Posts Tagged With: Church Street Station

Commuter Rail Before SunRail

Orlando Street Railway Company - Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue.  Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Orlando Street Railway Company – Street Railway down Church Street toward Orange Avenue. Brick building in the back ground was Bumby Hardware (Now Hamburger Mary’s).

Commuter Rail Before SunRail

SunRail will arrive in Central Florida before long.  With high-tech and environmentally friendly trains, commuter rail will seem like a new transportation solution for Orlando.   But, it won’t be the first time residents have travelled locally on tracks.  We’ve done this before many years ago and for very different reasons.
Our first attempts at what could be called commuter rail was about 125 years ago at a time when the automobile was just being invented.
Orlando Street Railway Company
Orlando started to grow once the railroad was completed in 1880.  Citrus was developing as an industry and now had a way to ship in quantity outside of the area.  Six years after the railroad, the Orlando Street Railway Company was established for residents to have way to move around town.  Tracks were laid down Church Street from the train depot to and along Orange Avenue.   A trolley pulled by two mules carried Orlandoans up to Lake Ivanhoe.
Service on the railway was haphazard.  The conductor, Ernest Mills, for the single trolley followed a schedule perhaps unknown to his passengers.  Historian Eve Bacon wrote that Ernest gave his friends free rides and would often stop at the end of line on Marks Street for a game of marbles.  These unplanned stops caused service delays.  Sometimes they would catch snakes in the woods, tie the live snakes to the back of the trolly, and drag them back to West Church Street to sell to the local taxidermist.  Orlando life was a bit more rustic in the 1880s.
In 1893, the unreliable service led to the city to revoke the Orlando Street Railway Company’s franchise, and later ordered the tracks removed.
Dinky Station -  Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Station – Winter Park train station for the Dinky Line located on Lake Virginia in late 1800’s.

Dinky Line

A few years after the mule powered street railway, another commuter rail began.  This one proved to have longevity.  In 1889, the Orlando and Winter Park Railroad started running from downtown Orlando winding by Lake Highland and Lake Formosa up to Rollins College.  Now part of Rollins’ heritage, it was nicknamed the “Dinky Line” by students that for 15 cents commuted between Orlando and the Winter Park campus.
Traveling at speeds of 6 1/2 miles per hour, the train easily derailed because the tracks were laid on sand.  Much of the route between Orlando and Winter Park was wooded and undeveloped.  If service was not interrupted by derailment, stray cattle blocked the tracks and delayed service until the conductor stopped to shoo the cows away.
In addition to passengers, the Dinky Line carried freight especially later when automobiles became the norm.  The line ran for over 70 years.  By the 1960s, the wooded areas along Lake Highland and Lake Estelle had become prime real estate lined with upscale homes.   Its last route ran in 1967 and the tracks were removed a year later.
Today, we have reminders of the Dinky Line with portions of the route making up the Orlando Urban Trail.  In Winter Park, the train station once stood on Lake Virginia at Dinky Dock Park.
This post originally appeared in Bungalower.

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Orlando City Lions and a Quick History of Sports in Orlando

778646_621274967930795_783447953_oMajor League Soccer comes to Orlando in 2015 when Orlando City Soccer joins MLS as an expansion team.  The announcement was held at the historic Cheyenne Saloon on Church Street.   (RetroPost: Historic significance of Church Street)  The Cheyenne Saloon was where the Orlando Magic, our other current major league team, was announced in 1987.

The Orlando City Lions add to a long list of professional sports teams in Orlando covering the minor leagues to major leagues in almost every team sport.   Some lasted a few years — WNBA Orlando Miracle —  hibernated and returned a decade later — Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL Hockey) — or played a single season XFL’s Orlando Rage.

Some Orlando sports history highlights:


Baseball in Orlando goes back to the 1910’s, and might be most notable for hosting spring training.  The Minnesota Twins trained here for decades (RetroPost:  The Twins in Orlando).   Orlando had a baseball team off and on- from 1919 until 2003 largely in the Florida State League.   Known as the Orlando Rays for the majority of 40 years when the team dissolved in 2003, there were previous clubs, incarnations, and affiliations: Orlando Tigers, Orlando Twins, Orlando Dodgers, Orlando Seratomas, and Orlando Cubs.


1967 Divison Playoff Program for the Orlando Panthers (source)


Orlando football’s most recent success was indoors with the Orlando Predators (since 1991).  However, professional football goes back to the 1960’s and the time of the Continental Football League and the Orlando Panthers.  The Panthers played from 1966 until the league folded in 1969, and won two league championships during that time.

