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Jacksonville, FL

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TampAGS

Service Attendant
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Below are quotes from a thread found in the Amtrak Rail Discussion forum: Silver Star - WAS - JAX. The information seemed well suited to the What to See, and Where? forum, especially since there was no prior thread related to Jacksonville.

Regarding the JAX station, it is far enough from downtown that an automobile is needed to get around. Taxis are plentiful at the station as well as city bus service. No rental car counters but I have seen Enterprise pick up/drop off passengers so that is an option.
JTA buses leave and return from the Amtrak Station every 35 min on weekday, every hour or so on Saturday and every 90 minutes on Sunday and holidays. The K7 route goes downtown and then directly to Jacksonville Beach. Its about 25 minutes to downtown JAX and 90 min to the beach.

http://www.jtafla.com/schedules.

The most interesting place downtown is Jacksonville Landing by the St. John's River which has restaurants, some shops and entertainment at times. There is a water taxi downtown that goes to various points on the north and southside of the river. Unfortunately, no public transportation from Jacksonville to St. Augustine, but that may change whenever service on the FEC line begins. As the previous poster pointed out, you really need a car to see the sights as JAX is not a transit friendly city.
To add to an accurate, good, and informative description from jphjaxfl, once you get to Downtown Jax there are riverwalks along both the Northbank (the Downtown side where the Jacksonville Landing festival marketplace is) as well as along the Southbank, via the aforementioned water taxi or the Skyway automated transit system.

Strolling along either riverwalk, you should be able to see seabirds and dolphins in the river - and maybe even a manatee or two.

There are nice restaurants and hotels along the Southbank. There you will also find Treaty Oak Park, Friendship Fountain, and the decent Jacksonville Museum of Science & History (MOSH).

If you find yourself out at the Beaches (Jax, Atlantic, or Neptune) there are, in addition to the beautiful beaches, plenty of restaurants, bars, shopping, etc. - more so at Neptune Beach or Jax Beach instead of Atlantic Beach, which is mostly residential.

If you have access to a car, St. Augustine, the Fernandina Beach waterfront, and the intown neighborhoods of San Marco (south of the river) and Five Points/Riverside/Avondale (west of the river) are all excellent bets. Don't overlook the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens if you are in the Riverside area. It alone is worth the quick taxi ride from Downtown.

Enjoy your visit to our First Coast!
Jacksonville's former (and future?) Amtrak station, the old Union Terminal is on the west side of downtown. It is now part of the Osborne Convention Center, though there were (maybe still are?) plans to return the old terminal to its original use as a passenger rail station.

 

Anyway, it's worth getting a glimpse of it if you're a fan of railway architecture or history. Listed with the National Register of Historic Places, the passenger terminal opened in 1919 and serviced trains for FEC, ACL, SAL, Southern, and GA Southern & FL, and later their successors until its last, lone tenant, Amtrak left in 1974. The building is not hard to spot, known by a distinctive front facade which features a row of massive columns beneath three identical peaks, side-by-side, which define its roof. Train tracks still pass in the distance to the south of the building.

 

In relation to Jacksonville Landing, the Convention Center/ex-Union Terminal is directly to the west about nine city blocks, at the opposite end of Water Street. If you're there during the week, you can ride the free JTA Skyway to the Convention Center. You'll pass the west-facing "Jacksonville Terminal" building on your way to the Skyway station, which sits just north of the Convention Center.
And if you do decide to go check the Terminal out, an excellent suggestion in my opinion, then don't overlook semi-preserved Atlantic Coast Line steam passenger locomotive 1504, a P-5 USRA design Pacific type. She's sitting quietly in the parking lot behind the building.
 
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daybeers

OBS Chief
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HFD
I may travel down to visit a friend doing a training program in Jacksonville either within the next 3 months or together in January after his break. Other than Disney World as a kid which doesn't count, I have never been south of Northern Virginia which I realize is not the South, so this will be a whole different world to me. Jacksonville is the largest city by land area in the lower 48 which fascinates me. Thankfully he has a car since I know public transportation in most of Florida, including JAX, is unfortunately terrible.

