Doodlebugs : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

I was asked for information about a picture taken in Tallahassee during the administration of Governor Fred Sholtz (1933-1937). The picture shows a doodlebug with a group of state officials- mostly Supreme Court justices- standing in front of a doodlebug. Naturally, the group obscures any number the car carries, and there is no road name discernible on the letterboard.

When the lady who wanted the info contacted me by phone, I assumed that it might have been a system tour of a brand-new 2028 or its sister in 1936. Well, it isn't. This car has only three windows in front, with a single trumpet horn positioned in front of the unit's left front window. The unit appears to have been passenger unit only, unlike the 2028. Its color appears fairly light, with two dark bands on the belt-rail.

I've scanned the picture (which is a copy of the print) and will send it to anyone who'd like a look. I've defaced it by adding names of the dignitaries: if anyone knows who anyone else is in the picture, those names would be appreciated, too. There are several men on the unit itself: some in the doorway and others visible through the windows.

I figure it was a tour by the car for some reason. Did a doodlebug run from Tallahassee south to Carrabelle or north to Richland, Georgia? (I don't have any SAL timetables from this era.) Is this a picture of a ceremonial commencement of such service? Why are Supreme Court Justices so heavily represented?

Thanks for any he

-- Larry Brennan (, March 26, 2001


Regarding the demise of the Tallahassee Flyer... On April 3 I gave the date of the disappearance of the Tampa service run by the Seaboard motor car- at least, the disappearance from the thumbnail schedule in the Times-Union. Today I looked for the date when the Tallahassee Flyer vanished. The Flyer terminated at River Junction and it left sometime after 8 AM and returned between 8 and 9 at night. On Tuesday, October 1, 1939, the paper showed a schedule thus: Arrive 8:30 pm Talla.-River Jct. Depart 8:35 am. The next day the times were the same, but River Junction was gone- the destination was simply Tallahassee. Eight-and-a-half months later, on Monday, July 15, 1940, the Times-Union showed this schedule: Arrive 8:30 pm Tallahassee Depart 8:55 am. And the next day- nothing on that schedule. Assuming the SAL was reluctant to put on a locomotive and a couple of cars on a daily schedule to Tallahassee more than a few times to cover an out-of-service car, I think it can be safely said that the motor car put in a bit over four and a half years before being withdrawn. As to the Why? I don't know- neither the Times-Union nor the rival Journal had anything to say. If the Seaboard made an announcement about the ending of the service, it did not rate a mention in the paper; there was more important and interesting news from Europe at t

-- Larry Brennan (, April 05, 2001.

Joe-I agree-I never saw a photo of either the Tampa or the River junction run. I may have seen one photo of a unit somewhere in NC, but never one in Fla.

As for the reliability, AC&F itself admitted that the cars were not very reliable and did suffer from self induced engine fires. SAL did sell one of the cars to the Aberdeen and Rockfish RR and another wound up with the California and Western, where it ran as their "Skunk".

AC&F followed up this design with the Motorailer, which it introduced with much fanfare in 1940. Cars were bought by MP, IC and Susquehanna. The IC returned its cars after one of them was hit by a beer truck at Plato Center Ill. in 1942. The IC cars were then rebuilt as straight cars and sold to Susquehanna, which ran them in NYC-NJ commuter service until it purchased four RDC cars in 1950-51. The IC cars were fancier, and were run as the "Miss Lou" and "Land O'Corn". It was the "Can O'Corn" (the name applied by the locals) which was involved in the wreck, where the engineer was killed. These units used a unique Waukesha engine, which unfortunately, also had a peculiar tendancy to self immolate. Other problems were centered in the transmission.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, April 03, 2001.

As unusal as the critters were,I have never run across pictures of either the Tampa or Tallahasse train(?)

-- J.Oates (, April 03, 2001.

Finding when the Tallahassee Flyer went into service proved a fairly easy task, but determine when it was withdrawn is going to be a bit more difficult, but not totally impossible. The Why may need a bit more.

The Florida Times-Union published a thumbnail timetable of arrivals and departures daily until well into the Sixties. By skimming every few months after the inauguration of the motor cars' introductions on the River Junction and Tampa routes, I find that the Tampa train was removed from the schedule on Sunday, February 27, 1938. The River Junction train is still shown. I have not had time to pursue it further, but my curiosity is aroused.

(This also shows that these cars were probably more reliable than we think. After all, the early doodlebugs of pre-World War I vintage were built in an era when internal combustion was still temperamental and experimental; by the Thirties the technology was pretty sophisticated, and think how many remained in service for decades.)

I checked the paper for a few days before the withdrawal of the Tampa train, and could find no story about it. The Jacksonville Journal, an afternoon paper often more critical of rail service than the ACL-owned Times-Union, may have information about it. It's on my list of things to do.

If someone has access to SAL public timetables of the era, it is possible that information about the trains could be gleaned therefrom- assuming the equipment for these trains was listed as air-conditioned motor cars- and there's no reason why they shouldn't have made notice of this fact! The timetable in the paper only listed trains by arrival, departure, and destination, not by name or number. I don't even know the number of the Tallahassee Flyer! It would also tell us something about the Richmond-Raleigh train, about which I know nothing.

