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Program  >  Railroading Tours  >  Prototype Tours
July 22, 2017

Prototype Tours

Prototype Tours offered in 2017 will include some very unique railroading operations and we will have several passenger operations as part of the prototype tours.  Within a 2½ hour drive you will find Phosphate Plants, Amtrak's Autotrain, TECO Street Car Lines and The Florida Railroad Museum.

Tampa Phosphate and Industrial

Phosphate.  It’s a basic chemical compound used in fertilizer.  And the second largest source of phosphate worldwide is the Bone Valley in Florida.  Phosphate moves by rail from The Bone Valley to points north and to the Port of Tampa Bay where it’s offloaded and shipped worldwide.  On this tour, guided by Jim Langton, CSX’s Market Manager for Bone Valley Phosphates and byproducts, you’ll discover the history and methods used to mine this important agricultural product.

This tour will start out with a boat tour of Port Tampa Bay, cruising by Rockport Yard, CSX’s offloading facility for phosphate.  This yard services the phosphate industry 24/7 every day of the year except Christmas.  Trains are constantly unloaded using a rotary dumper and rotary hoppers as they arrive from Mosaic Industries plants in the Bone Valley.

From here you’ll visit Tampa Union Station.  More than a train station, this Italian Renaissance Revival designed station has served Tampa for more than 100 years.  Tampa Union Station has been a landmark for generations of Tampa travelers and residents.  You’ll have a guided tour of the station and lunch will be delivered here.

From the station, you’ll depart for Mulberry, FL at the northern edge of the Bone Valley.  Here you’ll visit the Mulberry Phosphate museum.  Part of this museum is located in former boxcars.  You’ll see cars, a caboose and an 1880 Steam Locomotive that was found by accident in 2012 by an excavation crew along with the history of phosphate and the mining industry.  On the way back to Orlando you’ll have a drive by tour of the Mosaic Ridgewood plant.  There’s plenty to see on this tour.

TECO Street Car Lines

P5302  August 3, 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM  Price: $50

In their heyday, Tampa's streetcars whisked passengers to and from Ybor City, Ballast Point, Hyde Park, Sulphur Springs and points beyond. Operated by uniformed conductors, the Birney cars were a welcome sight, and the familiar clang of the streetcar bell was music to the ears. To ride the streetcar was to feel the pulse of the community. Tampa's first electric streetcar lines built in 1892 quickly became an essential part of everyday life as workers took the streetcar downtown and to the cigar factories of west Tampa. And families climbed aboard for a picnic or ball game in DeSoto and Macfarlane parks. Reaching the peak of its popularity in the 1920s with almost 24 million passengers in 1926, Tampa's streetcar system rolled to a stop in August 1946 following World War II.

Today, electric streetcars are back in Tampa, supporting continued growth in Downtown, Channelside and Ybor City. The first phase of the TECO Line Streetcar System is a 2.4 mile section that connects these three areas, improving transportation capacity, supporting Tampa’s thriving cruise industry and transporting workers to and from their jobs. The first part of the second phase of the system is an extension that extends the system north on Franklin Street to Whiting Street and the Fort Brooke parking garage. It connects the more than 35,000 people who work in the downtown area to almost every major downtown parking structure.

Amtrak's Autotrain

P2303  July 31, 6:00 AM – 12:00 AM  Price: $60   Limited to 24 people
P2305  July 31, 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM  Price: $60   Limited to 24 people

Auto-Train Corporation's service began operations on December 6, 1971. The Auto-Train was immediately popular with the traveling public and at first enjoyed financial success as well.  In FY 1974 the company earned a profit of $1.6 million on revenues of $20 million.

In May 1974 service began over a second route between Florida and Louisville, Kentucky, and the company was mulling additional service between Chicago and Denver.  The Louisville extension proved to be the company's undoing.  The decaying Louisville and Nashville Railroad track between Louisville and Florida (which also hampered Amtrak's Floridian) hindered operations, and a pair of derailments stretched the company's finances to the breaking point. Service ceased in April 1981.  It would be 22 months before Amtrak would revive the service.

The current Auto Train operated by Amtrak operates on the same routes using the same stations.  It is scheduled train service for passengers and their automobiles between Lorton, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.), and Sanford, Florida (near Orlando). The Auto Train is the only north–south Amtrak train in the east that uses Superliner cars.  The Auto Train service allows its passengers to avoid driving Interstate 95 in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, while bringing their own vehicle with them.  The Auto Train has the highest revenue of any long-distance train in the Amtrak system.

Come and get a sneak peek at the longest passenger train in the world, Amtrak's AutoTrain.  On this tour, you'll discover how Amtrak's AutoTrain moves people and their vehicles, every day of the year between Lorton, VA and Sanford, FL.  You get a private tour of the train yard and station facilities, see the auto ramps where they load & unload passenger’s vehicles and discover why this train is an important part of Amtrak’s fleet.

The Florida Railroad Museum

P4301 August 2, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM  Price: $70   Limited to 48 People
P4301C August 2, 8:30 AM – 4:00 PM  Price: $105   Limited to 4 People

The Florida Railroad Musuem is an 11 mile roundtrip through some untouched land in Manatee County.

The line is part of the original Seaboard Air Line mainline between Plant City and Fort Myers.  The right of way is was purchased by Florida Power and Light to serve their Manatee County Generating Station when SAL abandoned the line in the 1970's after the SAL Merger with the Atlantic Coast Line.  FPL leases the right of way to the museum.

The Florida Railroad Museum right of way terminates in their yard in Willow, FL, 6½ miles north of their departure station in Parrish, FL.  In Willow they have built a replica of a standard small town Seaboard Air Line passenger station.  The NMRA Prototype Tour to The Florida Railroad Museum will allow riders to get off the train and explore their maintenance shops and other pieces of rolling stock.  Discover just what it takes to keep an "experienced" railroad fleet serving 30,000 passengers annually running four times every weekend.

We are offering 4 cab rides on this tour.