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Obama's inaugural train car to come from Florida

(The following story by Leo King appeared on the Clay Today website on January 15, 2009.)

ORANGE PARK, Fla. ó A little bit of Orange Park will be traveling to Washington, D.C. Itís not a person but a historical piece of railroad rolling stock.

Countless drivers have seen the Georgia 300 as they drive by Kingsley Avenue at Railroad Avenue where the CSX "A Line" crosses Kingsley. Thatís where the business car is stored when itís not in use.

Now, though, it will travel to Philadelphia to carry President-elect Barack Obama and his family to the nationís capital and the new Presidentís inauguration.

The "3181 Inaugural Extra" is expected to depart Penn Station New York at 5:40 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 20, and arrive in Union Station (Washington Terminal) at 9:25 a.m. It will make three stops ó in Philadelphia to pick up the Obama party, in Wilmington, Del. to pick up the vice-presidential group, then on to Baltimore and the District. The estimated time en route will be three hours and 45 minutes, according to a source close to Amtrak.

Jack Heard of Fernandina Beach owns the Kingsley Avenue coach yard there The Georgia 300 is stored, and he does business as First Coast Rail, Inc. His firm, First Coast Rail, Inc., makes car repairs for other privately owned passenger cars at the small Orange Park site.

He said on Monday, "The Georgia 300 will leave the Orange Park yard on Tuesday. It is hard to say for sure what time, but the CSX switch engine usually comes between 12 and 2 p.m."

He wonít be aboard though ó "No; I will join in Washington."

He couldnít say if the Secret Service has taken any precautions yet.

"I imagine the usual as any high ranking official, I will not know until closer to the day of the special."

He said the Inaugural Committee is paying for leasing the car.

How much are they paying?

"Iíd prefer not to discuss the costs; however, they are not more or less than the usual lease fee."

He said the Inaugural Committee picked the car "probably because The Georgia 300 has done the 1992 Bush, Ď96 Clinton, Ď04 Kerry, Ď08 Obama Campaign whistle-stop trains."

The Georgia 300 carries eight people during the day, and sleeps six.

It features a master bedroom, two other bedrooms, two showers, a section area off dining room seating two, a dining room seating six to eight people, full meal service, observation room, an open rear platform, TV and VCR, stereo, terminal and cellular phone.

The Pullman Co. built the Georgia 300 in 1930 as 10-sectionlounge General Polk. It was converted to business car 300 by the Georgia Railroad in 1954, and retired in 1982. Jack heard bought the car shortly thereafter and fully upgraded it in 1986, 1989, 1995, and again in 2000.

The car was designed for use by railroad officials. Many of these cars are from the "heavyweight"í or pre-WWII construction period ó the opposite of streamlined cars. Typically they come with kitchen, crew quarters, and dining room seating six to 10, two to four bedrooms, lounge and open brass-railed platform. Some have fold-away beds in the dining room or lounge.

An observation car is one with a rear lounge and rear-facing windows, intended to be placed at the end of a train.

The car is coupled to an Amtrak train in Jacksonville station.

Gary Dodd, owner of ChemDry of Green Cove Springs, was inside the car Monday afternoon vacuuming the red carpets. He said he had been called on short notice. Meanwhile, Gil McArthur of First Coast Rail was outside checking over the carís appliances.

Friday, January 16, 2009

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