An Amtrak train leaving Biloxi, Mississippi.

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Amtrak Classic logo.


The Gulf Coast Limited was a passenger train service operated by Amtrak along the Gulf Coast of the United States. It ran daily between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Mobile, Alabama, with stops in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula, Mississippi. The route first operated in 1984–1985, and again in 1996–1997.

Amtrak plans to restore service in 2023 under the simplified name Gulf Coast, with two daily round trips.



The Gulf Coast Limited operated over a 145-mile (233 km) route from New Orleans to Mobile, hugging the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The majority of this route is now owned by CSX Transportation (NO&M Subdivision), save a few miles around the New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal and East City Junction, which are owned by Amtrak and the Norfolk Southern Railway, respectively.



Up to the latter 1960s, the New Orleans to Mobile route was served by several passenger trains a day. The Louisville & Nashville operated the daily trains, Gulf Wind (New Orleans–Jacksonville), Pan-American (New Orleans–Cincinnati) and Humming Bird (New Orleans–Cincinnati), as well as an additional unnamed day train (New Orleans–Jacksonville). Additionally, the Southern Railway operated the Crescent (New Orleans–New York) on the route.

The Gulf Coast Limited was also the name of a train operated by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad between New York and the west coast of Florida.


First iteration

The Gulf Coast Limited grew out of a feasibility study conducted by the Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama Rapid Rail Transit Commission in the early 1980s. The study sought a commuter rail service centered on New Orleans linking Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Slidell, Louisiana, or Mobile, Alabama. In the end the Commission opted for a New Orleans—Mobile service, prompted in part by the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition. The three states entered into a 403(b) arrangement with Amtrak; under this provision Amtrak undertakes to operate a service but the contracting states subsidize most of the cost. The first train ran on April 29, 1984.

In the fall Amtrak explored extending the Gulf Coast Limited from Mobile to Birmingham, Alabama (a route later served by the Gulf Breeze), but did not alter the train's route. The train was popular, but service ended on January 6, 1985, after Mississippi declined to continue its support.


Second iteration

In 1993, Amtrak extended the long-distance Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Florida, consequently restoring service along the New Orleans–Mobile corridor.

Amtrak revived the Gulf Coast Limited on June 27, 1996, following the cancellation of the Gulf Breeze. The states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi each contributed $185,000 for a 90-day trial run. Amtrak estimated that yearly operation would cost $3.1 million. The train used the same route as its 1984 iteration, though without a stop in East New Orleans.

Initial ridership was higher than expected: a standard consist could seat 134, but weekend trains regularly carried 300, against 50–60 on weekdays. A federal appropriation allowed Amtrak to extend the Gulf Coast Limited six months beyond the trial period, but additional state money was not forthcoming. Service ended March 31, 1997.

The concurrent Gulf Coast Limited and Sunset Limited resulted in ten weekly round trips between New Orleans and Mobile: the corridor's highest service level since the formation of Amtrak and a record unmatched since 1997.

In 2005, the Sunset Limited was indefinitely suspended east of New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina, ending all service on the former route of the Gulf Coast Limited.


Planned restoration

In July 2017, the Gulf Coast Working Group of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) submitted a report to Congress recommending restoration of service on the New Orleans–Mobile corridor.

In June 2019, the FRA announced a grant award of $33 million to restore Amtrak service between New Orleans and Mobile, and to upgrade tracks, stations, and other facilities to support improved passenger rail service. The grant was matched by funds from Louisiana, Mississippi, and the City of Mobile. Officials announced plans for up to four daytime rail trips per day within 24 months, serving the cities of New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Pascagoula. Having received a commitment of support from Mobile, if the state of Alabama participates, service could be extended to downtown Mobile.

On February 23, 2021, following the conclusion of one year of negotiations with CSX and Norfolk Southern, Amtrak officials announced that Gulf Coast Service between New Orleans and Mobile would start as early as January 2022. Amtrak plans to pay for repairs along the route. As of late 2022, after lengthy negotiations with Norfolk Southern and CSX, Amtrak now expects Gulf Coast service to begin sometime in 2023.

In its annual report published in March 2023, Amtrak referred to the new service simply as the Gulf Coast and reiterated that two round trips would begin in fiscal year 2023.


Gulf Coast Limited Overview

Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: United States Gulf Coast
Predecessor: Gulf Wind
First service: April 29, 1984, June 27, 1996
Last service: January 6, 1985, March 31, 1997
Successor: Sunset Limited
Former operator: Amtrak
Route Termini: New Orleans, Louisiana / Mobile, Alabama
Stops: 5 (1984–1985); 4 (1996–1997)
Distance traveled: 145 miles (233 km)
Average journey time: 3 hours 40 minutes (1984–1985), 3 hours 10 minutes (1996–1997)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 23, 24
On-board services
Class: Unreserved coach
Catering facilities: Cafe lounge
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner: Seaboard System Railroad (1984–1985), CSX Transportation (1996–1997)


Gulf Coast Overview

Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Planned
Locale: United States Gulf Coast
Predecessor: Gulf Coast Limited
First service: 2023 (expected)
Current operator: Amtrak
Route Termini: New Orleans, Louisiana / Mobile, Alabama
Stops: 4
Distance traveled: 145 miles (233 km)
Service frequency: Two daily round trips
Track gauge: 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner: CSX Transportation