Monday, November 2, 2015

Depots and Sandhill Cranes – Florida

On our trip to Florida in September to attend our friend’s annual wine tasting party, we stopped overnight in Ocala before our final short drive to Clearwater.  As usual, I’d done a bit of research looking for old railroad depots in the vicinity…

The Ocala Union Station (also known as Union Station Plaza) is a historic site in Ocala, Florida, United States.  It is located at 531 Northeast First Avenue.  It was built in 1917 by both the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads.  Before this station was built, ACL and SAL had separate depots in Ocala.  The first railroad arrived in Ocala in 1881.

As I was taking photos, along came this CSX freight train… Timing is everything!  Even if passenger trains don’t stop here any longer, a train rolling by adds to the feeling of this 98 year old railroad station complex.

The city is the county seat for Marion County and the population for the Ocala metropolitan statistical area is roughly 340,000.  Ocala was founded around 1849.


·       John Travolta and Kelly Preston live in the Ocala area.

Interestingly, the tracks for the two different rail lines intersect with each other at a 90 degree angle at the end of the depot on the right.  The other portion of the depot with its opposing set of tracks can be seen across the lawn and shrubs to the left…

Ocala's SunTran bus service still uses the station.  In addition, the Shuttleliner limo/van service offers several trips daily from here to Orlando’s International Airport.  The Community Redevelopment Area Design Studio and the office for Ocala’s Cultural Arts Coordinator are also housed in the depot.

The station served as a stop for Amtrak's Palmetto service until 2004, using the Seaboard Air Line's former tracks.  The former Atlantic Coast Line tracks are now part of Florida Northern Railroad.  

Currently Amtrak offers coach (bus) service from the station twice a day.  One route connects to the Silver Star (Amtrak train) in Lakeland and another run connects to the Silver Star (Amtrak train), this time in Jacksonville. 

Dee Dee’s Diner, also known as Dee Dee’s Dog House, is located in the Union Station complex right next to the depot.   I couldn’t find any references regarding the prior use of this building but it is old and was obviously part of the overall assembly of railroad related structures… Dee Dee’s was closed during our visit but this diner is on Facebook at

Ocala is recognized as “A horse capital of the World”.  There are over 1,200 horse farms, (900 of them raising Thoroughbreds), covering 77,000 acres in the area.  This business supports 44,000 jobs and brings in $2,200,000,000 in revenues…  

As we headed south on state highways and side roads after leaving Ocala, I spotted these sandhill cranes grazing in a pasture.  The common name of these birds refers to habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska's Sandhills on the American Plains.  They can be up to 4 feet tall but their wingspan can reach up to 7 feet 6 inches!

As we passed through Dade City Florida, I stopped to take a photo of this old depot…now a Dade City municipal building.  This depot was built by the Atlantic Coast Line Railway in 1912.  Amtrak's Palmetto passenger service was provided at this depot until November 2004.  Today it is served only by Amtrak's Thruway Motorcoach bus service between Jacksonville and Lakeland.

Dade City has a population of about 6,500 and it’s the county seat for Pasco County.  The town was first incorporated in the mid-1880s.  From what I read, Dade City is popular with tourists for its antique stores, restaurants and historic architecture.  The nearby Pioneer Florida Museum and Village features a 1913 35-ton Porter Locomotive among its exhibits… Website:


·       An annual Kumquat Festival is hosted in Dade City.  The surrounding area is a large producer of the tart kumquat, a citrus fruit that is eaten whole.

·       During World War II, a prisoner-of-war camp was situated in Dade City.  The prisoners were German soldiers who were in Rommel's Afrika Korps and were captured in North Africa.

This lone sandhill crane was feeding right alongside the highway near the Dade City railroad depot.   I don’t know whether or not this is a Florida sandhill crane or a migratory sub-species.  Florida sandhill cranes are not very common with only about 5,000 remaining.  As one might suspect, they are mostly threatened by habitat destruction.  In Florida, they are protected by severe penalties for killing them, under both state and federal laws.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Hi There, I always enjoy reading your posts.. SO interesting. You two make the MOST of everywhere you go.. Sometimes we do that but too many times, we are just going from one place to the next without enjoying all of the areas between.... Oh Well--tis life!!!!

    My son in Texas loves having the Sandhill Cranes visit their area for WINTER.... They live near Galveston, TX --and get many winter visitors (people and birds) to their area....


  2. Lot's of nice looking depots. When we were coming through Glenwood Canyon, I commented that it would be nice to see the Amtrak train and within a few miles there it was heading east - like you said, timing.