4 year period between completion of the line to Homestead in 1926 and the SAL entering bankruptcy in 1930, passenger service may have been offered south of Miami.

There seems to be some support for this -- there was a "Coral Gables - Miami Biltmore" station (actually about a mile and half west of the Gables on Bird Road). Most convincing is the Homestead SAL station, which is still standing. As you can see from the photos below (taken in 1926, 1936, and today), it looks very much like a passenger station combined with a freight depot. Although there doesn't really seem to be a passenger platform in the 1926 photo (hard to tell), you can clearly see what appear to be benches inside of the station.

So does anyone know if there was passenger service here in the late 1920s?

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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:11 am

Interestingly, I found further support for the existence of passenger service to Homestead in the the late 20s in an an August 1927 article in the St. Petersburg Times. SAL passengers with a round-trip ticket to South Florida were given an "optional route privilege," which allowed them to travel to the west coast of Florida at no extra cost. Talking about the option, the article states:

When the Seaboard's line was extended to Miami and Homestead last January, the road then extended the optional route privilege to all points between West Palm Beach, Miami, and Homestead, and now all round-trip tickets to and from West Palm Beach, Miami and Homestead, by the Seaboard, sold on either the long limit summer or winter rates, special occasion or excursion fares, permit going and returning via Tampa, Belleair and St. Petersburg without additional charge.


source

This seems too pointed to be an error, but who knows. I had asked Seth Bramson a month or so ago if he knew whether there had been service, and he at first said no, then said he was not sure.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby Noel Weaver » Fri Apr 01, 2011 4:07 pm

This is an interesting question. Sometimes Seaboard accomodations were by bus and that might have been the case traveling to Homestead. Another possibility could be a local freight or mixed train carrying passengers in a caboose or a combo.
My oldest Seaboard passenger timetable is 1945 and of course it was freight only at that time. My best guess is that there was no regular passenger service to Homestead but this is only a guess.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby frank754 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:52 pm

My September 1926 Official Guide shows the line as still being under construction, but with FEC still having service to Key West. I don't have any others in that date range.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:45 pm

Noel Weaver wrote:This is an interesting question. Sometimes Seaboard accomodations were by bus and that might have been the case traveling to Homestead. Another possibility could be a local freight or mixed train carrying passengers in a caboose or a combo.
My oldest Seaboard passenger timetable is 1945 and of course it was freight only at that time. My best guess is that there was no regular passenger service to Homestead but this is only a guess.
Noel Weaver


It would seem kind of odd to have purposefully built the extension all of the way from Coleman to Homestead, only to dump folks traveling to Homestead off onto a bus in Miami. Still,the Orange Blossom Special started running to Miami in January 1927 -- there's a well-known photo of the SAL president Warfield posing in MIami in front of it after its inaugural run along with Miss Miami and Miss Hialeah -- and the agricultural burg of Homestead would seem equally odd as the terminus of such a grand train. Switching Homestead passengers to a mixed sounds like a possibility, though.

Also, back at that time, the airport did not exist, the Seaboard tracks ran right through what is now the airport, and Seaboard's plan was actually to have the MIami station where the airport now is. Seaboard agreed to move the tracks when they built the airport, and you can see the shift on any map -- the tracks head right to the airport, then turn south and hug its eastern boundary, and then turn west and hug its southern boundary, before resuming the original route south. I don't know when HIaleah Junction and the Seaboard terminal on NW 7th Avenue was built, but perhaps the original passenger stop was at the airport, and trains simply continued on south to Homestead.

frank754 wrote:My September 1926 Official Guide shows the line as still being under construction, but with FEC still having service to Key West. I don't have any others in that date range.


Ah! Off by a year. What I really need is an OGR from 1927 or 1928 or even 1929. I have been looking for one for a while. I have a standing eBay search email notification for those years, but it's been like fishing in a swimming pool.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby edbear » Mon Apr 04, 2011 5:58 pm

December, 1931 Official Guide shows line to Homestead as freight only. October, 1942 has line reaching Florida City.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Tue Apr 05, 2011 6:50 am

edbear wrote:December, 1931 Official Guide shows line to Homestead as freight only. October, 1942 has line reaching Florida City.


SAL entered bankruptcy sometime in 1930, so I am supposing that if there were passenger service to Homestead, it was curtailed then. The January 1930 OGR was a popular reprint, so perhaps someone who has that can check (although one from 1928 would probably be ideal for checking the fact or not of passenger service).

