Atlantic Coast "Air" Line ?? : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

There have been many speculations and opinions of the meaning of “Air Line,” within the Seaboard corporate name. First of all, as a loyal son from the ACL side of the family, it really had no meaning, nor abided any curiosity for me. Still doesn’t.

Admittedly prejudiced from the SAL’s use of funny colors for it’s engines, depot’s, and section houses, not to mention the uniquely different styles of engines, I try to keep an open mind. The round tank style tenders used on the SAL, were an obvious and glaring difference, until I saw my first ACL “2000” series engine in 1948.

Alas, with the passage of time differences seem to blur. Even now, the “Air Line,” name for a railroad still piques the curiosity of many folks. Perhaps the Atlantic Coast Line should also have rated a similar designation. After reading this vignette of history, you may agree.

Turn back time about 40 years when a first class mail stamp was 4 cents and airmail stamps were 7 cents. Yes, it was not until 1975, that the “Air Mail” service was abolished and all first class mail traveled by “Air Lines.” Air Mail, was a separate and distinct mode of transporting mail.

Quietly and with out fanfare, the ACL was carrying on a regular basis, separate and distinct pouches of “Air Mail” by passenger train. At least in 1960, it was!

The outbound U.S. Air Mail, from Winter Park, Florida, was put on ACL, Southbound Train-91, and taken off a few short minutes later at the Orlando depot, for a quick trip to the airport.

Hmmm, Seaboard Air line…. Atlantic Coast “Air” Line?? What do you think? Did the SAL, haul sorted and sealed “Air Mail” pouches?

Curtis E. Denmark Jr.

-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (, February 21, 2002


I think the topic might just be too risky. The thing that I have always enjoyed about our Q&A forum and about our society more than anything else has been the sharing of factual information. We have been able, thus far, to keep it very informative, very profesional,unopinionated, and very "clean." I truly believe that the main reason it has been that way, thus far, is due to the strong position of our webmaster and others of keeping it that way. I, for one, have enjoyed it that way; not that I am afraid to debate, I just do not believe that an e-mail debate approach is acceptable. Let's face it, we all get poor in our grammer, spelling, and punctuation in e-mail. How in the world can we have good debate etiquite in an e- mail approach. I have seen many e-mail forums (and groups) that have gotten so off focus in on line "debates" that by the time it was over, one could hardly tell whether the real topic was trains, politics, religion, or airplanes!

Let's please not ruin what we have had here for a good while. We can all come up with reasons (valid, invalid, biased, and irrevelent) why ACL was better than SAL, why SAL was better than ACL, etc. etc. etc......! So what!

I, for one, if I see it happening here, will cease to check this forum on a daily basis. I will not pose questions nor answer them. Will I be the one to lose? Probably. But, if our Q & A forum turns into some three ring, mud throwing circus like so many others out there, then I will have lost what I enjoyed anyway.

Am I taking this too far? Maybe so, but what I have seen so many times in these forums were simple little jabs that due to being on line people loose their manners and the thing gets out of control and out of focus.

Let's not do it folks! I think Eric's comment was very much in line:

E N O U G H !!!!!!!!!!

Raymond Smith

-- Raymond Smith (, February 23, 2002.


You can delete all of my posts in this thread if you want to.

I understand that some people reading this forum lived through the days of rivalry between the ACL and SAL, the merger and its aftermath. I don't mean to dredge up bad memories for them.

However, this is a society dedicated to documenting and preserving the history of these two great roads. Just like the trains the lines once ran, both the good natured ribbing and the genuine bad blood are a real part of that history.

I submit that what exactly happened, how the people who experienced it felt at the time and the way their feelings may have changed over the decades could be legitimate topics for discussion if the participants were able to respect each other and to refrain from ad homonym attacks.

The merits of such a discussion are that it could capture an oral history that will otherwise certainly be lost, it would be educational for those of us who were not there, and that it is consistent with the mission of the society.

This is a demanding topic, though. I suppose I am wondering if we as a group think we are up to the task or if we instead think this is just too risky.

-- Ron. Wright (, February 23, 2002.

Some of this has got to come all got way too silly. Please advise what stays and what goes. Thank you.

The Webmaster

-- Buck Dean (, February 23, 2002.

Vic, Enough

-- Eric Corse (, February 22, 2002.

Did the straight line between Hamlet and Wilmington contribute to the "air line" designation?


-- raymond smith (, February 22, 2002.

If the Seaboard owned a large amount of straight track,I sure would love to see it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- V.L.Lewis (, February 22, 2002.


I have read the Seaboard "Air Line" actually got its name from the large amount of straight track it owned. Back in the early part of the 1900's, the phrase "Air Line" came about because they figured the line was just as straight as if you drew a line through the air. At least that is what I understand it to be. I am sure the gentlemen here can tell us alot more about the history of the name than I.


