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The Jacksonville Mayport & Pablo Railroad

From Cleve Powell and Larry Brennan.

While this section is titled the J M & P, it includes pictures and information related to Mayport and the Jacksonville Beaches area, not all of which pertains specifically to the J M & P. Many thanks to Mr. Cleveland Powell and Mr. Larry Brennan of Jacksonville for their willing cooperation in providing and presenting this historic information!

The Gavagan Hotel at Mayport, Ocean Street, taken by F. W. Bruce, Cleve Powell's great-grandfather, who was superintendent of construction of the Mayport Jetties during 1888 - 1906. The Jacksonville Mayport & Pablo railroad tracks are shown in the foreground of this picture.

Locations on 1900 Quad Maps of JM & P and Florida East Coast tracks at Mayport.

The JM&P was out of operation just before Henry Flagler began building the FEC Railway.

Continuation of JM&P tracks from above map. The route is becoming the Wonderwood Expressway.

The Florida East coast Station, below, in another photo by F. W. Bruce.

This station was featured in a film by the Norman Studios in Arlington, which used all black actors.

The film is named The Flying Ace and has been featured by the Jacksonville Film Festival.

Flying Aces Movie Poster

The FEC station has survived, and is now located on the grounds of the

Pablo Historical Park

5 blocks west of the Atlantic Ocean at 475 Beach Blvd.

Locations of the Jacksonville, Mayport and Pablo Railroad Right of Way and Stations

This research has been done for the benefit of the Old Arlington Inc. Historical group, the Jacksonville Beaches Historical Society and the Southeast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. This standard gauge railroad was originally built by Alexander Wallace. He also built the "Burnside Hotel" in a part of "East" Mayport called Burnside Beach. The hotel was to provide Jacksonville citizens a beach "getaway". The train's inaugural trip was an excursion of the Knights of Pythias on May 17, 1888. Passengers came by steamer from downtown Jacksonville to a dock in Arlington and went to the hotel at Burnside Beach and then possibly on to Mayport. There was a station and wye at Eggleston and stops at Verona, Gilmore, Cosmo, Idelwilde and Mt. Pleasant, and possibly at "Pablo town" (by Mayport Cemetery) between Arlington and the station at Burnside. There was a wye at Burnside and probably a dock at "West" Mayport.

Originally, coming from Mayport, the train would change directions at the Eggleston wye and back onto the Arlington dock. At Mayport it would change direction at Burnside and back into their pavilion to unload passengers and then back to the dock at Mayport to unload commercial cargo if necessary. ( The wonderwood expressway now follows it’s route from Mayport Road east to Merrill Rd.). After Wallace death in 1889, it was sold and extended in 1893 by the new owners through the community of Clifton and across Pottsburg Creek and Little Pottsburg Creek generally running east of Pablo Rd.  (Atlantic Blvd.) to to a dock in South Jacksonville. The railroad went into receivership in 1895 and ceased service although, however the mail continued to be delivered by handcar until C-1900, when parts of the tracks were removed. The route followed level dry ground wherever possible avoiding grades and swamps and is described as follows:

THE DOCK:  (western terminus in 1888) Across the river from East Jacksonville, it had tracks on it for the train to back out over the river for boarding, and was quite long. Located about 1/4 mile south of Arlington road, it is easily distinguished in the 1893 oblique of Jacksonville on the cover of this write up. In the 1940's and 50's this became the site of "Turner's Fish Camp". A composite subdivision map of Arlington (C-1920) shows the railroad following the bed of a small creek as it leaves the river to prevent having to climb one of the bluffs (that creek is now a concrete drain running to the river between houses on Rio St. Johns Drive). From the dock, the RR ran easterly a short distance, then curved left to a point about 300' west of what is now Arlington Elementary school on University Blvd. (This was later the point where the extension to South Jacksonville later began). It then ran diagonally across Arlington with a measured bearing of North 49 degrees East, crossing the following roads:

UNIVERSITY BLVD. CROSSING:  170'+/- south of its intersection with Arlington Rd  (second lot north of Arlington Grammar School). It continued northeasterly crossing Arlington Rd. 

ARLINGTON ROAD CROSSING: 200'+/- East of the c/l of University (now Krystal Parking lot). The RR then continued northeasterly to the south boundary of the Eggleston Heights Subdivision (C-1871), to the site of the Eggleston RR Station and a wye where the train changed directions coming from the beach so that it could back to the river and on to the dock.

