Atlantic Coast Line Railroad

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad

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The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 railroad that existed between 1900 and 1967, when it merged with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Seaboard Air Line Railroad
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad , which styled itself "The Route of Courteous Service," was an American railroad whose corporate existence extended from April 14, 1900, until July 1, 1967, when it merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, its longtime rival, to form the Seaboard Coast Line...

, its long-time rival, to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad was a former Class I railroad company operating in the Southeastern United States beginning in 1967. Its passenger operations were taken over by Amtrak in 1971...

. Much of the original ACL network has existed as part of CSX Transportation
CSX Transportation
CSX Transportation operates a Class I railroad in the United States known as the CSX Railroad. It is the main subsidiary of the CSX Corporation. The company is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida, and owns approximately 21,000 route miles...

 since 1986.

Throughout its existence, the Atlantic Coast Line served the Southeast
Southeastern United States
The Southeastern United States, colloquially referred to as the Southeast, is the eastern portion of the Southern United States. It is one of the most populous regions in the United States of America....

, with a particular concentration of lines in Florida. Numerous named passenger trains were operated by the railroad for Florida-bound tourists, with the Atlantic Coast Line contributing significantly to Florida's economic development in the first half of the 20th century.

Early history


The earliest predecessor of the ACL was the Petersburg Railroad
Petersburg Railroad
Petersburg Railroad was chartered in 1830 and opened in 1833. It ran from Petersburg, Virginia south to Garysburg, North Carolina, from which it ran to Weldon via trackage rights over the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad...

, which was built between Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's population was 32,420 as of 2010, predominantly of African-American ethnicity...

 and a location near Weldon, North Carolina
Weldon, North Carolina
Weldon is a town in Halifax County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,374 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Weldon is located at ....

 and was founded in 1830. A route between Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

 and Petersburg was built by the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, which was founded in 1836. In 1840, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad
Wilmington and Weldon Railroad
Originally chartered in 1835 as the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad name began use in 1855. At the time of its 1840 completion, the line was the longest railroad in the world with 161.5 miles of track...

, at the time known as the Wilmington and Raleigh and renamed in 1855, completed a route between Weldon and Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is a port city in and is the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. The population is 106,476 according to the 2010 Census, making it the eighth most populous city in the state of North Carolina...

. From Wilmington, the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad
Wilmington and Manchester Railroad
The Wilmington and Manchester Railroad was a railroad that served South Carolina and North Carolina before, during and after the American Civil War...

 began operations in 1853 to Florence, South Carolina
Florence, South Carolina
-Municipal government and politics:The City of Florence has a council-manager form of government. The mayor and city council are elected every four years, with no term limits...

, where the Northeastern Railroad
Northeastern Railroad (South Carolina)
The Northeastern Railroad was a railroad that served South Carolina in the second half of the 19th century.Chartered in 1851, it was completed in 1856 and ran from Charleston, South Carolina, to Florence, South Carolina....

 operated to Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

. In 1871, the W&W and the W&M (renamed the Wilmington, Columbia & Augusta) began using the Atlantic Coast Line name to advertise the two lines. An investor from Baltimore, William T. Walters, gained control of these separate railroads after the Civil War
Civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....

, and operated them as a network of independent companies. In 1897–98, most of the South Carolina lines in Walters' system were consolidated under the name of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company of South Carolina. In 1898, as the companies moved towards combining themselves into a single system, the lines in Virginia were combined into the new Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company of Virginia, and the lines in North Carolina underwent a similar process in 1899, becoming the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company of North Carolina. In 1899 or 1900, due to a regulatory climate in Virginia that was better suited to the company than that in other states, the ACL of Virginia took control of the other lines and subsequently shortened its name to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company.

