Train Service Takes Visitors Across Florida

For those who want to get to Florida by train, Florida has legacy of overnight sleeper trains that include The Silver Meteor and Auto-Train. For those who would rather not drive, Florida has some fixed-rail transportation, though most suburban areas are not well served.

European visitors will appreciate the frequent bus service; overnight sleeper trains, while infrequent and slow, harken back to an earlier era and are thankfully old school.

On board Amtrak trains, the staff is well trained, pleasant and helpful, though it all has the air of the unionized staffs that remind one of Socialist Britain in the 1970s. Take advantage of Amtrak while it lasts.

Auto-Train, Other Options

Florida also has train service that includes Amtrak’s Auto-Train. Auto-Train, which started as a private company in the 1970s, allows Florida visitors to bring their cars. The ride down from Virginia includes meals, movies and an observation car.

Regional commuter service in South Florida, called Tri-Rail, serves the Palm Beach to Miami corridor. While it only runs certain hours, it will get you back and forth and keep you off the interstate. Jacksonville and Miami have monorail commuter service; Tampa has a restored streetcar system. Most bus systems, all easy to use, allow visitors to bring bicycles.

Theme parks show another sort of enthusiasm for fixed rail. The Walt Disney World monorail is one of the world’s most famous and successful. Riding it is free while heading to The Magic Kingdom and back to hotels. Both Busch Gardens and Walt Disney World have toy trains. A few options:

Traditional Rail Service

  • Tri-Rail runs commuter service from West Palm Beach to Miami.
  • Amtrak runs a number of trains across the north of Florida and from New York to Miami and Tampa. Most trains have Pullman or couchette cars and full service dining rooms. Trains include The Silver Meteor and The Silver Star (The Palmetto now no longer goes all the way to Florida). For $249, Florida residents can get a Florida Rail Pass, which allows unlimited passage on all Florida Amtrak trains. It’s a deal.
  • Auto Train is an Amtrak train that runs from Lorton, Virginia, just south of the District of Columbia to Sanford, Florida. It runs each day, each direction, with two different train sets.

Real World Excursion Railroads

  • The Seminole Gulf Railway runs excursion trains in Southwest Florida in Fort Myers.
  • The Inland Lakes Railway in Eustis runs a number of excursion trains including the Orlando Magic Express, Great Pumpkin Limited, Magnolia Sun Lunch Train, Italian Star Dinner Train and Santa’s Winter Wonderland Express. They run in Eustis, Mount Dora and Tavares near Orlando.
  • Near Ellenton in the tiny town of Parrish, there is an excursion railroad called the Florida Railroad Museum. Click HERE to see a video.

Monorails and Streetcars

Freight Railroads

  • Norfolk Southern
  • CSX is the major railroad in Florida, formed from the merger of the Chessie System, Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line. While it no longer runs passenger trains (DRAT) it does run the very special Boca Bay Pass Club in Boca Grande, Florida. The Pass Club is built on an old Seaboard freight complex right on the Gulf of Mexico on the island Boca Grande, and the club is run by the CSX resort The Greenbrier.
  • Florida East Coast Railway, founded by Henry Flagler, still runs up and down the East Coast, mostly along Route 1. It runs RIGHT through the middle of town, so European tourists, who rarely see grade crossings these days, love to take photos of the trains slamming right through the middle of Main Street.