02 June, 2008


A new feature of lost transportation around the America's

Quick where is it? Anyone know? Anyone care? What is it? It is a General Electric 44 Ton Center Cab switcher in Navy gray. Now? Okay. When the Jacksonville Traction Company built it's Interurban line out to Black Point on the St. Johns River in what was then Camp Johnston, it was far out in the Country. Things could have been much, much worse. The original property for what is now NAS JAX was at Camp Blanding! The Army was content to make a land swap for some property closer to a major port and rail center turning 1/2 of Camp Blanding into a State Park and Forrest. Thus the current site of NAS. The Yukon Baptist Church (still standing across from the base) was moved from the Black Point Community. Other houses were removed to Yukon, or what was then known as Dewey Park. The Atlantic Coast Line built a wooden station at Yukon, a twin of the one in Orange Park. (Oddly the Orange Park Station was torn down years ago but the Yukon depot was moved to a private business location on the East side of the hill just South of the Orange Park Mall, off Blanding). The Dough boys had only 2 ways to get out to the base with any reliable transit. Five or six ACL trains each way a day dropped whole companies of recruits at Yukon depot. Finally the Trolleys reached the base, and not only gave the boys a way into town, but a ride every 15 minutes for a quarter! When the tracks came up after the great Streetcar Conspiracy of GM - Firestone - Standard Oil infamy wiped away our transit lines, the Navy moved onto the old Trolley tracks. For the next 40-50 years the base expanded and worked it's very own self contained railroad system. Nobody ever knew the North Gate access, which ran along the front of the hangers and exited through the new "Truck gate", was part of the Trolley system. Military Intelligence being an oxymoron, the Navy decided to abandon the old railroad system and by the 2000 it was but a memory. The locals will always remember it as "The Navy Train" and part of it's route even ran in front of the base for a mile or so and passed on the East side of the Yukon Depot. Freight was interchanged with the ACL. Often sensitive cargo would have passenger cars or cabooses full of armed marines on either end of the "mystery cargo". For all the Millions of times I talked to the crew, rode the Navy engine, and was even presented with a map of the "system" by a base commander, I never took a photo. NOT ONE! My map is long lost and so is my own special little railroad. Like thousands of others that dot the country, it died just 20 years before it was needed again. Sad our hindsight is always 20/20. This artistic version is as good as it gets. And YES, if YOU have a photo or memorbilia from our "Navy Train" please contact me, it would mean a lot.

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The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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