Forming the ACL by mergers



In 1898, the Petersburg Railroad and the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad formally merged, and two years later the combined company took control of the ACL's routes south of Virginia, as well as the Norfolk & Carolina Railroad, which operated from Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk, Virginia
Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. With a population of 242,803 as of the 2010 Census, it is Virginia's second-largest city behind neighboring Virginia Beach....

 to Tarboro, North Carolina
Tarboro, North Carolina
Tarboro is a city located in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. It is part of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of 2010, the town had a total population of 13,121. It is the county seat of Edgecombe County. Tarboro is located in North Carolina's Inner Banks region...

. These mergers created an ACL system reaching from southern Virginia to South Carolina and Georgia. Additional small acquisitions took place in 1901, and in 1902, further expansion was undertaken when the ACL took over the Plant System
Plant System
The Plant System was a system of railroads and steamboats in the U.S. South, taken over by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1902. The original line of the system, named after its owner, Henry B...

, which operated numerous lines within Florida and Georgia. This same year, the ACL took control of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad
Louisville and Nashville Railroad
The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was a Class I railroad that operated freight and passenger services in the southeast United States.Chartered by the state of Kentucky in 1850, the L&N, as it was generally known, grew into one of the great success stories of American business...

, as well as the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway
Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway
The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway was a railway company operating in the southern United States in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia...

, though the two were never merged into the ACL and were operated independently. The ACL acquired the East Carolina Railway in 1935, running south from Tarboro to Hookerton, although the 12-mile extension to Hookerton was abandoned in 1933.
The ACL's last major acquisition was the Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad
Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad
The Atlanta, Birmingham and Coast Railroad was organized in 1926 to replace the Atlanta, Birmingham and Atlantic Railway. The AB&C was controlled by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which owned a majority of the stock. In 1946, the AB&C was bought by the ACL and the became the latter company's...

, which it purchased in 1927, though the AB&C was not merged into the ACL until 1945.

Later history


By the early 1900s, the railroad's routes had largely reached their final configuration, and the railroad began to focus its energies on upgrading its existing physical plant. By the 1920s, the railroad's main line from Richmond, Virginia to Jacksonville, Florida had been double-tracked, which benefited the railroad during the 1920s, when Florida went through an economic boom.

In 1928, the ACL completed a line between Perry, Florida
Perry, Florida
Perry is a city in Taylor County, Florida, United States. The population was 7,017 at the 2010 census. As of 2010, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 7,017....

 and Drifton, near Monticello, Florida
Monticello, Florida
Monticello is a city in Jefferson County, Florida, United States. The population was 2,533 at the 2000 census. As of 2004, the population recorded by the U.S. Census Bureau is 2,572. It is the county seat of Jefferson County...

, the last link of the new "Perry Cut-off." This created a more direct route between Chicago and Florida's west coast, one which passed through Macon, Albany, and Thomasville, the route followed by ACL's passenger train The Southland from December 1928 to 1957 when it was rerouted to Jacksonville.

Florida's economy, as well as that of the nation, declined during the Great Depression, and though ACL's freight traffic declined by around 50%, and freight traffic declined by around 60%, the railroad survived the 1930s without declaring bankruptcy; its success in this regard has been attributed to its leadership and careful financial practices, as well as owning the Louisville and Nashville, which remained strong through the Depression.

During World War II, the ACL benefited from an increase of 200% in passenger traffic and a 150% increase in freight traffic. This was due at least partially due to the railroad's geography—it provided an alternative to coastal shipping, threatened by German submarines, and also served the fast-emerging military industry in the Southeast. During this period, in 1942, Champion McDowell Davis (nicknamed "Champ") became president of the ACL, and immediately began a program to improve the railroad's infrastructure, which finished in the mid 1950s, and included the rebuilding of several hundred miles of track, the installation of modern signalling systems and improvements to freight yards. The railroad spent at least $268 million in upgrading its physical plant during this period.

In 1956, the railroad chose to move its headquarters from Wilmington, North Carolina to Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Jacksonville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Florida in terms of both population and land area, and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. It is the county seat of Duval County, with which the city government consolidated in 1968...

