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The Seminole, also known as the Seminole Limited, was a streamlined passenger train operated by the Illinois Central Railroad, Central of Georgia Railway, and Atlantic Coast Line Railroad between Chicago, Illinois and Jacksonville, Florida. It operated from 1909 to 1969 and was the first year-round service between the two cities.

Kankakee CG Aug 1964 3-13 (Retouched).jpg
CG #811, an EMD E8, leads the Seminole into Kankakee, Illinois in 1964.
Service typeInter-city rail
LocaleMidwestern United States/Southeastern United States
First serviceNovember 15, 1909
Last serviceJune 3, 1969
Former operator(s)Illinois Central Railroad
Central of Georgia Railway
Atlantic Coast Line Railroad
StartChicago, Illinois
EndJacksonville, Florida
Distance travelled1,127.9 miles (1,815.2 km)
Average journey time33 hours, 35 minutes, southbound; 22 hours, 15 minutes, northbound (1948)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)9, southbound, 10, northbound
On-board services
Seating arrangementsCoach seating
Sleeping arrangementsSections, compartments and double bedrooms and a drawing room (1955)
Catering facilitiesDining car



The Illinois Central Railroad, Central of Georgia Railway, and Atlantic Coast Line Railroad introduced the Seminole Limited on November 15, 1909, in time for the winter tourist season. The new train carried coaches, sleeping cars, and a full dining car. Through services included a St. Louis, Missouri–Jacksonville sleeper and a Chicago–Savannah, Georgia sleeper. The train operated on a "two night out" schedule, departing Chicago at 9:00 PM in the evening and arriving in Jacksonville at 7:05 AM on the second morning out. This permitted a late afternoon arrival in Birmingham, Alabama. The travel time was 35 hours from Chicago, three hours faster than existing services.[1] The train operated on a daily schedule. The Illinois Central billed it as a "solid, fast through train." From Jacksonville passengers could make connections to other locations in Florida.[2] It was the first year-round service between the two cities.[3]

The African-American dramatist and playwright T. Montgomery Gregory, then a professor at Howard University, rode the Seminole Limited in Georgia in 1915 as part of his investigation into "Jim Crow" (segregated) cars on Southern trains. Gregory noted that even though the segregated cars on the Central of Georgia were "superior" to other railroads and that the Seminole Limited in particular was "one of the most favorable trains in the South", the train's conductor forced him from his coach at three in the morning to make room for whites who wanted to smoke. He was placed in an ostensibly white car which he characterized as "filthy" and the "nastiest...[he] had ever ridden in."[4]

In 1950 the Illinois Central rescheduled the Seminole to depart Chicago at 4:00 PM. This put the southbound train in Birmingham at 8:30 AM and Jacksonville at 9:00 PM.[5]

On June 3, 1969, the Illinois Central truncated the Seminole from Jacksonville to Carbondale and renamed it the Shawnee. The Shawnee would be one of the few Illinois Central trains retained by Amtrak in 1971.[6]


In 1952 a typical Seminole carried sleeping cars for five city pairs: Chicago–St. Petersburg, Chicago–Tampa/Sarasota, Chicago–Birmingham, St. Louis–Tampa/Sarasota, and St. Louis–St. Petersburg. With the exception of the Birmingham sleeper these were scheduled for alternate days, so that there was always one sleeper each for Chicago and St. Louis on the one hand, and St. Petersburg and Tampa/Sarasota on the other. Connecting Atlantic Coast Line trains handled the sleepers south of Jacksonville; the Illinois Central's Chickasaw handled the St. Louis sleepers west of Carbondale, Illinois. The sleeping cars each had eight sections, two compartments, and a drawing room. A dining car operated Chicago–Jacksonville and a buffet-lounge Carbondale–St. Louis.[7] For the final Albany, Georgia to Jacksonville leg of the trip, the train[8] ran in tandem, with the matching departure times for the itinerary of the Louisville & Nashville's Flamingo.[9]

Coach passengers would need to transfer at Jacksonville Union Station to respective connecting Atlantic Coast Line and Florida East Coast Railway coach cars. Illinois Central, Atlantic Coast Line and Florida East Coast Railway timetables indicate that the matching FEC train in Jacksonville for the trips south and north was the FEC's Havana Special.[10][11][12]

Cultural influenceEdit

The Seminole was a likely influence on blues guitarist Tampa Red's song "Seminole Blues":[13]

“My baby’s gone, she won’t be back no more/She left this mornin’, she caught that Seminole"


  1. ^ "Illinois Central R.R. Central Route to Florida via Birmingham". Urbana Daily Courier. October 28, 1909.
  2. ^ "Advertisement". Country Life in America. Vol. XVII no. 3. January 1910. p. 356.
  3. ^ Maiken 1989, p. 328
  4. ^ Gregory, T. Montgomery (December 1915). "The "Jim Crow" Car". The Crisis. 11 (2): 87–89.
  5. ^ Lind 1986, p. 16
  6. ^ Lind 1986, p. 20
  7. ^ Maiken 1989, p. 345
  8. ^ Atlantic Coast Line Timetable, June 12, 1955, Table I
  9. ^ Atlantic Coast Line Timetable, June 12, 1955, Table L
  10. ^ Illinois Central Timetable, January 15, 1950, Table 6
  11. ^ Atlantic Coast Line Timetable, June 12, 1955, Table I
  12. ^ 'Official Guide of the Railways,' June 1961, Florida East Coast section, Table 1
  13. ^ Gallagher, Peter B. (February 28, 2014). "Hah-Pong-Ke: Tampa Red" (PDF). Seminole Tribune.


  • Lind, Alan R. (1986). Limiteds Along the Lakefront: The Illinois Central in Chicago. Park Forest, IL: Transport History Press. OCLC 20171887.
  • Maiken, Peter T. (1989). Night Trains: The Pullman System in the Golden Years of American Rail Travel. Chicago: Lakme Press. ISBN 0-9621-480-0-8. OCLC 20461978.