The Floridian at Winter Park. Here's the original text: Teresa and Louise watching our Chicago-bound Amtrak train arriving in Winter Park, FL. Note that Amtrak was started in 1971, and much of their early equipment was inherited from the various railroads. This train operated over a route that included Nashville and Indianapolis, and Amtrak permanently discontinued this direct Florida-Chicago route within a couple of years. The condition of the track was so bad that Louise got sick, and she and her dad got off the train in Indianapolis and flew the rest of the way. March 18, 1973. Click to enlarge. (Steven & Courtney Johnson & Horwitz, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Classic Amtrak logo.


The Floridian was a train operated by Amtrak from 1971 to 1979 that ran from Chicago and–via two sections south of Jacksonville–Miami and St. Petersburg, Florida. For its Nashville to Montgomery segment its route followed that of several former Louisville & Nashville Railroad (L&N) passenger trains, including the Pan-American and the Humming Bird (Cincinnati—Louisville—New Orleans). Originating in Chicago, the train served Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana; Louisville and Bowling Green, Kentucky; Nashville, Tennessee; Decatur, Birmingham, Montgomery and Dothan, Alabama; and Thomasville, Valdosta and Waycross, Georgia.

The Floridian was notorious for lackluster on-time performance, owing to poor track conditions and the poor condition of the equipment it inherited from railroads previously operating on the route. The train used the lines of L&N (including the former Monon Railroad in Indiana, which merged into the L&N shortly after the formation of Amtrak), and Seaboard Coast Line. All are now part of CSX Transportation; some parts of the former route have since been abandoned by CSX.

Amtrak discontinued the Floridian in October 1979, leaving Louisville and Nashville without passenger train service, two of the largest such cities in the nation to have this distinction. (Louisville briefly regained Amtrak service with the Kentucky Cardinal, which operated 1999–2003.) The train was also the very last of a number of long-distance trains that ran between Chicago and Miami for much of the 20th century. Previous trains, on different route configurations between those endpoints, passing through different cities on their respective routes, included City of Miami, Dixie Flagler and South Wind.




Main article: South Wind (passenger train)

The Floridian as conceived by Amtrak was a successor of the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) South Wind, which operated over PRR track from Chicago to Louisville via Logansport and Indianapolis, Indiana; then L&N from Louisville to Montgomery, Alabama; the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) from Montgomery via Waycross to Jacksonville; and then either the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) to Miami or the Atlantic Coast Line to St. Petersburg.


Floridian Southbound section in Clearwater in 1979.

The southbound St. Petersburg section of the Floridian at Clearwater in 1979.

(Hikki Nagasaki, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



Amtrak retained the South Wind as a through daily Chicago-Miami train. However, the train was rerouted away from Logansport to the James Whitcomb Riley route via Indianapolis, changing its northern terminus to Chicago's Central Station (owned by Illinois Central Railroad), which it shared with Amtrak's Panama Limited (the renamed City of New Orleans and not the original all-Pullman flagship) until that facility was vacated later in favor of consolidating all Amtrak services at Chicago's Union Station. The Floridian began using Union Station on January 23, 1972.

Amtrak also began serving the west coast of Florida by splitting the now-daily South Wind into St. Petersburg and Miami sections. The train split at Auburndale, with one section continuing to Miami and another going to St. Petersburg via Tampa. On November 14, the South Wind was reconfigured as the Floridian. The St. Petersburg and Miami sections were retained, but the split now occurred in Jacksonville, with the St. Petersburg section serving Orlando and Tampa and the Miami section serving Winter Haven. These two legs crossed each other near Lakeland, Florida. The reconfigured train also added a stop in Nashville, which had long been served by the South Wind but had initially been left out of Amtrak for much of the spring and summer.

On paper, the new Floridian should have been a success. It ran through several major Midwestern and Southern cities (Chicago, Louisville, Nashville, Birmingham) en route to Florida, and its predecessor had existed for over three decades. However, it was fraught with problems. It had to contend with deteriorating Penn Central (PC)/ex-New York Central (NYC) track in Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky, which resulted in occasional use of MoPac (former Chicago & Eastern Illinois) and L&N (former Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville: Monon) routes north of Louisville. In January 1977, the Floridian was cancelled for two weeks due to severe winter weather in Chicago. Two other long-distance Penn Central trains retained by Amtrak, the National Limited (successor to another PRR mainstay, the Spirit of St. Louis) and the James Whitcomb Riley, were plagued by similar problems.

During Amtrak's tenure, it continued to utilize E-units from many railroads before replacing them with then-new EMD SDP40F locomotives which began arriving in the mid 1970s. Unfortunately, these engines had a tendency to derail, especially on rickety PC trackage. The train suffered terrible delays and frequent derailments, including one at 10 mph. The consists remained steam-heated, and never received Head-End Power (HEP) equipment.

