Program  >  Railroading Tours  >  Prototype Tours
February 24, 2017

Prototype Tours

Prototype Tours offered in 2017 will include some very unique railroading operations and we will have several passenger operations as part of the prototype tours.  Within a 2½ hour drive you will find CSX, The Florida East Coast Railway, Amtrak's Autotrain, Central Florida's Sunrail commuter service, The NASA Railroad and two excursion train rides, The Florida Railroad Museum and The Orange Blossom Cannonball.




CSX was formed on November 1, 1980 with CSX Transportation being created on July 1, 1986, by combining the Chessie System and Seaboard System Railroad. The originator of the Seaboard System was the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which previously merged Atlantic Coast Line Railroad in 1967, and later Louisville & Nashville Railroad, as well as several smaller subsidiaries such as the Clinchfield Railroad, Atlanta & West Point Railroad, and the Georgia Railroad. On August 31, 1987, the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway, which had absorbed the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad on April 30 of that year, merged into CSX.

CSX’s roots date back to the early nineteenth century when the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company (B&O) – the nation’s first common carrier – was chartered in 1827. Since that time, CSX has built on the foundation laid by early pioneers who had a vision to create a railroad that could safely and reliably serve the ever-increasing demands of a growing nation.  CSX heritage includes railroads that served the eastern US from the midwest to the east coast.

CSX's headquarters are located in Jacksonville, FL.  CSX has many facilities in Florida including a new logistics facility in Winter Haven to meet the growing demand for intermodal rail service by Florida's seaports located in Tampa, Port Manatee and Miami/Ft Lauderdale.  In addition to the these, there are many classification yards that are a short ride from the convention along with CSX's unique Phosphate Terminal in Tampa, Rockport Yard.  CSX also provides coal delivery service to many power plants in Florida and pulls the Tropicana Juice Train from Bradenton, FL and Ft. Pierce, FL to Jersey City NJ.

The Florida East Coast Railway

FEC's history is more than 100 years old.  The roots of the FEC were planted when industrialist Henry Flagler came to Florida and began to invest in railroads on Florida's east coast.

Flagler bought the Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Halifax, and Indian River Railroads that would eventually merge and become the Florida East Coast Railway.  The FEC is responsible for creating the towns of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach, Miami and many other small towns along Florida's east coast. 

Eventually the FEC would extend its reach all the way to Key West.  The Key West extension was wiped out by a hurricane and the extension was abandoned.  The bridges that weren't damaged in the hurricane were sold to the State of Florida which extended US 1 to Key West.


FEC interchanges with both CSX and Norfolk Southern at several points in Florida.  The FEC maintains several yards that may be prototype tour locations for the convention.

Amtrak's Autotrain

Auto-Train Corporation's service began operations on December 6, 1971. The Auto-Train was immediately popular with the traveling public and at first enjoyed financial success as well.  In FY 1974 the company earned a profit of $1.6 million on revenues of $20 million. In May 1974 service began over a second route between Florida and Louisville, Kentucky, and the company was mulling additional service between Chicago and Denver.  The Louisville extension proved to be the company's undoing.  The decaying Louisville and Nashville Railroad track between Louisville and Florida (which also hampered Amtrak's Floridian) hindered operations, and a pair of derailments stretched the company's finances to the breaking point. Service ceased in April 1981.  It would be 22 months before Amtrak would revive the service.

The current Auto Train operated by Amtrak operates on the same routes using the same stations.  It is scheduled train service for passengers and their automobiles between Lorton, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), and Sanford, Florida (near Orlando). The Auto Train is the only north–south Amtrak train in the east that uses Superliner cars.

The Auto Train service allows its passengers to avoid driving Interstate 95 in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, while bringing their own vehicle with them.  The Auto Train has the highest revenue of any long-distance train in the Amtrak system.

The NASA Railroad

The NASA Railroad is a 38-mile industrial short line on the Kennedy Space Center in Central Florida. It connects to additional Air Force trackage on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The railroad system is government owned and contractor operated.

