An A-B-A set of brand new EMC E4 Diesel-Electric Locomotives in Orange Blossom Special livery at La Grange, IL in 1938.

(Electro-Motive Corporation, W. Lenheim Collection, cropped)


Orange Blossom Special Drumhead.


The Orange Blossom Special was a deluxe passenger train on the Seaboard Air Line Railroad connecting railroads between New York City and Miami in the United States. It ran during the winter season only.

It covered 1,388.7 miles (2,234.9 km) on the Pennsylvania Railroad from New York City to Washington, D.C., the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad from Washington to Richmond, and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad from Richmond via Raleigh, Columbia, and Savannah to Miami. A section also went to Tampa and St. Petersburg.


First arrival of the Orange Blossom Special locomotive at Miami, Florida, January 8, 1927. Standing L-R: Miss Hialeah, president of Seaboard Air Line Railway Company S. Davies Warfield, Miss Miami Marcia Hand, Governor John W. Martin, unknown, unknown, Coral Gables Mayor "Doc" Dammers. (State Archives of Florida)


Arrival of the Orange Blossom Special locomotive at Hialeah, Florida,January 8, 1927. Center of the photograph (L-R): Seminole chief Tony Tommy and Seaboard Air Line Railway president S. Davies Warfield. (State Archives of Florida)


The train started on November 21, 1925, and was the brainchild of SAL president S. Davies Warfield, who wanted to capitalize on booming development in Florida at the time. Warfield believed Florida was a land of opportunity, and with fast, luxurious trains he could lure influential (not to mention wealthy) business leaders to the Sunshine State. In February 1926 the train took 35 hours to run from New York to West Palm Beach (Seaboard track did not reach Miami until 1927).

Spurred by the success of Henry Flagler and his rival Florida East Coast Railway in attracting travelers, the Orange Blossom Special became famous in its own right.


Arrival of the Orange Blossom Special train at West Palm Beach, Florida, December, 1938. This was the first streamlined, diesel-powered passenger train in the southeast. It linked New York and Miami.  (State Archives of Florida)


Arrival of the new streamlined Orange Blossom Special train at  Plant City, Florida, December, 1938 This was the arrival of the first diesel-powered passenger train in the southeast.  (State Archives of Florida)


Speed and Luxury

It was renowned for its speed and luxury. E. M. Frimbo, "The World's Greatest Railway Buff", offered this account of a dining car chef who had worked aboard the train:
"Our chef...spent nine of his forty-three years with the Pennsylvania Railroad as chef on the celebrated all-Pullman New York-to-Florida train the Orange Blossom Special—the most luxurious winter-season train ever devised by man. Nothing even remotely resembling a can opener was allowed on the premises. All the pies, cakes, rolls, birthday cakes were baked on board under his supervision. Cut flowers and fresh fish were taken on at every revictualing stop, and the train carried thirty-five hundred dollars' worth of wine, liquor and champagne—these at pre-Prohibition prices—for each run."

Last Run

The service was suspended during World War II to free-up the equipment for carrying troops. Its last run was in 1953. This west Florida market is now handled by Amtrak's Silver Star.

In early 2012, a similar locomotive painted to resemble a locomotive of the time, and lettered Orange Blossom Special was moved in from its long-time display location at the Church Street Station in Orlando, Florida, to the Florida Railroad Museum in nearby Tampa. Plans are for a multi-year restoration to active status for eventual excursion service.



Powered by the world's largest--mightiest diesel-electric locomotives, the Orange Blossom Special

of the Seaboard Railway sets new highs in sustained high speed, safe, comfortable transportation.

(Both cards Tichnor Bros. Inc., Boston, MA, for Seaboard Airline Railway, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


The train and the song

It happened during the maiden run of the new streamlined train at the Jacksonville Seaboard Railroad Station that Ervin T. Rouse and Robert Russell "Chubby" Wise saw this train. Rouse and Wise wrote the Orange Blossom Special song as a fiddle tune. The tune was first recorded by Ervin and his brother Gordon one year later in New York. Bill Monroe recorded Rouse's and Wise's tune in 1942 (with Art Wooten on fiddle) and popularized the tune. Johnny Cash named his 1965 album after the song. The song was also recorded by Bill Ramsey and Don Paulin.

This popular tale explains the fascination which led Ervin Rouse and Robert "Chubby" Wise to write the now famous fiddle tune. However, historically the Blossom was never "streamlined" and used Pullman heavyweight sleepers, diners, and some coaches of the winter Tampa run. The Blossom may have used some lightweight cars sporadically in mixed consist with the Pennsylvania Railroad which hauled the Blossom in the Northeast Corridor. If Rouse and Wise did see a streamlined Seaboard train in 1938, it was most likely the Silver Meteor which was streamlined with its stainless steel coaches. The name of this train was chosen by a public contest. The Seaboard's lightweight trains later became known as the Silver Fleet. This included the Silver Meteor, the Silver Star and the Silver Comet. The train did receive modern EMC E4 diesel locomotives in 1938, but continued using heavyweight Pullmans and coaches until its demise in 1953. It is also possible the songwriters saw one of the Twin Cities Zephyrs at the Jacksonville railroad station in 1935. The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad brought the train to Florida at the invitation of the Seaboard Railroad. It toured the state, making stops in both east and west coast Florida cities, where the public was able to both view and tour the Zephyr; Jacksonville was one of the stops on its Florida tour.



On January 11, 1949 at Bay Lake, Florida, the Orange Blossom Special had an overheated bearing on a traction motor on the Diesel locomotive, which seized up and caused a derailment. Sadly, there was one death and 76 injuries. Twenty days later at Rock, Michigan, a similar accident would happen on the Peninsula 400, which also had an overheated bearing on a failed traction motor that derailed the train, unfortunately causing one death and injuring 15.


A young woman stands near the Orange Blossom Special at the Sebring, FL depot, ca. 1930. (State Archives of Florida)


An unidentified woman boarding the Orange Blossom Special at Sebring, FL, 1930.

(State Archives of Florida)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Northeastern United States, Southeastern United States
First service: November 21, 1925
Last service: 1953
Former operator: Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Route Termini: New York, New York / Miami, Florida with alternate sections to St. Petersburg and Venice
Distance traveled: 1,388.7 miles (2,234.9 km)
Service frequency: (Seasonal winter train; daily operation during operating season)
Train numbers: 7 (southbound); 8 (northbound)
On-board services
Sleeping arrangements :All Pullman - Open sections, drawing-rooms and compartments (1941)
Catering facilities: Dining car
Observation facilities: Club car and lounge car
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)