Florida State Fair "Gasparilla Special" Trains

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Not a question but a suggestion for discussion. Somebody should do an article on the special movement ACL (SAL???) passenger trains for transporting fairgoers from nearby towns to the Florida State Fair in Tampa on Gasparilla Day (usually in mid February). I rode these trains several times growing up in Lakeland in the 50's and 60's.

-- Phil Campbell (philipcam@hotmail.com), December 09, 2003


I remember riding what must have been The 1961(or '62)Gasparilla Day special from Bartow. My sister was a babe in arms and she was born in June 1960.

The train followed the route from Bartow, north through Eagle Lake, Winter Haven, then Lake Alfred where it joined the mainline and turned west toward Tampa. I remember several other passenger trains already tied up or unloading upon our arrival adjacent to the old Fairgrounds, after crossing the Hillsborough River draw. The Gasparilla Parade entered the old dirt track raceway and passed in front of the grandstand where the passenger viewed the parade.

On the return trip, however, something quite extraordinary occured. There were lots of high school and college age kids aboard and there was a lot of partying. As we slowly proceeded through downtown Winter Haven(the ACL passed through the city park downtown where the Coast Line depot was located)somebody jumped our was pushed from the rear vestibule and was killed! That should narrow down the dates!

The train departed from the 2nd ACL station in Bartow located south of Main Street, the old Union Station @the SAL diamond being closed or razed. Also I remember my mother buying tickets for the trip in advance from an ACL caboose parked on a siding adjacent to the SAL depot on Broadway.

Hope this helps. Scott

-- Scott Young (syoung01@sprynet.com), December 22, 2003.

That sounds good Phil, and we always welcome interesting articles for consideration for publication in Lines South. I don't think there is anything in the Society collection on this subject except a few photos of displays at the fair - nothing on the trains themselves. Why don't you go ahead and write up what you remember for us - it would be a beginning and might trigger some other memories out there.

-- Larry Goolsby (lgoolsby@aphsa.org), December 09, 2003.

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