Then and Now in Clearwater

I’ve been visiting Clearwater, Fla., since 1976 when my parents and sister moved to nearby Largo.

In the early 1970s, Amtrak carded three trains to St. Petersburg. These included the Floridian from Chicago, and the Champion and Silver Meteor from New York. The Floridian and Silver Star also had Miami sections that split off in Jacksonville or Auburndale.

It’s been a downhill slide for passenger train service in this area. The Floridian and Champion were discontinued in a massive October 1979 route restructuring.

Amtrak ceased serving St. Petersburg on Jan. 31, 1984, in favor of trains terminating in Tampa with a bus connection. That’s when I started flying down there instead of taking a train.

Although most of the track through Clearwater remains, it is only used by a CSX local.

The former Seaboard Air Line station was turned into a hot dog shop, but that was driven out due to someone with connections in the Clearwater city government wanting the property for a 7-Eleven store. The hot dog shop was demolished in 2003 and soon after that the 7-Eleven was built. Some call that “progress” I guess.

In the top photo, Amtrak’s northbound Floridian pulls up for the station stop in Clearwater in August 1977. You always knew when it was “train time” when the station personnel put out the traffic cones. On the point is an SDP40F.

The bottom photo shows the same view taken in February 2012. That’s the back wall of the 7-Eleven sitting where the station was. Once again it seems some poles have survived the years along with the rails, but most everything else has changed.

Article and Photograph by Roger Durfee

In this consummate Florida photo, one of my all-time favorite shots I've taken down there, this southbound is just moments away from the station stop in Clearwater as it crosses a wood trestle in the middle of a golf course. SDP40Fs 601 and 607 are dodging a late afternoon storm in July 1978.

SDP40F No. 606 pulls into Clearwater with the southbound "Silver Star" in January 1979. That's the old SAL freight depot off to the left, complete with semaphore style order boards. That freight house will be gone in a couple of years, replaced with new office buildings built on this prime downtown property. While the track is still in and used (by one CSX local a day), Amtrak is long gone from Clearwater.

Here is the "train" at Clearwater on March 27, 1993. Looks like the station got a new coat of brown trim paint with the money saved by not coming around the bay from Tampa.

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One Response to “Then and Now in Clearwater”

  1. johnl Says:

    Great post, I love the look of this old station and I’m thinking of recreating it in ho scale. Would anyone be able to tell me where the spur track in the foreground of the station picture with 608 goes to? I haven’t been able to locate a track plan for this station yet.

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