EGGLESTON STATION: Located at the Southeast corner of the intersection of Seminole (now Ansley) and Paine streets. The Eggleston Station was located on the N/W side of the track. There was a two-story hotel approximately a block north and west of the station. The wye on the SE side of the track and a 120' wide R/W are shown on the Paine addition to Eggleston, recorded in PB 1 pg 112 of the Duval Co. public records. The RR continued Northeasterly crossing what is now Cesery.

CESERY BLVD. CROSSING: at approximately its intersection with Terry Parker North and continued NE at a bearing of N. 49 degrees E. to it’s crossing of what is now Rogero.

ROGERO CROSSING: It crossed Rogero just south of Sprinkle drive (N). It then made a slight curve to the right just north of the head of Red Bay branch (first curve in Gallardia south of Merrill) and than ran on a measured bearing of North 62 degrees east, went through the North Arlington Heights subdivision PB 10 pgs., 17&18, platted in 1925. The plat also showed a R/W width of 120', it then crossed what is now Townsend Blvd., which was the eastern boundary of the plat.

TOWNSEND CROSSING: The C/L of the RR lies 670' +/- south of the c/l of Merrill Rd. The RR continued northeasterly to its crossing of what is now Merrill Rd.

MERRILL CROSSING:  about 1,200' East of the c/l of Townsend (where Landsdowne enters Merrill) This area was labeled "Verona" on the 1898 Coast Chart. The RR continued northeasterly crossing the headwaters of Boggy Branch (Mill Creek). It then curved to the right running east and slightly south crossing what is now Heartsfield Rd.

HARTSFIELD ROAD CROSSING: About 1,200' north of Merrill, continuing southeasterly crossing Gilmore Heights Rd. which is probably where the Gilmore Station was located. The Archibald Gilmore Subdivision PB 6 Pg. 43 filed in 1914, and lies East of Gilmore heights road. It's northern Bdy, matches the approximate location of the JM&P RR on the 1918 quad, and is labeled County road. This is now beneath the location of the 9-A expressway. It then ran in a general easterly direction going behind what is now the Walmart Plaza on Merrill and then running southeasterly crossing Merrill Road again.

SECOND MERRILL ROAD CROSSING: approximately 600’ west of the intersection of Merrill and Fort Caroline Roads. The RR then turned easterly crossing Jones Creeks approximately 300' south of the existing Ft. Caroline Rd. bridge (6/2006) and crossing Holly Oaks lake (Gin house Creek) at the dam (pilings are said to be still visible just south of the dam when the water is low, but 1938 survey of Holley oaks Forest shows an old roadbed in location where dam was built c-1941). It continued easterly crossing what is now St. Johns Bluff.

ST. JOHNS BLUFF CROSSING: about 75' south of its intersection with Ft. Caroline Rd. thence southeasterly crossing Cows Head Creek to a point of intersection with what is now known as McCormick Rd. slightly east of it's intersection with Ft. Caroline, thence easterly to the Cosmo Station.

COSMO STATION:  By scaling the 1898 map, it was located on the north side of the RR approximately where the Ft. Caroline Post Office is now. This was where the old road from Atlantic Blvd. to Fulton was located. The RR ran in a general easterly direction passing a site called "Idelewild" shown on the 1898 coast chart, which would be approximately where Girvin and McCormick intersect today called Idlewilde.

IDLEWILDE STATION: This was a small community, which had its own census name in 1910 near Spanish point. The RR then crossed Mt. Pleasant Creek to the Mt. Pleasant Station.

MT. PLEASANT STATION: This is located on the peninsular of land between Mt. Pleasant creek and Greenfield Creek where Girvin takes a sharp turn to the south. The RR ran easterly across Greenfield Creek (pilings were visible until the new "Wonderwood Expressway" was constructed). From that point on across Greenfield Creek, the tip of "Queen's Harbor and across the Intracoastal waterway the RR ran where the new Wonderwood Expressway is now being built running just north of the location of the "Pablo house" was built possibly the first home in Duval county. the RR then curved to the northeast to a "wye" with a spur line to the ocean at what was known as "Burnside Beach".

Burnside Beach: This was the primary destination for tourist from Jacksonville to vacation at the beach. It had a pavilion where the tourist unloaded to go to the beach or the nearby Burnside Hotel. This is now part of the Mayport Navy Base. The train than ran through East Mayport where it may have had a station than to the community of Mayport passing to the south of the current lighthouse.

