Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Passenger Train Could Return

August 16, 2012


Amtrak’s Sunset Limited passenger train, which ran from New Orleans through Pensacola to Jacksonville before Hurricane Katrina, may once again travel the rails.

On Thursday, Gulf Coast officials will meet to discuss moving closer to the return of passenger rail service to the area. In all, more than 40 mayors, lawmakers and representatives will attend a summit in Mobile.  When they are done, the group hopes to have a proposal to present  to Amtrak and Congress.

Prior to Katrina, the Sunset Limited stopped in Atmore before heading south through North Escambia for a stop in Pensacola. Due to track damage by Hurricane Katrina, service ended east of New Orleans. But those tracks have been repaired and are currently supporting freight service.

The Escambia County Commission passed a resolution earlier this year in support of returning passenger rail service for several reasons. The resolution pointed out that the Pensacola area is isolated with no train service and no passenger connection to the rest of the nation. The commission also said that the Sunset Limited would create economic opportunities for Escambia County.

While a New Orleans to Jacksonville Sunset Limited route would include a stop in Pensacola, it is not yet known if the Atmore stop would be restored.  A 2009 report indicated that it would cost $740,147 to demolish the Atmore station and replace it with a new station that meets current Americans with Disabilities Act  (ADA) requirements.

Documents obtained by show that very few people — less than an average of three per week — ever boarded the Sunset Limited in Atmore. In 2003, there were 223 that boarded the passenger rail service in Atmore; 292 in 2004; and 255 prior to the service’s end in August  2005.

Pictured top: The train station in Atmore has not seen a passenger train since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. file photo, click to enlarge.


39 Responses to “Amtrak’s Sunset Limited Passenger Train Could Return”

  1. Glenda F. Dees on February 2nd, 2016 1:34 pm

    Please bring the train back to Pen. Fla . I’d love to travel . Not able to travel by car . Live alone too.

  2. R. Vail on November 27th, 2015 11:22 pm

    I’d prefer to see more attention paid to getting the long distance Amtrak passenger trains running punctually. If that requires adding “passenger train priority” on newly built adjacent tracks, then persuade Congress to spend the money to accomplish that. However, I’d also like to see an East Coast Florida train that commutes between Miami-West Palm-Melbourne-Cocoa-Daytona-St.Augustine-Jacksonville, whether it’s Amtrak or some other provider.

  3. Marie Marquez on November 9th, 2015 7:10 pm

    Please return the Sunset Limited back to Pensacola Florida. I relocated from Miami to Pensacola 3 years ago I am used to traveling with Amtrak would like to see it restart here please pleasee make Pensacola one of your stops thank you.

  4. mal pilkington on August 11th, 2015 7:00 pm

    I am an Australian and I travelled Amtrak in 1999 circumnavigating the USA by rail.
    The most enjoy able trip was from Orlando to Los Angeles on the Sunset Limited.
    In 2013 My wife and I decided to Visit the USA and Canada by Train. We wanted to go up the west coast into Canada on amtrak then travel to Toronto with Via then Amtrak to New York and down To Orlando across to New Orleans and up to Memphis (she is a Elvis fan) on to Chicago; Grand Canyon; LA and back to Perth.
    But that never happened as Katrina put an end to that so we opted to do NYC to Chicago to Memphis to Chicago to Grand Canyon to LA.
    Hopefully when we return to The USA in 2019 the Sunset Limited will be Running from Miami to LA and we can fore fill our dream.

  5. Vickie on November 16th, 2014 9:29 pm

    Yes, please bring Amtrak back to the Florida Panhandle! Somethings never go out of style so please bring the beauty of a train back to our area. It would be wonderful to plan a family day trip on the SUNSET!

  6. nancy reeves on June 4th, 2014 9:21 am

    This would be absolutely great. It would be a sound idea to bring more tourism to the Pensacola area and more jobs. I would use it, so would my family and lots of my friends. More people than ever would use Amtrak today.