What milepost does it show for Florida City in the 1942 OGR? Homestead is the end of the line in both the 1936 and 1952 OGR, at MP 33.9. The tracks do continue beyond the Homestead station toward Florida City, whose border is just over a half-mile south, but the ROW (at least today) stops just short of the border, without any existing visible evidence of it going further south. There are still tracks to about a block short of the border in fact, which didn't seem to have been used in a while the last time I checked, but I don't know if they are technically OOS. The only existing customer as far as I am aware is a lumberyard just south of and on the other side of the tracks from the Homestead station. Also, there is a wye about halfway between the station and the Florida City border -- tracks head east to an apparent junction with the long-gone FEC tracks.

Addendum to earlier post on Hialeah Junction -- the January 1927 Miami News article on the maiden voyage of the Orange Blossom Special to Miami talks about the "temporary" SAL station on NW 7th Avenue and 20th Street, two blocks south of where the permanent station was actually built. So passenger service to Miami was always east through Hialeah Junction on the spur to 7th Avenue (with freight service continuing south alongside what is now I-95 to about 11th Street, where the tracks then headed east to the port and what is Bicentennial Park today). Also, SAL didn't move the tracks from the airport until 1949.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:43 am

Apropos of Noel's comment about there possibly being only bus service to Homestead, there is a full 1952 SAL timetable online that includes Homestead on p. 13 of its station index (p. 8 of the pdf file) as an SAL station, specifically identifying it as a "non-agency station" and not among those (which the timetable also lists) as having "freight only service." The table it refers the reader to is, however, for Miami-Key West service via Greyhound. Not sure if they actually used the station (Homestead does not currently have Greyhound service, and I have no idea if there were a Greyhound bus station there back then.)

The station construction is still intriguing evidence of at least plans for passenger service -- it is typical of the SAL stations from Hialeah up through Boynton Beach, with the arched, open air waiting areas (and, as I mentioned earlier, the 1920s photo definitely has benches inside that area). Why would SAL build such a station for freight only?
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby Noel Weaver » Mon Apr 18, 2011 7:35 pm

I think it is very possible that the SAL intended to operate passenger service to Homestead. I still tend to think that if they ever offered any sort of passenger service other than a bus connection it would have been either a mixed train or a local freight that would have carried passengers in the caboose. If we look at pictures of Homestead from the early 30's, I do not think there was too much there. Photos in the book "Speedway to Sunshine" bear me out on this one too.
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Re: SAL passenger service south of Miami?

Postby JasW » Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:58 am

Not much there, but enough people (slightly over 2,000 in 1925) to warrant at least considering passenger service, as you suggest. There is an interesting passage in the 1930s book "Miami Millions" that summarizes how SAL president Warfield was convinced to extend the line from West Palm down to Miami -- MIamians were royally teed off at the FEC maintaining such a crummy passenger depot and constantly moving freight cars across Flagler Street, and real estate interests basically gifted an ROW to the SAL in 1925, as well as property for a depot on West Flagler near Douglas Road. The passage continues:

When [Warfield] appeared in Miami he was besieged by delegations from Homestead and the Redlands, demanding that he extend into that section. By the end of July [1925] title to all the land needed for an extension clear to Florida City was laid in Warfield's lap, and a giant torchlight parade from Miami to Homestead was arranged to signalize his decision to enter the Redlands.

Source (p. 82)

Of course, by the time SAL ran the first Orange Blossom Special to Miami in January 1927, the huge September 1926 hurricane had already hit and the land boom was over (and certainly was over by the time the line to Homestead opened a few months later). There were a lot of real estate developments, major and small, south of Miami and into Homestead that died at about this time. Indeed, one major development in the northern part of the Redlands, Aladdin City, had its own station on the Homestead extension, even though the town -- kind of a Coral Gables south in an Opa-locka style -- died on the vine. It was listed as a freight stop in the OGR for many years. (Interestingly, the station was wooden construction, not concrete and stucco like the other SAL stations, and survived up until Hurricane Andrew.) So without the numbers of people that were originally anticipated to have moved into these developments, it would have become clear that there wouldn't be as much demand for passenger service.

Still, there was probably a window there starting in 1927 where it might have initially been offered. Whether it was just caboose service, bus, or an actual train, we don't know without having an OGR from around that time period or a copy of the local Homestead paper at the time the extension into Homestead was finished in spring 1927 (while the UF Library of Florida History has scanned and put online copies of the Homestead Leader, there is a gap from June 1926 to November 1928).
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