Champion (train) - History - Atlantic Coast Line

Atlantic Coast Line

The Champion started as a daily service of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (ACL) in 1939, competing with the Silver Star and Silver Meteor of the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) on the New York–Florida route. Initially just a New York-Miami service, the ACL added a St. Petersburg train in 1941 once enough streamlined equipment was available. The two trains were called the Tamiami Champion (West Coast), which ran from New York to St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay area, and the Tamiami Champion (East Coast), which ran from New York to Miami, Florida. In 1943 the names became East Coast Champion and West Coast Champion.

Southbound trains originated in New York's Pennsylvania Station, and traveled south over the Pennsylvania Railroad-owned Northeast Corridor through Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Washington, D.C. There, a radio-equipped lounge car was added to the train. Leaving Washington, trains used the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad to Richmond, Virginia, the north end of the ACL's main line. From Richmond, trains followed the Atlantic coast through Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia to Jacksonville, Florida. Here the trains split, with the West Coast trains moving south then west through DeLand and Sanford on ACL rails to the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area, while East Coast trains turned south south-east to run along Florida's east coast to Miami via the Florida East Coast Railway.

In the pre-civil rights era, black passengers on the Champion and other trains in the South were restricted to the "colored" coach, a combination baggage/coach behind the diesel. African-Americans ate behind a curtain at two designated tables next to the kitchen of the dining car, but were barred from the observation-tavern-lounge on the rear of the train. Segregation on trains serving the South persisted even though the Interstate Commerce Commission, U. S. courts, and President Harry S. Truman's 1948 mandate (banning segregation in railroad dining cars) had ordered interstate carriers to desegregrate. Dining car stewards still refused to seat blacks and whites at the same table for many years afterwards.

In 1957 the West Coast Champion began hauling thru-cars for the City of Miami and South Wind streamliners to and from Chicago on its Jacksonville-Tampa/Sarasota leg via Orlando and its Jacksonville-St. Petersburg section via Gainesville and Ocala. During its long successful career the Champion network reached virtually every major city and resort in the Sunshine State except Florida Panhandle cities like Pensacola and Tallahassee, which were served by Seaboard's Jacksonville-New Orleans overnight Gulf Wind. The East Coast Champion ran up and down the Florida East Coast Railway stopping at popular east coast resorts while Gulf coast branch lines carried West Coast Champion thru-cars to Bradenton, Sarasota, Naples, Ft. Myers, and Venice.

From the outset, the Champion was an all-coach streamliner pulled by a diesel electric locomotive. Pullman sleeping cars were added a few years later. One Champion A-unit resides at the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

Read more about this topic:  Champion (train), History

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