Clinchfield 800's winter vacation to Florida

Posted by Jim Wrinn
on Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Appalachian Mountains, where the Clinchfield Railroad operated, was a place of heavily forested mountains, dense hardwood forests, and rushing whitewater streams. The environment last week in which I found the railroad’s most famous diesel locomotive, F7 No. 800, was much different. It was a relatively flat expanse of land with numerous lakes. The exhaust tossled palm tree leaves and tickled the Spanish moss. Yes, this is a fish out of water story, the tale of a locomotive on winter break down south in Florida.

Last fall, CSX restored this classic cab unit to its original appearance to pull its 75th anniversary Santa Claus train on the former Clinchfield. The sight of the gray and yellow EMD was a magnificent addition to the train. It was so good, we marked this achievement by putting No. 800 on the cover of our February 2018 issue (on sale now) and celebrating with 10 pages that explore our love for these timeless cab units. Following the Santa Train in November, privately-owned No. 800 immediately got another gig, pulling tourist trains for the new Orlando & Northwestern and its Royal Palm Rail Experience. Trains run on former Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line tracks that belong to Pinsley shortline group’s Florida Central Railroad. The area is just north of Orlando. And General Manager Stephen Syfrett tells me the unit should be around well into the spring.

So if you want to ride behind this famous locomotive in a most unusual place, here’s your chance to photograph a real Clinchfield icon -- under palm trees.

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