. Jacksonville was selected out of three possible candidate cities, the other two being Savannah, Georgia
Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is the largest city and the county seat of Chatham County, in the U.S. state of Georgia. Established in 1733, the city of Savannah was the colonial capital of the Province of Georgia and later the first state capital of Georgia. Today Savannah is an industrial center and an important...

 and Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

. Construction of the new office complex was finished in July 1960, with the move from Wilmington completed over the following weeks.

Merger


As early as October 1958, the ACL and competitor Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Seaboard Air Line Railroad
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad , which styled itself "The Route of Courteous Service," was an American railroad whose corporate existence extended from April 14, 1900, until July 1, 1967, when it merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, its longtime rival, to form the Seaboard Coast Line...

 had discussed the possibility of a merger, initiating extensive studies on the potential unified system. The results showed that the merger could save considerable money through savings incurred and reduced expenditures to the amount of $38 million annually. On August 18, 1960, the merger was approved by shareholders of both railroads. In 1963, a merger between the two companies was approved by the Interstate Commerce Commission
Interstate Commerce Commission
The Interstate Commerce Commission was a regulatory body in the United States created by the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. The agency's original purpose was to regulate railroads to ensure fair rates, to eliminate rate discrimination, and to regulate other aspects of common carriers, including...

, however, petitions for reconsideration were filed leading to a court decision to remand the approval of the merger on May 13, 1965, citing the Clayton Antitrust Act
Clayton Antitrust Act
The Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 , was enacted in the United States to add further substance to the U.S. antitrust law regime by seeking to prevent anticompetitive practices in their incipiency. That regime started with the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the first Federal law outlawing practices...

. Following another round of court decisions in 1966, the merger was allowed to be proceed, and did so on July 1, 1967. The result was the creation of the Seaboard Coast Line
Seaboard Coast Line Railroad
The Seaboard Coast Line Railroad was a former Class I railroad company operating in the Southeastern United States beginning in 1967. Its passenger operations were taken over by Amtrak in 1971...

.

Traffic



Freight


During its early years, the ACL handled mostly seasonal agricultural products, but by World War II its freight traffic had become more diverse. During the 1950s, around 44% of all freight traffic consisted of manufactured and miscellaneous items, while bulk traffic like coal and phosphates also expanded during this time. During the 1950s, the ACL acquired some 13,000 new freight cars, to be used on high-speed trains offering reduced running times compared to earlier equipment. This allowed the railroad to remain competitive in the face of competition from the Interstate highway system
Interstate Highway System
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, , is a network of limited-access roads including freeways, highways, and expressways forming part of the National Highway System of the United States of America...

.

Passenger


The ACL's passenger traffic consisted almost entirely of Florida-bound traffic, largely from the Northeast, but also from the Midwest via trains that were operated by multiple railroads and handled by the ACL at their southern ends. In 1939, the ACL launched what would become its flagship train, the Champion, and invested heavily in its passenger fleet after World War II. Despite this, its passenger revenues fell from $28.5 million in 1946 to $14.1 million in 1959. The service remained profitable through the 1960s to the end of the ACL, though, and until its 1967 merger the railroad continued to maintain and improve its passenger service, even going so far as to construct new stations while the rest of the country's passenger trains were in decline.
Film

The railroad featured in Preston Sturges' 1942 comedy The Palm Beach Story, with Gerraldine 'Gerry' Jefferson (Claudette Colbert) getting a train from Pennsylvania Station.

Major passenger trains

  • Champion
    Champion (passenger train)
    The Champion was a passenger train operated on a route by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad between New York City and Miami or St. Petersburg, Florida, beginning in 1939...

  • Everglades (New York – Jacksonville)
  • Florida Special (New York – Miami/St. Petersburg)
  • Gulf Coast Special (New York – Tampa/Ft. Myers/St. Petersburg)
  • Havana Special (New York – Key West, prior to 1935 Hurricane)
  • Miamian (Washington–Miami)
  • Palmetto (New York – Savannah/Augusta/Wilmington)
  • Vacationer (New York – Miami)