  7. KB on November 14th, 2013 1:13 am

    Please bring Amtrak back to the Florida Panhandle! We need a station in the Pensacola / Fort Walton Beach area so badly. Also, ties across the rest of the Southeast to Jacksonville, connecting North to Atlanta, etc…. We are so isolated and our travel choices are so limited. We are held at the mercy of the high priced airlines. Not everyone is able to drive. If you are, be thankful. You may not need the trains. Sometimes, it’s not about the money : ( : ( Please bring them back.

  8. Slb on August 17th, 2013 1:50 pm

    What a benefit it would be to have the line restored. Much too difficult to get to the southeastern coast by train with current service. Hope it returns!

  9. Ethel McGaw on June 17th, 2013 9:22 am

    I hope progress have been made in restoring the complete service to the sunset limited, from LA to Orlando. My husband and I both enjoy traveling by rail. It is convenient for us and lot of people that we know enjoy traveling by train.

  10. Ormon Keathley on April 28th, 2013 3:58 pm

    I think that bringing passenger service back through Pensacola to Jacksonville and behold would be great! I would definitely use Amtrak if it came through Pensacola! throught to Jacksonville! Travel four to five time a year between Jacksonville and New Orlans, along with four other employee.

  11. Bob Lee on January 25th, 2013 7:05 pm

    If Amtrak was smart they would apply for exemptions to the ADA laws because quite a few stations seem to be of a historic nature and to destroy them seems a shame…If the stations were good enough for our parents or Grandparents, they should be good enough for us…

  12. sam beaver on September 2nd, 2012 8:07 pm

    well, i certainly could use this service. i hope they bring back passenger trains for Pensacola and the routes of old.

  13. O. Amundsen. Jr. on August 20th, 2012 11:56 am

    Unlike some comments above, I have enjoyed ten years of travel by train in the US aboard Amtrak: passenger rail travel can be great, going downtown center to downtown center. Amtrak is not especially the best operator of passenger rail but it is all we have got at this time. Ten to one, none of the ill served riders above ever complained to their Congress people or wrote to Amtrak, after all US citizens are the owners of Amtrak!

  14. Susan on August 18th, 2012 9:25 pm

    Amtrak is great if you are retired and can take a leisurely trip. They will never be fast while they share the freight lines. The ideal situation would be for them to be able to build their own tracks. Probably will not happen. Voters wanted high speed rail in Florida but our governor turned down the money for it.

  15. TZM on August 17th, 2012 12:03 pm

    The train that ran through Pensacola before Ivan was always very late coming and going. As several have posted, Amtrak will yield to the freight trains and too many small town stops. It was not a very efficent way to travel and not near as scenic as one would think.

  16. Mnon on August 17th, 2012 7:36 am

    That would be so great to have Amtrak back in the area. I wanted to take the Amtrak to the west coast on my honeymoon, getting a sleeper car, but discovered Amtrak doesn’t run around here any longer. One of my best times was riding from Atmore to L.A. on that train, you see back country, and areas untouched since the tracks were laid. Fun, beautiful and it’s CHEAP!

  17. Panama city stop on August 17th, 2012 1:07 am

    I would love a stop in most of the metro areas along the coast. Especially NOLA, Mobile, Pensacola, Panama city, etc. that’s what creates commerce and boosts tourism. Let’s stop talkin and do it! :) agreed?

  18. Ted Meberg on August 16th, 2012 11:54 pm

    Every civilized country has viable inter-ciity passenger rail service. More funding for AMTRAK, and less for highways would bring us more in line with the rest of the civilized world.

  19. baebae on August 16th, 2012 8:50 pm

    We cant afford it…it will not in anyway HELP Atmore or any other community…its just an expensive government funded excursion train…it causes the freight trains to clog up with long delays waiting for this monster to speed by as the people wave to the train…HEY HEY HEY….they say…there goes AMTRAK…Whoopeedee
    If it were a money maker….it would be here now…remember back in Sept 1993
    ….47 people were killed when it derailed in the Mobile swamp….ask their family members what they think of AMTRAK….As far as the government running it..they cant even run a post office…and we want them to run a railroad ??…NOT GONNA HAPPEN !!!
    Dont want it…dont need it…dont mention it …

  20. James Broel on August 16th, 2012 7:06 pm

    We taxpayers can’t afford another gimme just because mayor type people want it…maybe if we cut military spending.

