Palatka Railroad Preservation Society
4 Jan 09: On our way from Jacksonville to Blue Springs State Park, we passed through Palatka. I'm always interested in old railroad stations and there was also an old caboose on display. Since it was just about noon, we decided it would be an interesting place to stop while we ate our lunch.
Union Station was built by the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) RR in 1908 to serve both the ACL and Florida East Coast (FEC). The station is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the oldest commercial building in Palatka still in use. The station has served as an Amtrak passenger station for over 30 years. Recently renovated, the station is now home to the David Browning Railroad Museum and two large model railroads.
This old caboose is on display near the station. It is an ACL Class M-5, built in the ACL's Waycross GA Shops in 1965. It served as ACL #0623 and Seaboard Coast Line (SCL) #0623. It last saw service on the Tampa Division in the late 1980's.
Talk about luck: the museum and model layouts are open just two days a month, and we happened to pass by on one of those days.
Known as Railroadeo, this layout is over 30 years old. It was built in the 1970's by Irwin Saylor to depict the Pennsylvania countryside. It is 32' by 6' and was contained in a tractor-trailer, which Mr. Saylor drove up and down the East coast to display the layout. It was promoted as "The World's Largest Mobile Scale Model Railroad".
It has 16 operating trains, an amazingly-detailed landscape and numerous animated features.
Donated to the Palatka Railroad Preservation Society by the Saylor family, the layout has been totally re-wired to improve reliability, along with replacement of much of the track, due to wearing down after many years of continuous use.
The Society is also building a new HO layout depicting the area around Palatka. Here, society member Billy Sparks is making up a train.
The layout will have several levels when complete.
At the north end of the station is the David Browning Railroad Museum, named for the last Freight Agent at Palatka. It contains many artifacts dealing with the Atlantic Coast Line and it's descendants.