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The Ponce de Leon
The Ponce de Leon was a named train of the Southern Railway which ran from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Jacksonville, Florida, from 1924 to the mid-1960s.

Operations
The Ponce de Leon (Train No. 4) departed Jacksonville at midday going north via subsidiary Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad to Macon and Atlanta, Georgia, then on Southern's former East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad line to Chattanooga, Tennessee, traveling overnight to Cincinnati via Southern subsidiary Cincinnati, New Orleans and Texas Pacific Railway. The train provided connections with the New York Central Railroad at Cincinnati for passengers headed to Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

The Royal Palm alternated with the Ponce de Leon on a reverse schedule between Cincinnati and Jacksonville, operating during daylight hours south from Cincinnati and then overnight between Atlanta and Jacksonville.

Sleepers were discontinued on the train in November 1959 and it ran as a coach-only consist until the end of operation.

In 1964, Southern Railway dropped the Atlanta - Jacksonville leg of the Ponce's operation. Southern, wanting out of the passenger business, discovered a loophole in the law permitting ending passenger service virtually without notice if certain conditions were met pertaining to flagging ridership. The Ponce De Leon's ridership fell to just the right ratio between Council, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. (Council is located south of the Okefenokee Swamp about half way between Jacksonville and Valdosta). In February of 1964, the Ponce De Leon rolled out of Cincinnati, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Macon and Valdosta and stopped at Council. A bus connection to Jacksonville was provided for the final leg, which proved effective in driving off the last of the train's ridership, and the Atlanta-Jacksonville segment was discontinued shortly thereafter.
By the time Southern Railway filed to discontinue the Ponce de Leon on January 22, 1968, the train was operating as Numbers 1 and 2, but only between Cincinnati and Atlanta. The train finally disappeared from the timetable in March 1968.

Train accident
The Ponce de Leon and Royal Palm collided on December 23, 1926 in Rockmart, Georgia. The northbound Ponce de Leon struck the Royal Palm, sadly resulting in 19 deaths and 113 injured, most on the Ponce de Leon.

The accident was also the subject of a song: "The Wreck of the Royal Palm" by Vernon Dalhart.

See also:

Southern Railway

Named Passenger Trains

Southern Railway herald

The Southern's "Ponce de Leon".

The Southern's "Ponce de Leon".
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