SAL from calahan to gross, fl line question : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

when and why was this line abandoned? It seems like it would be a valuable connection to points north

-- troy nolen (, April 13, 2001


I guess railroads have been burned so many times by "projected" business that they are understandably gun shy. Some years ago a large regional grocery chain approached one railroad with their plans to build a huge distribution center on a busy main line. It was initially projected that there would be as many as 50 cars a day arriving, and a like number coming out. The plant was built, the railroad spent a fortune accessing the facility and no doubt anted up some of the cost of the in-plant trackage, all on the promise of at least 50 cars initially. The facility opened, trucks brought in all the perishables and 95% of the freight. The railroad spotted four or five cars a week in which the grocery chain shipped used cardboard for recycling, and even that dried up. I doubt that the railroad ever earned enough revenue to cover the cost of inserting a main line switch at that point. Again, railroads are a business.

-- Doug Riddell (, April 17, 2001.

The Gainesville branch might see significantly increased traffic in the near future IF plans for a proposed rock distribution facility are realized.

Here is the local newspaper's (The Gainesville Sun's) December 1998 article describing the Conrad Yelvington Distribution Center:

This facility, and also the adjacent proposed Watson Construction Company asphalt plant, have been the subject of intense community reaction, leading to a local industrial development moratorium now before the Gainesville City Commission:

Though the Watson asphalt plant might be successfully opposed by activists, the Yelvington rock plant would seem to have an "as-of-right" clearance to begin construction. However, as of last month, no visible preparation work had occurred at the site.

While I have no professional knowledge, by my observation of local construction market conditions, Yelvington's projected "3,000 - 4,000" inbound carloads of aggregate would seem to be overstated by perhaps a factor of ten. However, if this IS an accurate projection, CSX had better get working on the branch's light track.

-- Jeff Gerlach (, April 17, 2001.

Would be odd to actually see CSX return a line to service, especially here in florida where they have killed so many hundreds of miles of lines. As for the gainesville are, here are a couple answers... There is a local that indeed services Gainesville, newberry, high springs alachua, etc. But it is run as needed, not daily as the bullsheet indicates. The line(s) are terminated in gainesville at NW23rd street at Koppers creasote plant, which still gets a fare share of traffic, also there is a masonry business that recieves about 2 cars a week (usually ALWAYS NS marked boxcars, a few other businesses that still recieve traffic and there is a power plant that recieves coal, although i have no idea when it is serviced, as i have lived here (gainesville) for 8 years and have never seen it serviced. In high springs, there is ONE customer, ONE. the yard is abandoned except for a one track siding that usually has empty grain hoppers and bad orders. Newberry there is a few businesses that recieve traffic and there is also a huge cement plant that gets aggregate and portland cement pretty regularly. Also in newberry is the infrequent exchange traffic of the Fla. West Coast RR which used to run from crystal river to newberry, but now just runs from trenton to newberry over former ACL. They dont do much anymore, although they do run a couple days a week. South of Newberry I dont know about traffic levels, im sure in dunellon there are a few businesses, also down there is the red level power plant that gets ALOT of coal, i think it runs 4-5 times a week, almost always at night.

-- troy nolen (, April 17, 2001.

You're right it will be a rarity. Not unheard of though. Didn't CSX also have to re-lay some abandoned mileage from Lacrosse to Brooker, to keep the branch lines to Gainesville/Newberry/High Springs/Crystal River in operation? Sometimes I think rr's are guilty of the same short term thinking of many businesses, do stuff now to save money for todays bottom line that a few years later costs a lot more dollars to re-do. Maybe to a beancounter those are "different" dollars. On the other hand, maybe its the ebb and flow of macroeconomic forces, the cycles of industrial development, decline, and re-development that occur over many years. A rail line was needed 30-40 years ago, it wasn't needed for the last 10-20 years so pull it up, its needed again today so re-install it.

Anyway, what is the state of affairs with that branch line? Bullsheet lists one local going to Gainesville/ Newberry/High Springs 6 times a week, and several coal trains to Red Level. Has anyone railfanned there lately, who are the customers, what is the real traffic density, how many trains per week really go to the hinterlands of N. Central Florida?

-- bob lowry (, April 17, 2001.

From what I understand, they simply want to avoid gridlock in the center of Jacksonville. They apparently feel otherwise comfortable with line capacity. Abandoning a line brings immediate savings in terms of taxes. (Local jurisdictions have always looked at railroads as a cash cow. And they then wonder why the railroad pulls up its rails and leaves.) The decision to put back in service any line that has been abandoned is quite an undertaking, especially in these days of such issues as environmental impact. Another consideration is highway grade crossing protection and the liability that comes along. In other words, yeah, it would be nice to see a pattern of old rail lines come back to life from a sentimental standpoint, but from a business perspective, you do what is necessary and most cost effective. In hindsight, the old line serving the area probably shouldn't have been abandoned in the first place, but given the information with which the decision was made, doing so probably made sense. If you look back over the years and count the number of "back from the dead" rail lines, they are few and far between. If this project indeed is completed it will be a rarity.

-- Doug Riddell (, April 16, 2001.

With access to all the customers north of Trout River via Callahan- Gross, wonder if CSX will then cut the old main at the Trout River bridge, taking that wonderful anachronism out of service? With the new line is there any reason for a "shortcut" across Trout River?

As an alternative, why wouldn't CSX restore the old mainline route from Seals up to the Nahunta-Brunswick line, and use that for the same access as Callahan-Gross. Its a little more trackwork mileage to do, but it would divert all the NE Florida/SE Georgia local freight traffic off the Waycross-Jax mainline to a lighter density route and free up some track occupancy for the high iron.

Bob in Melbourne Beach.

-- bob lowry (, April 16, 2001.

This line is going to be relaid and put back in service for the reasons stated in conjunction with the City of Jacksonville, I was told recently.

-- Doug Riddell (, April 15, 2001.

Probably around 1985 when a lot of the abandonemnts around here took place. Since the old SAL main north is now cut just north of Kingsland, it was figured that the Gross Cut-off was superfluous, too. However- this means that every wheel that rolls from Commodores Point, Export Yard, Talleyrand, Busch, Blount Island, Imeson Industrial Park, Kingsland, and the St. Marys Railroad now travels ONE line across northern Jacksonville- the old J&SW from Grand Crossing/Moncrief Yard to Milldale. Does this cause backups and congestion? What do you

-- Larry Brennan (, April 15, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