Other football in Orlando (all of which played in the Citrus Bowl):

  • Orlando Renegades (1985) United States Football League
  • Orlando Thunder (1991-92) World League of American Football
  • Orlando Rage (2001) XFL
  • Florida Tuskers (2009) United Football League

Orlando City should see greater success and longevity because of an existing and enthusiastic fan base and the investment of a new soccer stadium west of I-4.   Perhaps Orlando’s greatest football glory will not come in American Football but in futball (okay, soccer).

A look back at past Orlando football club logos:


Orlando Thunder


Orlando Renegades


Orlando Rage

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Church Street Station

Working on the railroad…
Preparing for Sunrail.20130425-202450.jpg


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From 1890 Map of Orlando: Line Drawing of Church Street Train Depot

From 1890 Map of Orlando: Line Drawing of Church Street Train Depot

From an 1890 map of Orlando, a drawing of the train depot at Church Street. The station was brand new and serviced the South Florida Railroad

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Church Street Station / A.C.L. Depot Orlando, FL

Church Station 1908 and 2031

Church Station 1908 and 2013

The Post Card

In 1908, our postcard writer, Murdy, mailed a post card from Orlando to Clara in Watertown, WI announcing, “This is where we landed.”  The writer went on to express concern the postcard was a duplicate, “I wish I could remember what kind of postals I sent you.  Am afraid you’ll duplicates… Love to all.  Murdy”

Click to read reverse

Click to read reverse

Church Street Station

Few buildings have been in Orlando longer than this train depot.  From the 1800’s when Church Street was a dirt road, through the the 1970’s and 1980’s when it was surrounded by one of Florida’s top tourist attractions, until today where it awaits the future Sunrail riding along its tracks.

In the earliest days of Orlando, the first train depot stood here as a wooden platform servicing the area’s first rail service.  The route was Orlando to Sanford.  Tickets were sold across the street in a warehouse owned by Joseph Bumby.  Bumby, one of Orlando’s early business men and citrus growers, later built Bumby Hardware across the street (in the building where Hamburger Marys is today).

Church Street Station - Forgotten in the mid 70's[Source: Flickr:alcomike43]

Church Street Station – Forgotten by the 70’s
[Source: Flickr:alcomike43]

In the late 1880’s, the depot (as pictured on the postcard above) was built for the South Florida Railroad.  This train route went as far “south” as Tampa.   The Atlantic Coast Line acquired the route in 1902.  The Church Street station was a passenger depot until 1926.  That year a new passenger station, now an Amtrak Station and still in use, was built on Sligh Boulevard.  From 1926 until 1972, this station on Church Street continued on as a ticket outlet and freight station.  By the 7o’s, the buildings to the west were mostly abandoned and the station itself was falling into disrepair.

A young businessman, Bob Snow, had success in Pensacola, FL creating a nighttime entertainment complex from derelict buildings.  He purchased many of the buildings surrounding the train station and brought the success of Rosie O’Grady’s Good Time Emporium to Orlando.    Rather than just restore old buildings — he refurbished and redefined them with a grand attention to detail.  Snow purchased antiques and furnishing from points all over the world — chandeliers reclaimed from a Boston bank, painted glass from a pub in England — to create the Church Street Station entertainment complex.

Church Street Station during its heyday

Church Street Station during its heyday

The project was a great success and brought people back into downtown Orlando.  In the 1980’s, Church Street had over 900 employees, drew almost two million people a year, and was one of the largest attractions in Florida.  A new concept at the time in which a single admission price allowed access to a variety of nightclubs, restaurants, and lounges.  A weekly TV show was even broadcast from here featuring country music headliners.   For many years, this was a nighttime favorite for tourists and locals.

Church Street Station had seen its heyday by the 1990’s.  Bob Snow had sold his interest.  Disney and Universal opened nightclub complexes and fewer tourists came downtown.  In the early 2000’s with a huge decline in attendance, Church Street Station closed its doors.

Since then, Church Street always seems to be on the verge of a comeback.  Great spaces like the Cheyenne Saloon are used for special events, and many of the other venues are now occupied by Hamburger Mary’s, Ceviche, and the Harry Buffalo.  The Amway Center and 55 West high rise apartments bring in foot traffic.  East of the tracks, Mad Cow Theater recently moved in and promising new places like craft beer spot, Eternal Tap, continue to add to the energy and nostalgia of Church Street.

The train station itself sits empty, but remains in good condition.  Just as it has for 125 years, the Church Street depot continues to sit in the midst of a growing and changing downtown Orlando.

Rails Across Dixie, A History of Passenger Trains in the American South; Jim Cox 2010
Remembering Orlando, Tales from Elvis to Disney; Joy Wallace Dickinson 2006
Orlando, A Centennial History; Eve Bacon 1975
Snow and Associates website
Flickr user: alcomike43

Tammy Wynette performing at The Cheyenne Saloon and Opera House:

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