Script writer Peter Hansen, Bonnie Hansen, production assistant, videographer Marc Ricciardi and I certainly
got to know I-95 and I-4 very well traveling from Jacksonville to Miami to Tampa over a period of 11 days.Our mission was to interview24 individuals, including historians and passengers, plus crew
members who worked on pre-Amtrak trains. Although the focus of the program will feature pre-Amtrak trains that served Florida from the northeast and midwestern states, we also shot video of current operations such as Tri-Rail (Miami-West PalmBeach) and
Sun Rail (Orlando-Deland service). The real bonus of the trip was a chance to have a first-hand look at the new Brightrail train set in West Palm Beach.
Brightrail will certainly raise the bar for higher speed trains in the United States. Their interior offers either 2+2 or 2+1 leather seating with large picture windows. We also covered Amtrak’s Auto Train operation in Sanford. Video of other Amtrak Florida trains was on our list as well.
Our 1,600-mile trip took us to Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Palatka, Palm Beach,West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Miami,Hollywood,Winter Park, Tampa, Parrish, Sanford, and Winter Haven before we returned to Jacksonville.
We had the pleasure of not only interviewing Seth Bramson but also having access to his vast collection.
Thomas Graham (Flagler College) provided a complete history of Henry Flagler, while Heather Brown of
the Plant Museum gave an in-depth look at the other Henry,Henry Plant. Bill Howes shared memories of
Florida train travels; Larry Goolsby gave a wonderful overview of Florida train services; Florida Special train
hostess Pam Coalson described her duties on that famous train; Jim Herron of the Florida Railroad Museum
spoke about several of the cars at the museum.
Other folks we interviewed were Walter Zullig, Randy Noles (author of a book about the song,Orange Blossom
Special), and Paul Butler (Florida agriculture). Original Auto-Train folks or fans included Lisa Leightly (hostess),
Todd Brown and Marcus Nutt. Jonathan Nelson and Charles Dunn were interviewed in Miami.
Our stop at the Boca Raton Historical Society gave us interviews with Diane Borchardt, Susan Gills and Norman
Sheffield. In other interviews,Doug Riddell shared his knowledge about the original Auto-Train, Jack Heard provided some
information regarding the Jackie Gleason Special, artist Robert West spoke about his railroad paintings,
and Peter Mazzeo told of his boyhood experiences riding the Florida trains. Tracy Kamerer and David Carson of the
Flagler Museum provided some insights on Henry Flagler. As you can see, it was a busy but productive trip.