  21. MEL on August 16th, 2012 7:05 pm

    Unless the service has improved, I wouldn’t use the train again. I went to New Orleans on Amtrak for the weekend. Thought it would be wonderful. On the way to New Orleans we constantly were stopping to let freight trains go by. Our arrival was late to New Orleans, but got to our hotel and had a great time in New Orleans.
    For the trip back the train was delayed several hours. My girlfriend had to be back to work that Monday morning and we thought we would be ok, but when we pulled into the Atmore station, the bank where she worked was already open and she was just getting off the train.
    So unless the train service runs on time, I for one would not support having Amtrak return.
    I have ridden the trains in Europe and there is not comparison. If the trains ran like the ones in Europe I would be leading the pack to get them to reinstate the Amtrak service.

  22. ms on August 16th, 2012 5:47 pm

    I am all for this! I rode the Amtrak once and had to rent a car to get to New Orleans. It would be awesome to be able to get on right in Atmore.

  23. Sharon Collins on August 16th, 2012 5:44 pm

    I think it would be a boost for travel. Even if it cost more, it still beats what we are paying foe fuel . A nice way to sit back, relax and see the countryside.
    Flomaton would be a great place for a station and help that end of the counties in AL and FL.

  24. Safebear on August 16th, 2012 4:39 pm

    I agree that the money spent to restart Amtrak could be better spent. However, if people are so dead set to get this going, why couldn’t Flomaton be considered for the Amtrak Station. This is where the train would take it’s southbound turn – I mean Flomaton was “Pensacola Junction” before it was Flomaton. This would move the station more to the populated centers of Escambia County (AL) and would be more convienient for people in Brewton to catch it. Wind Creek could still support it and maybe run a shuttle to the station to meet the train as well. No one would have to destroy the Atmore station just to build another and money would be saved because a new construction would be less expensive.

    I like riding the train as well and for those saying the train should go to Orlando, it already goes to Tampa and the State of Florida shot down the train that they were planning between Tampa and Orlando (I think) – you just have to change trains in Jacksonville or Tallahassee to go south and it runs all the way to Miami.

  25. c.w. on August 16th, 2012 2:12 pm

    Does any of you know how much incentive money amtrak get each year? Its in the millions and most tax payers know nothing about it. Just like the city buses in Pensacola, its tax payer supported to be used by a very few.

  26. JH on August 16th, 2012 12:48 pm

    Being a previous passenger of Amtrack, I’m in support of it.

    Back when I lived in Portland Or, I use to take it to Seattle Wa to visit my mother. It was much cheaper then taking an Airplane, and more luxurious then taking Greyhound. At the time that I used it the most my eldest daughter was just a baby, and I can tell you its much more accommodating for families with children under 5.

    When taking the train I opted for my own cabin, so that could take care of my daughters needs in private. On a Airplane or Bus you can’t: Create a place for them to take an undisturbed nap, change them with out having to use a tiny bathroom stall, breastfeed them with out someone potentially causing a ruckus about an exposed feeding tool, or give them a space to play.

    Another family friendly thing about the Train, when they get older and restless you can walk about the train, maybe go to the dinning car, or lounge and observation cars.

    If your going across country or overnight, get a cabin and you’ll have a “moving hotel”.

    Does Amtrak not realize the potential they have with making this a Family Friendly Favorite to Disney World? Who wants to sit in the car with their kids for a day or two or three having to stop every hour to use the bathroom, every 4 hours to eat, or every night to sleep. Why not get a cabin or two, leave the driving to the Conductor, and entertain/educate your kids along the way?

    Pensacola International Airport could partner up as well with Amtrak! For those who live to the West and Mid-West of us, they can fly into Pensacola, catch the shuttle to the Amtrak station, and begin their Family Friendly Land Cruise to Disney World or the Orlando Area.