The Flyer, by the way, was accompanied by two trains on the Jacksonville-New Orleans run. The Times Union schedule showed this on August 1, 1936:

Arrives....................Departs 9:10 pm Talla.-River Jct. 8:05 am 6:05 pm Talla.-Pens.-N.O. 10:50 am 7:00 am Talla.-Pens.-N.O. 9:50 pm

The times varied on

-- Larry Brennan (, April 03, 2001.

Larry-Thanks for the information. I would like to ask you if you were able to make copies of the articles and if so, can you send me a copy for my records. I can make copies of the information I have on these cars in my various books-so far I have about three sources-will find more. also-I need a snail mail address!

Joe-Now don't go giving away secrets here!

Of course, this brings up several interesting points. 1. What were the terms of the SAL/L&N runthrough agreement on trains such as the Gulf Wind and the locals? 2. I guessed that the reason the L&N did not let the SAL railcar through to Chattahoochee was that it was a lightweight gasoline car- thus a fire hazard. Now, the L&N did have one gas powered car, as Larry Goolsby quickly reminded me, but it ran in Kentucky/Tennessee. Was it an issue of liability? Or did great uncle Coast Line apply some subtle pressure to zing SAL? Or-was the car too light to reliably shunt track circuits on L&N? Single car RDC units had that problem, which was compounded by their use of disc brakes. this resulted in some build up on the wheels which combined with the lightweight RDC's, resulted in uncertain circuit shunting and a requirement on most roads that single car RDC units operate under absolute block conditions.

Anyone know when the cars went out of service?

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, April 03, 2001.

Larry, Thanks for all the neat information.The main thing I got out of it, I was born on the following Sunday!

-- Joseph Oates (, March 30, 2001.

Thanks to Michael W. Savchak (Savchak I had a starting point for microfilm research on the doodlebug at Tallahassee. A photo sent me by a lady who is with the Florida Supreme Court Historical Society was the source of my originals question.

Michael said there were three cars, built by ACF at their Berwick plant in late 1935. I had seen photos of them somewhere but do not have the book in my collection. I went to the public library and spent a pleasant afternoon strolling through the microfilm of The Florida Times-Union and the Jacksonville Journal. In less than a quarter-hour I struck paydirt; the remainder of the afternoon was spent refining it. Herewith the story:

On Wednesday, January 1, 1936, Jacksonville's Florida Times-Union carried a story with this head: "Public Asked to See Flyer- Motor Train of Seaboard on Display Tomorrow." The Seaboard would show its newest motorcar, which had arrived New Year's Eve after a leisurely trip from Richmond. Shopmen and North Florida division superintendent Gordon L. Hurley were inspecting the car and preparing it for the public display on Thursday. Much was made of its streamlined, aluminum-sheathed body, roller bearings and rubber-insulated springs, which, along with the air-conditioning, guaranteed a smooth, quiet and comfortable ride. The aluminum shell was lined with aluminum foil and hair felt to further reduce noise. It was powered by a six-cylinder, overhead cam gasoline engine of over 700 cubic inch displacement. At 2,200 rpm, it developed 168 horsepower. It had seating for 38 white and 19 colored passengers (in a separate section, of course) and a small baggage compartment in the front. Overall, the car was 64 feet one inch long; its width was nine feet and over-all height ten feet three inches.

An ad in Friday's Time-Union showed a line cut of the car, numbered 2024. The public was invited to "Inspect the Latest in Transportation!" The Streamlined, Air-Conditioned Motor Coach Train sat on Track One at the Terminal from 9 AM to 9 PM, and about 10,000 people came to see it on Thursday, January 2, including Mayor John T. Alsop and representatives from the Florida State Hotel Association. Numerous Seaboard officials were on hand as well. Dubbed the Tallahassee Flyer, it was to inaugurate a daily round trip between Jacksonville and River Junction the following week. It was scheduled to be exhibited at several locations on its three-day tour to the western end of the Seaboard.

At 7:45 AM Friday, January 3, it started out with a full consist of railroad officials and local dignitaries. Stops for inspection were made at Lake City, Live Oak, Madison, Greenville, and Drifton. At its arrival in Tallahassee it was met by a crowd of State officers, including several justices of the Supreme Court, State Railroad commission chairman W. B. Douglass, and governor Fred Sholtz and his wife, who christened the train with a bottle of wine. It was open to the public Saturday; Sunday it was viewed by more in Quincy and River Junction. It began regular service that afternoon with a 4:00 PM departure for Jacksonville. Monday, January 6, it left Jacksonville at 8:05 AM on the first daily round trip.