In 1963, the Florida East Coast Railway built a 7.5- mile connection to the Kennedy Space Center from its mainline just north of Titusville, Fla. The line required a drawbridge to be built over the Indian River, part of the Intercoastal Waterway. The steel bridge and its approaches are approximately a half-mile long, built on concrete pilings. The draw span stays open continuously until a train approaches, and the crew activates a switch to lower it.  The Florida East Coast connection joined 28 miles of NASA-constructed track at a junction named Wilson’s Corners.

The Florida East Coast built two yards, a seven-track yard now called Jay Jay at the main line interchange (originally called Cape Canaveral Junction), and a second seven-track yard called Wilson Yard, slightly west of the geographical location of Wilson’s Corners.  East of Wilson Yard, the line divides with a nine-mile branch going south to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building and the Kennedy Space Center Industrial Area, the other another nine-mile branch going east toward the Atlantic Ocean for service to the NASA launch pads and the interchange with the Air Force track.

Because of the hazardous commodities hauled over the railroad, particularly the solid rocket boosters for the space shuttle, NASA decided to completely rebuild and upgrade the line.  The original track was replaced with 132-pound continuous-welded rail and concrete cross ties.  The work was done by the track maintenance subsidiary of the Florida East Coast railway.  The track was constructed to 60 mph standards, which is Florida East Coast mainline speed; however, normal operating speed is 25 mph to reduce maintenance and increase the life span of the track.

NASA currently owns three EMD SW-1500 locomotives, built in 1968-1970 for the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railway. Each was painted with the NASA Railroad red, gray and black color scheme, and the locomotives were re-numbered 1, 2 and 3. They are maintained in house at the NASA Railroad Shop at Kennedy.

The primary traffic on the NASA Railroad has been the solid rocket booster segment cars. Each of the two booster rockets on the space shuttle consisted of four segments, each 32 feet long and 12 feet in diameter weighing an average of 150 tons. Each launch requires delivery of eight segment cars.

Each segment car weighs 510,000 pounds and there were a total of 24 railroad cars in the overall fleet. They were delivered to Kennedy from the Thiokol plant in Wasatch, Utah, over a route that uses all Class 1 Freight Lines in the US, the Union Pacific, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, CSX and Florida East Coast Railway.

The next major space program, Ares, will use the same solid rocket booster segments and rail service will continue.  Since the end of the shuttle program, the line still serves Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.


SunRail is a commuter rail system in the Greater Orlando, Florida area. Service began on May 1, 2014.  Phase 1 comprises 31 miles with 12 stations along the former CSX Transportation "A" Line connecting Volusia County and Orange County through Downtown Orlando. The extensions proposed for Phase 2 would add a new northern termius at DeLand and four more stations southward, terminating at Poinciana in Osceola County.  It is expected to be fully completed sometime in 2017.

SunRail opened on May 1, 2014 with over 10,000 passengers riding the trains on opening day.  Daily ridership is expected to average about 4,300 passengers by the end of the first operating year.  Current paying ridership is approximately 4,100 riders.

Sunrail's current southern terminal station is a short distance away from the convention.

Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus Train

In 1872 the P.T. Barnum Circus had grown so large that it was decided that they would only play at large venues, and that they would travel by train. P.T. Barnum had two of his partners, William Cameron Coup and Dan Costello, come up with a system to load the circus wagons on to railroad flat cars. Using a system of inclined planes, called runs, and crossover plates between cars, they developed a system of ropes and pulleys to get the wagons on and off of the flat cars. They used horses to pull the wagons up the run and then would hitch a second team to pull it down the run cars (flats). The off loading was much the same as loading. That system, first used in 1872, is still used today by the RBBBC, although through more modern methods.

When the circus switched to travel by train they began by using flatcars from the Pennsylvania Railroad, which turned out to be hazardous because the Pennsylvania Railroad's cars were in poor shape. In mid-season it was decided that they would buy their own cars, and when the P.T. Barnum Circus left Columbus, Ohio, it traveled on the first circus-owned train. It was made up of sixty cars, including forty-five flatcars carrying about 100 wagons.

