Train’s possibility conjures memories of riding the rails in Tallahassee, Florida

January 11, 2016

Karl Etters, Democrat staff writer, Tallahassee Democrat

People have fond memories of riding trains out of Tallahassee.

They recall the bygone mystique of the hum of the tracks, gabbing with other travelers in the dining car and seeing Florida, old Florida, in a way that interstate travel by car just lacks.Website Insert Keep Your Money In-State copy

With the prospect of Amtrak rail service returning, linking Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast to New Orleans, Jacksonville and other continental rail lines, people are digging deep into their memory banks to recall catching the rail out of the capital city.

Ken Winker’s 1998 trip to see family in Wisconsin with his then 14-year-old daughter, Blair, remains unforgettable.

He remembers the 2 a.m. westward departure from the Railroad Avenue Amtrak train depot. He remembers he and his daughter were unable to sleep in the stiff, coach seating. He remembers seeing the Chicago skyline as their train pulled into Union Station.

But what he still reminisces about is taking in the sights as he and his daughter, who is now 32, wound through the country, stopping at small towns along the way.

“As the sun rose the next morning we saw a lot of areas you don’t normally see on the road,” said Winker, now retired after working almost 25 years in the Florida Legislature. “We got to see lots of towns. Small towns, large towns, medium towns; It was a real memorable trip. We had a fun time father-daughter traveling together.”

The dining car was the place to meet other interesting travelers as people got on and off the train.

“You sat with strangers and got to meet different people and talk about where they’re from, where they’re headed and all about them,” Winker said. “They come from all over the place and you never know what kind of background they have.”

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