The Mullet Train

The Silver Springs, Ocala and Gulf Railroad were consolidated into the Savannah, Florida and Western Railway Company in 1901 and in 1902 into the Atlantic Coast Line Railway Company. In later years the ACL became part of Seaboard, which today is the CSX.

The train consisted of a steam locomotive, mail car, two passenger cars and a flatbed car. It would make a daily round trip from Homosassa via Crystal River and Dunnellon to Ocala. Travelers heading west could change at Dunnellon and those heading north would change in Ocala. The purpose of the flatbed car of the train was to transport cedar, machinery and wooden barrels filled with salted mullet from Homosassa to Ocala. It did not take long for the locals to refer to the Atlantic Coast Line Engine #501 as the “Mullet Express”. Some old-timers “know” that during the prohibition years the train was also a convenient means of transporting the same size barrels filled with moonshine.

Above is a timetable for the SSO&G Railroad. There are several interesting items to observe. First, notice that this was effective at “6:30 AM” on the date shown. That’s getting it right down to the minute. Then, by looking at the times of departure and the stops included (in as little as two minutes) you realize that a train had a schedule very much like a streetcar of a later age. Next, read the names of the towns where the train stopped. Most no longer exist. Incidentally, in one of the elections held in the late 1880’s to determine a new location for the seat of Citrus County government, Gulf Junction got one vote. Also, Hartshorn is now Holder. Noting that at several stations “trains do not receive or deliver freight or passengers”, one wonders why it stopped at all. Probably just to receive or deliver mail. This timetable by itself is a fascinating study of another time in the life of our nation.

A moss factory nearby would ship dried Spanish moss to Ocala. If the moss was free of leaves and twigs, it would bring as much as 2 cents per pound from an upholstery factory in Jacksonville.

The track and depot located in Homosassa were both retired in November of 1941.