Circus trains have proven well-suited for the transportation of heavy equipment (tents, rolling wagons, vehicles and machinery) and animals (elephants, lions, tigers and horses), despite tragic accidents over the years.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circuses grew to dominate live entertainment. The circus now traveks in two circus trains, the blue unit and the red unit, following an alternating two-year schedule to bring a new show to each location once a year. The RBBB circus trains are more than one mile (1.6 km) in length, and include living quarters for the performers and animal keepers. There are also special stock cars for the exotic animals and flatcars for the transportation of circus wagons, equipment, and even a bus used for local transportation at performance sites.  It's also known as the largest city on wheels since the train is used for 11 months a year to house the circus performers and staff when the train is parked in yards located in the cities where the circus is performing.

In the fall of 1967, Feld Entertainment bought the company from the Ringling family and made many performance improvements including moving the circus into indoor arenas.

In 2009 Feld Entertainment purchased a new headquarters in Ellenton, FL, about one mile from it's former Production Support Facility and Rail Maintenance Yard.  The new headquarters brings together Feld Entertainment's Corporate Offices, Production Support, Rehearsal Spaces, Costuming, Monster Truck Body Maintenance Shops and Railroad yard to one location.  Beginning in 2014 this will be the new winter quarters for the circus.

Excursion Rides

We currently have two passenger excursion trains in operating in Central Florida.

The Florida Railroad Museum

The Florida Railroad Musuem is an 11 mile roundtrip through some untouched land in Manatee County.

The line is part of the original Seaboard Air Line mainline between Plant City and Fort Myers.  The right of way is was purchased by Florida Power and Light to serve their Manatee County Generating Station when SAL abandoned the line in the 1970's after the SAL Merger with the Atlantic Coast Line.  FPL leases the right of way to the museum.

The Florida Railroad Museum right of way terminates in their yard in Willow, FL, 6½ miles north of their departure station in Parrish, FL.  In Willow they have built a replica of a standard small town Seaboard Air Line passenger station.  The NMRA Prototype Tour to The Florida Railroad Museum will allow riders to get off the train and explore their maintenance shops and other pieces of rolling stock.  Discover just what it takes to keep an "experienced" railroad fleet serving 30,000 passengers annually running four times every weekend.

The Orange Blossom Cannonball and The Central Florida Railroad Museum

Locacte in Tavares, FL, The Orange Blossom Cannonball is a steam excursion with four historic passenger cars.  The locomotive was built in 1907 by The Baldwin Locomotive Works and is Builders Number 29900.  It was originally served the Frisco line in the western US.  The excursion ride will Depart from Tavares where the Central Florida Railroad Museum is located.  The museum is a project and partnership between The Central Florida Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and The Winter Garden Heritage Foundation.  The musuem contains an extensive collection of railroad china and flatware.

The train's nickname is "America's Movie Train".  It began it’s career in 1964 eventually having a "starring role" in 25 movies and TV shows.  It started it's "acting career" with the film “This Property Is Condemned” starring Natalie Wood, Robert Redford and Charles Bronson.  Famed director Martin Scorsese used the train in his second feature film “Boxcar Bertha” in 1972. Barbara Hershey and David Carradine teamed together to make a story of train robbers and lovers in the American South.  Since then productions that have used the train include “True Grit,” “Appaloosa,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “There Will Be Blood,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” and “Rosewood.”  Actors who have appeared in these films, reads like a “Who’s Who of Hollywood.”

Originally The Tavares & Gulf Railroad was well known for its many track problems and frequent derailments, but also for its excellent customer service. It had many nicknames, including the Tug and Grunt, the Turtle and Gopher, and the Try and Go. Though having only 38 miles of track, the T&G was active and productive. Later it became part of the Seaboard Air Line System. Its last passenger run was in 1969.