After leaving Jacksonville, the schedule called for stops at Lake City, 9:20 AM; Liver Oak, 9:50 AM; Madison, 10:24 AM; Greenville, 10:42 AM; Drifton, 11:02 AM; Tallahassee, 11:40 AM; Quincy, 12 :17 PM; arriving at River Junction, 12:45 PM. Eastbound, the Flyer left River Junction at 4:00 PM; Quincy, 4:29 PM; Tallahassee, 5:10 PM; Drifton, 5:47 PM; Greenville, 6:07 PM; Madison, 6:268 PM; Live Oak, 7:10 PM; Lake City, 7:40 PM; arriving in Jacksonville at 9:10, which allowed for connections to South Florida points and late-night trains to the North and Midwest. A few weeks later, conditional stops were added at Macclenny, Wellborn, Lee, Aucilla, Lloyd and Midway. 207 miles in four hours forty minutes westbound and five hours ten minutes eastbound: twenty years later the Gulf Wind took still four hours and thirty-five minutes between those points. Don't even ask about #36-37 the Passenger, Mail & Express! (I don't have an Amtrak schedule handy...)

Several Tallahassee civic groups immediately voted resolutions of gratitude to the Seaboard for the improved service, something they had been requesting for some time. In the summer of 1935, President and receiver Leigh Powell had visited the state capital and promised that something would be done.

The Seaboard ordered three cars. Another was put in service between Richmond and Raleigh. The third arrived in Jacksonville a week later. On January 14th and 15th, the railroad ran another ad, similar to the first, again inviting the public to inspect the car for the Jacksonville-Tampa route. It would be displayed on the tracks at the foot of Hogan Street in downtown from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM on Wednesday, January 15. Following the all-day display in Jacksonville, it, too would make a slow trip to Tampa, with exhibitions along the way. George Z. Phillips, general passenger agent, gave the list: Thursday, January 16, it would stop at Baldwin, Lawtey, Starke, Hampton, Waldo, Hawthorne, Citra, Anthony, ending the day at Ocala. Most stops would be for half an hour, although Baldwin got 90 minutes and the car would remain open at Ocala from its 3:30 arrival until 9:00 PM. On Friday, January 17, it would continue the tour, pausing at Belleview, Summerfield, Oxford, Wildwood, Bushnell, Lacoochee, Dade City, Zephyrhills, ending the day at Plant City, where it would remain open from 4:45 until 7:45 that evening. On Saturday, January 18, it would be open all day at Tampa; the next day it would begin its daily round trips to Jacksonville. The 210 miles would be covered by a 7:50 AM departure from Tampa, arriving in Jacksonville that afternoon at 1:20. The return trip left Jacksonville at 3:30 PM and arrived in Tampa at 9:00 PM. The schedule was slightly slower than the "Tallahassee Flyer" but there were more stops, too. The Tampa train apparently did not rate a Flyer designation.

Students at Jacksonville's three white senior high schools were invited to submit essays on the topic, "Why Should the Modern Streamlined Motor Coaches of the Seaboard Air Line Railway Be a Success?" The contest entries were judged by J. M. Elliott, business manager of the Times-Union; James T. Daniel, manager of the Chamber of Commerce; and T. W. Parsons, Seaboard's assistant general manager. The $15 first prize was awarded to Louise Smith of Julia Landon High School; the $10 second went to Robert Hopkins of Andrew Jackson High. ----

That's how they came to the Seaboard in Florida. Someone from Richmond or Raleigh may be inspired to check those papers of the period and see how the third Streamlined Motor Coach train was received. How they came to be withdrawn,

-- Larry Brennan (, March 29, 2001.

River Junction is where the railroads met/interchanged.It is about two miles south of Chattachooee.

-- J Oates (, March 28, 2001.

OK-why River Junction and not Chattahoochee? L&N did not want the presence of a gasoline powered railcar on its tracks. Already by 1936, gasoline cars were seen as fire hazards by some railroads and banned them. PRR as an example, had 41 passengers die of fire when a motor car had a headon collision with a steam locomotive at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on July 31, 1940-that resulted in the PRR rebuilding its gas cars with diesel engines. A similar accident on August 5, 1914 on the Kansas City Southern resulted in 47 dead when a Missouri and North Arkansas motor car with 105 gallons of gasoline collided with a steam locomotive at 35 mph.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, March 28, 2001.

The photo was most probably taken in January or at the latest, february 1936. the Seaboard introduced the railcar at that time for service between Jacksonville-Tallahasee-River Jct.

W.E. Griffin Jr. 's book "Seaboard Air Line-Route of Courteous Service" BK 15, has photos of these cars and is available from the Society in the Publications for Sale section of this website.

These cars were delivered by American Car and Foundry, similar cars were delivered to the Chicago and Eastern Illinois and Norfolk Southern, and one or two other roads, as well as the U.S. Navy. They were air conditioned, gasoline powered, but were not very reliable and did not last very long.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, March 28, 2001.

The Seaboard did have three gas electric cars delivered in 1936 which were among the first air conditioned units ever. They were built by ACF at their Berwick plant under ACF order 1432. The cars were numbered in the 2020 series nad did indeed have three front windows and an airhorn-this was a "Strombos" model. Send me a scanned copy and I will confirm this. The cars as delivered had two stripes under the windows.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, March 27, 2001.

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