The Floridian was briefly combined with the Auto-Train Corporation's Louisville, Kentucky—Sanford, Florida Auto-Train service in the mid 1970's. The success with the original Lorton, Virginia—Sanford Auto-Train did not replicate itself on the Louisville-Sanford run, in part due to the severe delays on the Floridian, and the Louisville-Sanford Auto-Train was suspended indefinitely a few years before Auto-Train Corporation itself finally succumbed to financial difficulties in April 1981. As part of this move Amtrak stopped serving Union Station in Louisville on November 1, 1976, instead using Auto-Train Corp's station near Louisville International Airport. This continued until the Floridian's discontinuance.

In 1979, the United States Department of Transportation compiled a report that recommended the reduction of services on several routes that did not meet a metric for cost coverage. Per this report, the Carter administration required all Amtrak routes to meet a minimum cost/farebox ratio or face discontinuance. Unfortunately, the aforementioned track issues and delays resulted in a steep decline in ridership for the Floridian. It made its last run on October 9, 1979 and was shuttered along with the National Limited, North Coast Hiawatha, Lone Star, and Champion, thus rolling back some of the key parts of the Amtrak system and also alleviating some of the losses it had incurred since its May 1, 1971 founding.

This DOT report also recommended the discontinuance of the Chicago—Oakland (San Francisco) San Francisco Zephyr—which, as the California Zephyr, has become one of Amtrak's most popular trains.



Miles/km -  City

0 - Chicago
118 mi / 190 km - Lafayette
221 mi / 356 km - Bloomington
330 mi / 531 km - Louisville
438 mi / 705 km - Bowling Green
511 mi / 822 km - Nashville
629 mi / 1012 km - Decatur
713 mi / 1147 km - Birmingham
810 mi / 1304 km - Montgomery
928 mi / 1493 km - Dothan
1020 mi / 1642 km - Thomasville
1062 mi / 1709 km - Valdosta
1122 mi / 1806 km - Waycross
1193 mi / 1920 km - Jacksonville
1303 mi / 2097 km - DeLand
1319 mi / 2123 km - Sanford
1336 mi / 2150 km - Winter Park
1341 mi / 2158 km - Orlando
1359 mi / 2187 km - Kissimmee
1402 mi / 2256 km - Lakeland
1433 mi / 2306 km - Tampa
1456 mi / 2343 km - Clearwater
1480 mi / 2382 km - St. Petersburg
1251 mi / 2013 km - Waldo
1297 mi / 2087 km - Ocala
1323 mi / 2129 km - Wildwood
1388 mi / 2234 km - Winter Haven
1429 mi / 2300 km - Sebring
1531 mi / 2464 km - West Palm Beach
1549 mi / 2493 km - Delray Beach
1560 mi / 2511 km - Deerfield Beach
1574 mi / 2533 km - Fort Lauderdale
1581 mi / 2544 km - Hollywood
1601 mi / 2577 km - Miami


Proposed restoration

There has been no concrete effort to re-establish direct Chicago-Miami service, either on the route of the South Wind/Floridian or on that of its partners the City of Miami and Dixie Flagler. During the early 2000s, Amtrak extended the Kentucky Cardinal to a re-opened Louisville Union Station, then discontinued the train again.

In the 2000s, Nashville residents proposed restoring train service to the city. However, in 2007 Tennessee state officials said resumption of service was unlikely, since federal funds were unavailable. Officials also stated that there was insufficient demand to justify restoring rail service at the time.

In June 2021, Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) added an amendment to the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 which requires the Department of Transportation (not Amtrak itself) to evaluate the restoration of discontinued long-distance routes, such as the Floridian. The bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support, and was later rolled into President Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed into law in November 2021. The report must be delivered to Congress within two years. The law also provides $2.4 billion in new funds to Amtrak's long-distance route network.

On October 28, 2022, the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study was announced by the Federal Railroad Administration. Its purpose is to evaluate the restoration and addition of discontinued and new long-distance passenger services, as well as the upgrading of tri-weekly long-distance services (the Sunset Limited and the Cardinal) to daily operation. The criteria for either restoring or creating new long-distance routes are that they connect large and small communities as part of a "regional rail network", provide economic and social well-being for rural areas, provide "enhanced connectivity" for the existing long-distance passenger trains, and reflect the support and engagement of the locals and region for restored long-distance passenger service. These criteria include the Floridian, among other trains. The study will take place through 2023, and will engage with stakeholders, the rail companies, and communities as it "evaluates how to better connect people with long-distance rail services".



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Eastern United States
Predecessor: South Wind
First service: November 14, 1971
Last service: October 9, 1979
Former operator: Amtrak
Route Termini: Chicago, Illinois / St. Petersburg, Florida, Miami, Florida
Stops: 32
Distance traveled: 1,597 miles (2,570 km) (Miami); 1,481 miles (2,383 km) (St. Petersburg)
Average journey time: 38 hours 40 minutes (Miami); 38 hours 33 minutes (St. Petersburg)
Service frequency: Daily
Train number: 56, 57
On-board services
Classes: Sleeping cars and reserved coach
Catering facilities: Dining car and café-lounge car
Observation facilities: Dome cars
Baggage facilities: Baggage car
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Track owners: Louisville and Nashville Railroad, Seaboard Coast Line Railroad