You can imagine the thrill of packing the family for the winter stay along the South West Florida Coast. All aboard and leaving New York in late November to escape the winters chill. It still happens today but never again shall it be repeated in the style of the "Orange Blossom Special". Shown below at the Naples Depot.
Somewhat of a confusing name for it's day, the Seaboard Air Line Railway, began operation in the late 1880's and after merging many of it's smaller rails and restructuring became officially known and recognized by this name in 1900. Reorganized in 1946 it became known as Seaboard Air Line Railroad, continuing financial troubles combined with mergers and several partnerships took their toll eventually giving rise to what we now call CSX Transportation. The West coast terminus ended here at the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Depot, also known as the Naples Railroad Depot located at 1051 Fifth Avenue South. On September 10, 1974, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The Depot Museum displays transportation related exhibits combined with a Lionel Train Museum run by volunteers.
The ongoing battle to arrive quickly from the Northeast to either the East or West coasts of Florida plagued it's success. There is little evidence to confirm or deny that the Streamliners ever made it onto the Naples route although we still enjoyed the moniker "The Route of Courteous Service". The rails split near Jacksonville with Seaboard running both East & West while the competition Florida East Coast Railway remained easterly as the name implies. Now known simply as FEC Railway, this was Henry Flagler's railroad and he had his own luxury Pullman car which took him all the way to Key West anytime he wanted.
In 1927 this trip from New York to Miami took 36 hours with Naples being virtually the same. Streamliners brought this to 29 in the 1930's and by the early 1950's with more powerful engines and lighter cars 25 hours was nearly the average able to achieve speeds of up to 100 m.p.h.
The "Orange Blossom Special" was the brain child of Seaboard's Chairman and President from 1918-27, S. Davies Warfield wanting to lure wealthy Northerners to build and play in Florida. The name Warfield may seem familiar because S. Davies Warfield's niece, Bessie Wallis Warfield later became Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson and ultimately the Duchess of Windsor. Warfield raised the future Duchess after the death of her parents. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor often traveled to Florida aboard the "Orange Blossom Special."
Warfield saw an opportunity to have his railroad serve both east and west coasts of Florida. By January 1925, Seaboard had tracks on both coasts, diverging southeast to West Palm Beach and southwest to St. Petersburg. The "Orange Blossom Special" was conceived to meet the demands of high-class service and attract the well-to-do and their wealth from the Northeast to Florida. The train had unsurpassed equipment, unexcelled service, and ran on time, operatering a winter only schedule starting just before Christmas. The train carried sleepers from Boston and the Midwest, as well as New York. The new train departed from Pennsylvania Station in midtown Manhattan.
Warfield insisted that the "Blossom" was to provide "gilt-edged" service to and from Florida. His stately clientele would have a secretary, barber, valet services, ladies' maid, manicurist, showers for men and women, and gourmet food "nothing but the best" served on china adorned with orange blossoms. Dining tables were set with Irish linens.
A far cry from what $67 brought you back then, todays $99 airline fares can save 34 hours of your life but is it really a savings? The ability to experience a trip of this magnitude and adventure is what our lifetimes are defined by. Now we're relegated to passage in an Airbus 320 or similar jammed to the hilt with passengers, it certainly has become a different sort of adventure, hasn't it!