Mayport ; The tracks entered into the community of Mayport near Palmer street and curved south following Ocean street past the Gavigan hotel (F.W, Bruce photo) to a dock which may have been located near the Corps office now the ferry office. (Per Dwight Wilson Beaches Historian)

EXTENSION TO SOUTH JACKSONVILLE 1893: Beginning at the point of curve west of what is now University Blvd. The RR curved to the southwest and then ran generally parallel to University passing through a pond, which lies just south of the now Matthews Bridge expressway to Clifton.  Per former Clifton resident, Wayne Dolittle, it went through the lot at 5445 Grove Avenue which extended south would take it near Weller Place. It then curved slightly to the right in Clifton near the "Clifton pond" and crossed the Arlington River crossing the tip of the Bagley grant and then crossing Little Pottsburg creek going ashore at the mouth of a small creek. It then ran westerly paralleling "Pablo Road" now Atlantic Blvd. to South Jacksonville where it curved to the northwest and terminated at a fertilizer plant dock.

 

Taken from the Arlingtonian by Mr. W. F. Hawley Nov. 1, 1940

"TRANSPORTATION": Years ago when the editor was living at Gilmore, he and Mr. A.G. Gilmore, Sr. had a number of near accidents, while using a hand car daily between Gilmore and South Jacksonville. After the railroad quit running on schedule, they were hauling coquina from Mayport, to be used in the large building in Jacksonville.  They had no regular schedule for this, and one evening as we were returning home we nearly had a head-on collision. We jumped off our car, upset it into the bushes, and the engine hit one of our wheels and sent it spinning.  After the train had passed, we gathered up our scattered groceries, and reached Gilmore without further incident. One evening we came down the grade on the south side of Arlington River, and in order to make it easier crossing the trestle made pretty good speed. However, when we struck the bridge, the car jumped the track and threw us up in the air. On coming down, we met the car coming up, it having struck another tie. In this bout we both lost our groceries and all our tools.

After the track was torn up (c-1900), I walked Wednesday and Saturday nights from a dock just beyond the fish camp (Turner's) to Gilmore, by walking on the railroad bed as far as Gilmore Station I was sure of my location. One dark night, while opposite Eggleston I ran into a colored man and we both sat down. I was badly scared and I think the other fellow was too. He struck a match and enabled me to pick up my bundles, and he started for town and I for home. In those days the county convicts were loaned to turpentine operators. A dangerous prisoner had escaped from a camp over near Center Park and was reported to be hiding in the swamp near Gilmore. The railroad which crossed Boggy Branch (Mill Creek), which at that time was full of water, and as I approached the swamp I heard stealthy foot steps coming through the water. Visions of meeting the convict made me feel very uncomfortable, and I was greatly relieved when an old cow came up on the railroad bed.  The matter of transportation in those days was not nearly as satisfactory as it is at the present, although we hear a great deal of complaint about it.

Arlingtonian September 16, 1948:

ARLINGTON WAS A RAILROAD TERMINUS: Yes in the spring of 1888 a standard gauge railroad was completed from Mayport with its Western terminus near the present location of Turners Fish Camp, where a large dock was built on which to connect with a steamboat from Jacksonville. The section around the present Post Office (crossroads) was not settled up, so the first stop after leaving the river was Eggleston Heights up a long steep grade, which the little locomotive at time seem unable to negotiate. The name of the little road was the Jacksonville, Mayport, and Pablo Railway and Navigation Co., which was abbreviated to J. M. & P. and those initials were supposed to stand for "jump men and push" as the male passengers on more than one occasion jumped off and did help the little locomotive up steep grades. In May 1888, the road was opened with a big excursion to Burnside Beach, of the nights of Pythias. On the return trip the engineer discovered that the engine needed water, so they stopped at a creek and dipped up some water in buckets, but in doing so they also introduced some mud into the boiler, which put it out of commission a few miles later on and the crowd was stranded out in the woods.

