The Silver Comet reversing into Atlanta Terminal Station in Atlanta in November 1967.

(Photo by Roger Puta, courtesy Marty Bernard, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Silver Comet drumhead.


The Silver Comet was a streamlined passenger train inaugurated on May 18, 1947, by the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (Seaboard Coast Line after merger with the Atlantic Coast Line on July 1, 1967). Before its inaugural run, the new train was christened by actress Jean Parker at Pennsylvania Station in New York City. The train succeeded the SAL's Cotton States Special, which took the same route and which like the Silver Comet left the northeast at midday and arrived at Birmingham in the late morning.

Daily service extended from New York City via Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Atlanta to Birmingham, Alabama. From New York to Washington, the train was handled by the Pennsylvania Railroad; from Washington, D.C. to Richmond, by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad; and by Seaboard from Richmond to points south. Under its original schedule, the New York City to Birmingham trip took 23 hours at an average speed of 48 miles per hour.

The consist of the Silver Comet included baggage cars, coaches, Pullman sleepers, and a dining car between New York and Birmingham, along with through coaches and Pullmans to or from Portsmouth, Virginia, connecting at Raleigh, North Carolina. A 48-seat observation car brought up the rear of the train.

Owing to declining passenger and mail revenues, the Silver Comet was discontinued in stages in 1969: the last trip between Atlanta and Birmingham was made on January 18; between Washington and Richmond, May 7; and between Richmond and Atlanta, October 14. It lost its section that ran from Portsmouth's Seaboard Terminal in early 1968. The last through sleeper had run on December 31, 1968.

Following abandonment of the Atlanta to Birmingham segment of the Silver Comet right-of-way by SAL-SCL successor CSX in 1989, portions were converted to the Silver Comet Trail in Georgia and the Chief Ladiga Trail in Alabama.


The Seaboard Airline Railroad's Silver Comet at Atlanta Terminal Station in 1958. Photo Courtesy Howard L. Robins.

(© Mary Jayne's Railroad Specialties, Inc., Fair use, Title 17, Section 107, via W. Lenheim Collection)



Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Defunct
Locale: Eastern United States
First service: May 18, 1947
Last service: October 14, 1969
Former operators: SAL (1947–1967), SCL (1967–1969)
Route Termini: New York City, U.S. / Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Distance traveled: 1,106.3 miles (1,780.4 km)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: Southbound, 197-33 (PRR-SAL); Northbound, 34-196 (SAL-PRR)
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Coaches
Sleeping arrangements: Pullman sections, compartments, double bedrooms and drawing rooms
Catering facilities: Dining car
Observation facilities: Observation coach
Baggage facilities: Baggage car
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)
Track owners: PRR (New York–Washington), RFP (Washington–Richmond)


A schematic map of Seaboard Air Line Railroad main lines, circa 1950, with major passenger routes indicated by thick lines.

(Textorus, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons)