1939 The Champion entered service in 1939 as a daily New York to Miami all-coach streamliner. In 1941, once enough streamlined equipment had been delivered, the Champion began operating in separate sections to Miami and Tampa and so was renamed Tamiami Champion. The Miami section generally carried heavyweight sleeping cars in the summer, but the Tampa section operated with them all year. Following a horrible collision of two Champions in 1943, the Tamiami prefix was eliminated in 1944. As A.C.L. re-equipped both trains with lightweight sleeping cars in 1949, they were sensibly renamed East Coast Champion and West Coast Champion
1940 In 1940, Atlantic Coast Line and their connecting railroads introduced three speedy all-coach streamliners between Chicago and Miami, the Dixie Flagler, City of Miami and South Wind. Each ran via a different route north of Jacksonville, then over the F.E.C. to Miami. One set of each equipment was used, yielding daily service in both directions. Later, an additional consist of each train allowed the City of Miami and South Wind to run every two days out of three during the peak season.
1944 Nearly ten million passengers on 40,000 trains passed through Jacksonville Terminal at its peak in 1944. From its opening in 1919, nearly all Florida-bound passenger trains either originated, terminated or passed through the landmark station complex that served as the rail gateway to the sunshine state. There occurred a great shuffling of through cars from the Northeast and Midwest bound to various points in Florida. During the land boom of the 1920's it was the busiest station in the world. In this view, the headhouse and concourse are clearly visible as well as the vast network of 32 tracks and platforms converging into the station. The last passenger train rolled out in 1974, when Amtrak moved to a much smaller structure five miles away.
1945 A.C.L. #538 (shown above) was one of a group of 20 E7A's (#524-543) delivered from 1945 to 1948 and assigned to A.C.L.'s new streamliners including the Champion. Already in the fleet were 29 earlier E3A's, E6A's and E6B's.
The famous New York-Miami winter-only flagship Florida Special received its streamlined consist in 1949. It was Florida's first all-Pullman all-room streamliner, with each trainset having 12 regularly-assigned Pullman sleeping cars, two dining cars, and two six-bedroom-bar-lounges. The East Coast Champion was frequently its all-coach companion, running at similar times of day. Beginning in October 1955, both trains operated on a remarkable 24-hour schedule, routinely speeding at 100 mph over the double-track Richmond to Jacksonville main line with its advanced signaling.
The Champion post cards, Florida State Archives Photographic Collection
1952 In the summer of 1952, A.C.L. operated three daily streamliners: the East Coast Champion, West Coast Champion and the every-third-day Dixie Flagler, City of Miami and South Wind. In all there were six named through trains from the Northeast and six more from the Midwest to Florida.
In the winter of 1952/53, they were joined by the seasonal Vacationer, Miamian and the prestigious flagship Florida Special.
|Florida Special consist, Winter 1952-53|
|Car#||Car Route||Car Type|
|FS21||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS22||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS23||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS24||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS25||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS26||New York - Miami||6 Double bedrooms, Bar lounge|
|New York - Miami||Dining car|
|New York - Miami||Dining car|
|FS27||New York - Miami||6 Double bedrooms, Bar lounge|
|FS28||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|FS29||New York - Miami||21 Roomettes|
|FS30||New York - Miami||14 Roomettes, 2 Drawing rooms|
|FS31||New York - Miami||14 Roomettes, 2 Drawing rooms|
|FS32||New York - Miami||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
|J-15||New York - Jacksonville||10 Roomettes, 6 Double bedrooms|
1956 There was no shortage of named trains on the Atlantic Coast Line in the winter 1956/57 season. The East Coast Champion and Florida Special ran on 24-hour schedules between New York and Miami accompanied on the north-south main line by the West Coast Champion, Miamian, Havana Special, Palmetto and Everglades. From the Midwest to Florida came the City of Miami, South Wind, Dixieland, Southland, Seminole, Flamingo and Dixie Flyer. Consists below are from the Official Railway Guide, December 1956:
1964 For the 1964/65 winter season, the Florida Special was promoted with this special brochure and featured such novelties as television and fashion shows.
1967 In the last winter season before the merger with Seaboard, the Coast Line's Florida streamliners included a 14-car Florida Special, 12-car East Coast Champion, 12-car West Coast Champion and alternating 16-car City of Miami and 14-car South Wind, in addition to five named secondary trains. Schedules and equipment are from the A.C.L. timetable, December 1966:
Original line drawing art by Stan Lytle, enhanced with road colors and other details by Jack Bleiberg. 1939 Champion GIF image by Media by McCann.
About color schemes: The image of A.C.L. #538 and the colors on this page show Atlantic Coast Line's purple, yellow and aluminum, used from 1939 to 1957.