Hamlet, North Carolina is a busy railroad town today, but it was a busy passenger-train town in the 1950s. Known as “the hub of the Seaboard,” Hamlet is where southbound Seaboard trains to Atlanta and Birmingham split from those to Miami and St. Petersburg. Hamlet is also where Seaboard trains from Norfolk and Richmond were merged to head to Florida or Atlanta (though the trains shared the same tracks from Norlina, 160 miles north of Hamlet). Hamlet was also where a train to Charleston and Savannah diverged from the mainline which went to Savannah via Columbia, SC.
Seaboard had six named trains in 1954, all but one of which used Seaboard’s busy tracks between Norlina and Hamlet. It also had at least seven unnamed trains. Named trains included:
- The Silver Star left New York (on the PRR) at 9:30 am and arrived in Miami 25-1/4 hours later.
- The Sunland left New York at 11:30 am and arrived in Tampa 26 hours later.
- At 12:35 pm, the Silver Comet left New York and arrived in Birmingham 21-1/2 hours later.
- At 2:50 pm, the Silver Meteor left New York and arrived in Miami about 25-1/2 hours later (with a section to Tampa/St. Petersburg).
- At 4:40 pm, the Tidewater left Portsmouth (with a ferry connection from Norfolk) to be split and joined with the Silver Meteor and Silver Comet in Hamlet.
- At 5:00 pm, the Gulf Wind left Jacksonville for Chattahoochee, where it continued on the Louisville & Nashville to New Orleans.
Unnamed trains included two coach-only trains that left Washington, DC for Atlanta (via the Norlina-Hamlet route) at 9:00 am and 10:00 pm (with the latter train continuing on to Birmingham) and two trains a day between Tampa and Miami (the only unnamed trains with sleeping cars). There was also a “passenger, mail & express” train supplementing the Gulf Wind between Jacksonville and Chattahoochee; the Hamlet-Charleston-Savannah train; and finally a train from Wilmington, NC to Charlotte, via Hamlet, of course. Although Seaboard had a rail line from Savannah to Montgomery, it didn’t offer passenger service on that line, instead referring passengers to the Atlanta & West Point’s train from Atlanta to Montgomery.
Although all of the named trains had coaches and sleeping cars, the Palmland and Sunland did not have a lounge car. The Silver Meteor is the only one that specifies an observation-tavern car (no doubt dedicated to Pullman passengers) in addition to a lounge-buffet car for coach passengers (and any Pullman passengers willing to rub shoulders with the hoi palloi).