    Wind Creek Casino could offer A Trip For 4 To:

    - Pensacola Beach
    - Panama City Beach
    - Tallahassee
    - Jacksonville
    - Orlando, or take optional trips via shuttle to Tampa / St. Petersburg / Ft. Myers / Cape Coral / West Palm Beach / Fort Lauderdale / Maimi / Key West

    This could bring Ghost Towns along the way back to life. Providing jobs to many.

  27. Califonian on August 16th, 2012 10:34 am

    I WOULD RIDE IT! And I would rather have my taxpayer dollars go to something that I can use rather than waste it on phony wars, bailing out crooked financiers, paying benefits for those who are here illegally, etc.

  28. Susan on August 16th, 2012 10:32 am

    We loved traveling on the train! Please bring it back!

  29. TrainRider on August 16th, 2012 9:29 am

    Back when AMTRAK came thru Pensacola we thought it would be a great experience to ride to NO, spend the weekend and return. The reality was that we sat on a siding in the Mobile swamp for 8 hours waiting for the CSX freights to clear because CSX owns the track, AMTRAK just pays to use it and has no priority. That was on a Friday. On Monday, we went to the NO AMTRAK station to be told that the train headed east would be delayed by 2 or 3 days. We had no choice but to ride the bus back to Pensacola because there were no rental cars available. Passenger trains are not practical outside of major metropolitan areas and high traffic corridors. We do not need more government subsidized, inefficient endeavors.

  30. Katherine on August 16th, 2012 8:50 am

    I think that bringing passenger service back through Pensacola would be great! I would definitely use Amtrak if it came through Pensacola!!

  31. Bob on August 16th, 2012 8:47 am

    Restoring the train from Tallahassee to New Orleans is not practical. The previous train had low ridership because of poor scheduling and general poor service. However, should the local casino wish to fully support a train why not. It is the American dream to have safe, trusted, and cheap transportation to go to your place of gamble!

  32. Rufus Lowgun on August 16th, 2012 8:44 am

    Restoring the Sunset Limited line would be fantastic. Day trips to New Orleans? Tallahassee, Jacksonville? Sign me up. To privatization fans, keep in mind that the private companies who have proposed taking over certain Amtrak routes or services make their doing so contingent on the government guaranteeing their profits (much like the CCA and GEO group make taking over Florida state prisons contingent on the state government guaranteeing a 90% occupancy rate). If we are going to be on the hook for the costs anyway, I’d rather see it run by government, where there is nominal accountability (via elections) in how they are run, than run by a private corporation with zero accountability to the taxpayer.

  33. Bob on August 16th, 2012 8:42 am

    Restoring the train from Tallahassee to New Orleans does not seem practical in any sense. Poor ridership, and poorer service were the normal. On the other hand, local service for the casino, supported by the casino could work. People need to have cheap and trusted transportation to gamble. It is the American dream!

  34. PSU1Earl on August 16th, 2012 8:36 am

    I would seriously consider it to go to N.O…. I don’t think I would ever use the Jax leg though… Maybe to Orlando would be better…

  35. boat captain tom on August 16th, 2012 8:32 am

    I think it would be a great idea……..As far as taxes to help support this venture, I find it hard to believe the government would not spend this money on something else. You can bet they won’t return it to the public as “access” government money.

  36. Steve Prichard on August 16th, 2012 8:21 am

    I expect increasing fuel costs to drive more individuals to utilize alternative methods of travel such as Amtrak. As far as the anticipated $750K needed for a new ADA compliant terminal, I would suggest attempting to partner with WindCreek. The casino is definetely substantal enough to warrant an Atmore Amtrak destination.

  37. BOGIAN on August 16th, 2012 8:14 am

    This would really be fantastic. I suspect it would see plenty of riders, particularly because gas prices have gotten out of hand since Katrina.

  38. jim brown on August 16th, 2012 8:05 am

    I think more people would use amtrak today/i think it would be great if it came back

  39. c.w. on August 16th, 2012 7:22 am

    Who supports Amtrak? Amtrak eats up tax payers money by the millions. Riders pay very little but everyone pays for them to ride the train. Another waste of tax money!