Tavares Gauntlet

Donnie Hensley <taplines@...>

I've been involved in the research of the Tavares and Gulf RR in Florida.

I've have found an interesting trackage arrangement south of Tavares that I would like to run by you all.

First a pre-history:
The St. Johns & Lake Eustis Ry (STJ&LE) built a three-foot gauge railroad from Astor on the St. Johns River south to Ft. Mason on Lake Eustis in 1879-1880. The railroad then built a 7.5 mile extension south to Lane Park on Lake Harris during 1882-1883, passing through the newly formed town of Tavares. Tavares was created by Alexander St. Clair-Abrams, a fascinating American figure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_St._Clair-Abrams) in 1880.� St.Claire-Abrams developed a railroad called the Tavares Orlando & Atlantic in 1884 (TO&A) and this road had to be finished into Orlando by May 15th, 1885 so he made a "Gentleman's Agreement" with the STJ&LE for a strange trackage agreement to save time. The problem was the swamp that was South-East of Tavares and the crossing of the Dora Canal. Extensive trestle work and fill would have to be used to cross this low land which would have delayed the construction of the railroad and violated the contractor's agreement for completion. The handshake agreement allowed the TO&A to use the STJ&LE to cross this low land. TO&A then replaced the narrow gauge ties with standard ties, and laid their rails outside the existing rails, creating a Gauntlet Track for 3/4 of a mile. The TO&A agreed to maintain this trackage for their fee. Another railroad was added to the Gauntlet in 1887-88, St. Clair-Abram's Tavares Apopka & Gulf (TA&G) which agreed to split the maintenance. Two more railroad entered town, the Florida Central & Peninsular (FC&P) from the west around 1890 and the Sanford & Lake Eustis (S&LE) from the east around the same time. Tavares had the honor of having five different railroads as well as stealing the county seat of Lake County from Leesburgh, not bad for a small village of 490 souls! The StJ&LE was Standard Gauged in 1896 when taken over by the Plant System but the four-rail Gauntlet continued. The STJ&LE and S&LE later became part of the Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) and the TO&A and the FC&P became part of the Seaboard Air Line (SAL) and the TA&G became the Tavares & Gulf (T&G) and the Gauntlet Agreement continued until May of 1939, when the ACL applied for abandonment of the Lane Park trackage. The ICC mentions the Gauntlet in their Order. The Gauntlet lasted 54 years!

1) Was this Gauntlet Trackage Arrangement unique? I have heard of Gauntlet Tracks being used for double track mainlines to cross a single track bridge, but never for two or three different railroads to cross. Has any one heard of such an arrangement?
2) Anyone have access to an ACL or SAL ETT from 1938 or earlier and would be willing to copy the timetable and special instructions for the Tavares portion? I need proof of the existence of wye trackage� by both railroads before 1939 and the form of train control in place at that time. In the 1950's there was a Block Traffic Control System� between Tavares and Elsworth Jct. (3 miles) where the T&G branches off. The rest of the Orlando Sub was by timetable and train order. I assume a similar system was in effect prior to 1939 which also controlled the ACL.
3) I'm looking for photos showing this four rail trackage. Has anyone seen such photos?

Comments welcomed.

Sorry for the multiple posts.

Donald R. Hensley, Jr.
Tap Lines
Southeastern RR History and Photographs
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