The Union Terminal seems like a good place to stop at, but would anyone suggest updates/additions to the other advice above? I would love to take advantage of being 1000+ miles from home and explore other places nearby but with COVID that might not be a great idea. All depends where the cases go over the next couple months. Thanks!
 

Qapla

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Many of the things in the beginning of this thread are still there although there have been changes since 2012. The old Union Station has never been returned to use by Amtrak (or any other rail service) it is a Convention Center (Prime Osborne) and as far as I know ... there are no plans for it to become a depot again.

Might mention, if you are a "railfan" not just an Amtrak fan - just short walk from Prime Osborne is
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trainman74

Conductor
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Sherman Oaks, CA
I assume there isn't actually anything for railfans to see at the CSX headquarters building, aside from the lobby security desk while they're being politely (or not-so-politely) turned away.
 

Qapla

Conductor
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This is true - but for a railfan, taking a picture of the building yourself makes it different than simply copying one from the Internet ... especially if you get one with you in the picture. Kinda' like going to the Prime Osborne building when it is no longer an active depot.

Just like the over 3,000 people who stream the live feed from La Plata, Missouri each night just to watch #3 Southwest Chief arrive and depart.

It's something to do 👍
 

jis

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Many of the things in the beginning of this thread are still there although there have been changes since 2012. The old Union Station has never been returned to use by Amtrak (or any other rail service) it is a Convention Center (Prime Osborne) and as far as I know ... there are no plans for it to become a depot again.
There is actually an elaborate plan in place to convert part of the Prime Osborne Center into a transit hub, including bringing Brightline and Amtrak to it. Here is an article from 2018:


The bus portion of this plan is already in place.


The train portion, for obvious reasons, will most likely happen only in the time frame in which Brightline rolls into JAX. The rail tracks adjacent are apparently owned by FECR and managed by the Florida Dispatching Company which is jointly owned by FECR and Brightline. Both FECR and CSX have been participants in the planning as it also helps decongest the flow of rail traffic from CSX to FECR, an increasingly important flow as CSX withdraws progressively from South Florida. Just like in Miami, Amtrak probably has very little incentive to move from its station in the sticks to a location more attractive for its customers, given its brain dead management these days.
 

Qapla

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Yes, the new Transportation facility opened. There is "future hope" Amtrak would return to downtown Jax. However, the new facility is just that ... a "new" facility. It is across from Prime Osborne. Even if Amtrak should return or Brightline start service - it would not be to the old Jacksonville Union Station/Prime Osborne Convention Center. It would be to the new facility - as for the JUS/POCC ... there are no plans for it to become a depot again.
 
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jis

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Yes, the new Transportation facility opened. Thee is "future hope" Amtrak would return to downtown Jax. However, the new facility is just that ... a "new" facility. It is across from Prime Osborne. Even if Amtrak should return or Brightline start service - it would not be to the old Jacksonville Union Station/Prime Osborne Convention Center. It would be to the new facility - as for the JUS/POCC ... there are no plans for it to become a depot again.
There is nothing left of the old Jacksonville Station on the rail side. So whatever happens it will be new, there is no argument about that. But it will be in the same vicinity. It will at most be a two maybe three track facility some day. Potentially there are three rail users of it:
  • Amtrak
  • Brightline
  • First Coast Commuter Service.
It will be connected to the bus facility and the RTA Office and Skyway Station by a long pedestrian walkway, which will pass by or through the Convention Center, and potentially some small space in or adjacent to the Convention Center building may be used as the station concourse. The concourse will be either in or adjacent to the Convention Center building. The platform(s) will be adjacent to the Convention Center on the track side naturally. To give a rough context here is a map of the area (click on the link to view the map).:


Notice that in order to get to the future train station one will have to walk across/through the Convention Center. The bus station is near the top of the map, and the train station will be near the bottom of the map where there is now a grassy patch by the Convention Center.

Amtrak trains will have to either back into it or back out of it, just like the SCL and SAL trains did from the old JAX terminal station. If Amtrak ever operates on FECR to Miami, those trains will not need to do the backup move.

BTW, here is a nice document that provides a good perspective on how the Bus Station and the Office Building + Transitway is connected to the Convention Center on the bus side. The rail track side is the opposite side of the Covnention Center which does not appear in any of the diagrams.

 
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