Dan Edwards

-- Daniel T. Edwards (, February 22, 2002.

Ron, I appreciate your comments very much. We both had a bit of tongue implanted in cheek, regarding the colors.

Ron, over my years of being born into a poor railroad family, the good natured rivalry between the SAL & ACL was just that. Good natured. A young lad living in section houses adjacent to the tracks bonds with "his" railroad. Much as the son of a SAL employee would. When one lives in isolation in section houses, a child tends to adopt his railroad as a mini-society and family.

Many times I went with my dad to visit his counterpart, the Orlando, SAL section foreman (Mr. Howard). My dad good naturedly ribbed him about after the merger the first thing the ACL would do was run a work train to pick up the SAL rail that was spotted about every five miles along their right of way.

During our year in the Bartow section house (1948) I spent many an hour with the SAL operators at the mechanical interlocking where the two lines crossed. Since the inception of the two roads, there was a friendly rivalry, even to when I hired out in 1960, and chunked the Airmail onto the passenger trains, and later, in the ACL signal department, jointly worked with SAL signal gangs at interlockings.

Ironically, when my dad died, the 40 year service pin that the undertaker removed from his suit before the casket was closed, and presented to me, bore "Seaboard Coast Line."

Our family spans the JT&KW railroad to the SCL. The many small things I saw and heard were real small tidbits of history that few would ever know. Such as the German P.O.W.'s that worked on my dad's section gang during the war.

Needless to say, I apologize for any toes that I stepped on.... It never was my intent to be controversial. Obviously, your toes were not trampled on.

Again, your accurate interpretation soothes the scorching.....



-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (, February 21, 2002.

I'd rather be slaped in the face for my railroad to even be remotely associated with those seaboard hillbillies!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

-- V.L.Lewis (, February 21, 2002.

Curtis's post is ironic, humorous and cleverly developed. I suppose his goal was tell people something they might not already know using subtle techniques. Here is how I would explicate it.

He starts his post by recalling the question we have all seen a thousand times "Why'd they call it 'Air Line' when trains don't fly?' We all know the story, so he doesn't retell it, but the question is ironic point number one. There is also a bit of foreshadowing that will only be revealed in the final paragraph.

Then Curtis professes to uninterested in the question because he is an ACL kind of guy. He refers to Seaboard colors as "funny," which I took as an allusion to the Citrus Scheme, although he may well have intended another scheme and other readers likely thought of other chemes as well. That was just my personal take.

Perhaps the idea of a "fruity" paint scheme built on lemons, limes and oranges sounded "funny" to the brass at SAL at first, too, but we all know the actual paint scheme was one of the most beautiful ever seen. Ironic point number two.

Then Curtis reveals the main premise of his post, which is perhaps ACL should have added "Air Line" to its name, too. Why, Curtis?

Because in 1960 the ACL was "quietly and without fanfare" loading air mail envelopes in Winter Park and hauling them the few miles to the Orlando depot, where they were taken off and put on trucks to be driven to the airport. I find this point, which I did not know before, to be the most ironic and the most intriguing of all the points Curtis made in his post.

It recalled to my mind both O. Winston Link's famous "Three Modes of Transportation" photo, with its juxtaposition of air, rail and auto, and the opening scene in Jamie Uys' film "The Gods Must Be Crazy," where a woman backs her car down her driveway, posts a letter in the mailbox and drives back to the garage.

Then Curtis closes with a final humerous question (ironic point number four): Did the railroad with "Air Line" in its name actually ever haul any "Air Mail" ? I suspect it did, possibly under circumstances equally as fantastic as those in the ACL example.

This question is neatly constructed device, because readers know Curtis understands what "Air Line" means. He established that in the first paragraph, so there is no danger that this wordplay will be misunderstood.

After rereading both, I like Curtis's post much better than my reply and I won't bother to explain it, unless someone wants me to.

Thanks, Curtis.

-- Ron. Wright (, February 21, 2002.

I think I agree with the Webmaster's question and I think my mind is asking the same thing as he; anyway my question is: "Is there a point, and what is that point?"

-- Raymond Smith (, February 21, 2002.

Ummmm....the ever vigilant webmeister would like to know where this is going? =)

-- Buck Dean (, February 21, 2002.

I'm neutral and have no preference between the "Lines." Coast or Air, I like 'em both equally.

But the fact is one road enjoyed painting things purple at the same time the other picked its colors from the produce section at the grocery store.

So now with the phrase "funny colors" do we have a case of the pot noticing that the kettle is, in fact, black? :^>

A Fan of Both

-- Ron. Wright (, February 21, 2002.

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