Grade Crossing Eliminations and ACL/SAL in Florida : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

A couple things have struck me as odd durring my days of railfanning the SCL. One big disparity is the seeming lack of grade crossing eliminating overpasses/viaducts built by the SAL. With the exception of interstates, there were very few grade crossings eliminated by the SAL. However the ACL used them extensively. Even as late as 1966/67 overpasses were built on (mainly US highways) major highways to eliminate a grade crossing by the ACL. many of these routes are now abandoned and its odd seeing them. Whereas the SAL line right down the road lacks the overpass. Was this simply done for economic reasons? Or was the ACL somehow pressured into or required to eliminate grade crossings? Whats really odd is that the SAL was notorious for not observing the given speed limits of the lines, whereas the ACL was less offensive. Anyone have thoughts on this???

-- troy nolen (, July 20, 2001


Grade crossings and grade crossing eleiminations have always been a thorn in the side of the railroads. Back in the 1920's, the increasing number of grade crossing accidents took the place of train control as the number one topic on the ICC's agenda in terms of safety. In 1928, the railroads persuaded the ICC to defer the instituting of new regulations on train control and placement of new orders directing railroads to place train control in service, by stating that the number of grade crossing accidents exceeded the number of train accidents. Thus, all further work on train control installations basically stopped until after the war!

Most grade crossing eliminations in the olden days were paid for by the railroad and the state or local municipality. Usually the railroad ended up paying the greater share. This had an effect on the number of such eliminations and which railroadss participated. ACL was considered one of the "richer" roads and therefore, it participated in more grade crossing eliminations than did the "poorer" SAL. The same reasoning applied to other items, such as train control and signaling.

Like evrything on the railroad, economics usually had something to do with it, as did "politics". Oft times, a quid pro quo understanding was reached with the state or the local municipality. Say ACL wanted to do something. In return for some grade crossing eliminations here, a yard extension could be built there.

In later years, Uncle Sam started to pick up some of the costs, especially if the work was tied in with Interstate work. Some railroads took advantage of this and ended up with nicely rebuilt facilities. Other Uncle projects, such as flood control, also helped some railroads rebuild at little cost to them.

In terms of speed limits, they do impact grade crossings in terms of the length of the detector circuit. Such circuits are set up in a manner as to give sufficient warning of the approach of a train. Usually, these circuits were designed as a one size fits all, so that a branch with 25 mile speeds was given the same circuitry as one with 50 mph speeds. Where passenger trains ran, designs were made for 80 mph or greater. Since ICC regulations governed this, I cannot see that local authorities had any real say in speed limit enforcement.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, July 24, 2001.

The SAL had several overpasses built on the mainline between Tampa and Baldwin. There were highway overpasses at Zephrhills, Dade City, and on the North end of the Wildwood yard. The Dade City (Owensboro) overpass went over both the SAL and ACL crossing at grade.

-- Carey Stevens (, July 23, 2001.

yes, the overpass just south of baldwin yard is a rare exception indeed, in fact, it was just torn down and a new larger structure is being built. Also odd, the old jax-high springs ACL line heading north on hwy 301 (long since abandoned) still has an overpass, there are several other such examples

-- troy nolen (, July 22, 2001.

Being an engineer, the topic of grade crossings is one in which I have a vested interest, and, as such, have attempted to learn as much as possible about. Their elimination is now the big push on all US railroads for a couple of reasons: safety and liability. While I'm not a lawyer, from what I've learned over the years (having been involved in numerous accidents involving vehicles,) originally, when egress was granted across a railroad right of way, technically, the user crossed at his/her own risk. (We are still not required to blow at privately owned crossings except in cases of emergency.) However, later, after thousands of suits, the tide of interpretations has turned against the railroads to the point where almost anything (failure to blow the horn at the whistle post, failure of the engine bell to ring, failure of the engine sander to work when an emergency application is made, and the list goes on) puts the railroad at fault, and thus liable. Had this been known decades ago when railroads expanded (especially in Florida, as you pointed out,) the railroads might possibly have refused egress more often or put up the bucks to build an overpass. You'll find complete compliance with speed limits now on every railroad. The penalty for an engineer failing to do so is the loss of his operating license, civil fines, and the possibility of being the object of litigation along with the railroad.

-- doug riddell (, July 22, 2001.

I suppose the relative financial status of the two might have some bearing. There is an overpass at Maxville, in southwestern Duval County (Jacksonville), carrying Normandy Boulevard over the SAL main south of Baldwin Yard. I don't know when this was originally built, but it seems to have been there a while. An interesting observat

-- Larry Brennan (, July 21, 2001.

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