Some walked home, others didn't reach home until the next day, but agreed that they were entertained by the most vicious mosquitoes they had ever seen. Instead of regular air brakes, the little engine had vacuum brakes, which on one occasion failed to work as we were going down the grade from Eggleston to the dock, and a trainload of passengers had visions of a plunge in the St. Johns River, but the application of the hand brake enabled us to stop before we reached the dock, much to the relief of everyone on board.  Well the sound of the whistle through the woods was music to those of us who were in this section at that time. With two trains a day, we living at Gilmore anticipated great advancement, which did not materialize. In 1893 the road changed hands and was extended to South Jacksonville, which became the terminus and Arlington lost its prestige. On December 13, 1890, a special train left Arlington dock, stopped at Eggleston where it was boarded by the first pastor of the Eggleston Church, (now the parish hall in Arlington) and proceeded to Gilmore where it lay over for about an hour and then backed to Arlington carrying the Editor (Mr. Hawley) and his bride which started a union which lasted 49 years. In 1895 the road ceased operating. Parts of the old railroad are visible. When you drive to Jacksonville, just before you reach the Arlington School, you will see a long stretch of dirt road at the side of the paved road, this is part of the old railroad bed. 

This was copied from the Bigelow web site:

 221 E. Ashley St. Jacksonville, Fla.

Nov. 12, 1938

Mr. W. F. Hawley

Arlington, Florida.

My Dear Mr. Hawley:

       In your issue of the "Arlingtonian" of November 10, 1938 just received, I note your remarks concerning the old engine of that long defunct "Jacksonville, Mayport and Pablo Beach Railway and Navigation Company.

      According to my recollections and I think I am correct, the very first locomotive they ever had was the "Mary Wallace" this only ran when the road was a narrow gauge between Mayport and Burnside Beach. When the road was extewnded from Burnside to the East side of the St. Johns River to the Arlington R. R. dock, the road was made broad or standard guage. Their first purchase was an H.K. Porter "saddle tank" locomotive, wood burning, with no seperate tender but an extension of trucks at the rear end to carry wood. This engine had a so called "cowcatcher" on each end. If I am not mistaken the one on the rear was attached here. At first the road had no turntable or even a "Y" and they simply used to reverse the engine and run it either forward or backward at the head of the train. The coaches were narrow gauge coaches reequipped with broad guage trucks. After they got over their first operating difficulties, the road purchased an old engine from the Brooklyn, Bath & West end R. R. of Long Island. This engine was given the number 2, while the H. K. Perry Engine (new) was given number 1. Number 2 had her tanks on each side of the boiler but no tender. It was likewise equipped with a catcher in the back. I have no pictures of it.

     When the road was refinanced and the extension started around to South Jacksonville, a standard type locomotive was brought on the line. Shortly before this, however, finding impractical the practice of simply reversing the engine in order to travel in oposite directions, the road had constructed the Eggleston "Y". It was badly built and the curves were too sharp so that when ever a train or the engine turned around on it, loud sounds of protest sounded through out the woods. One could hear it at the R. R. Dock and there was never any doubt as to what the train was doing at the "Y", nor how long it took time to do it. This "Y" was rebuilt when the heavier engine was brought on the road but it was never completly silenced. This last engine was numbered "10" and had the regulation tender. I have still a very fair photograph of it and several cars, lying at Eggleston, taken by myself with a 4x5 hawkeye camera. If you have any facilities for reproducing it I will be glad to loan it to you whenever you may wish.

      If you could get in touch with Ransome Chaplin, it is possible that he may have some photos of the two older engines and trains. I recall that the two Schfield girls, one of whom Ransom married, took a great many pictures of themselves when Eggleston was in its heyday. There is just a chance that some of them have been preserved. Possibly Oliver Frieske could tell you how to get in touch with Ransome.

       I had a great many interesting negatives of pictures that I had taken that were left in our old house when I went up to New Jersey for six months and stayed 18. When I got back they had all disappeared.  (Personal thoughts)

 Lee E. Bigelow

    

 This concludes my write up on the JM&P, as there have been a lot of good histories written but maybe not as good a description of its route. My interest was sparked years ago when my Grandparents told me they rode the train from Mayport to Jacksonville to get married in 1904. I thought it was the JM&P until I started research and found out that it must have been the Mayport branch of the FEC.  My Great grandfather F.W. Bruce lived in Mayport working on Jetty construction from 1888 until c-1906. I have no doubt that he rode the JM&P many times during his career with The Corps of Engineers. That may have been his introduction to Arlington where he placed his heart and made his final home. 

 Combined with Larry Brennan's write up "Railways to the Beach, maps and plats and some of F.W. Bruce's pictures I hope this is of interest in the future.  Cleve Powell 2005

More to come.......