By Dave Hodges
Gulf Wind Chapter President
In 1858, the Pensacola and Georgia railroad built a Jefferson County train depot in Lloyd, Florida. Located near the junction of State Road 59 and County Road 158, it remains a centerpiece of the Lloyd Historic District. As the older of two other surviving antebellum railroad depots in the state, it is the oldest brick railroad station in Florida.
In its history, the depot was at the center of a rich agricultural region providing the growers in the area the ability to transport sent their crops, principally cotton, to St. Marks more than 30 miles away. and a flag stop for The Seaboard Air Line Railroad (SAL) that operated a local New Orleans – Jacksonville train on the line. The better-known Gulf Wind Railroad passed through without stopping. Now, a historic landmark, it was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on December 2, 1974.
When SAL discontinued its local service in 1966, the building was closed and faced demolition. Railroad officials decided to donate it to the Jefferson County Historical Society in 1968. A few years later, ownership was transferred to the Gulf Wind Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, which owns it to this day. Based in Moorestown, NJ, the National Railway Historical Society, Inc. (NRHS.com) is the premier nationwide organization devoted to the historic preservation of railroads and to building greater public awareness of the impact and contributions railroads have made in communities across the country.
When the Gulf Wind Chapter assumed ownership in 1975, its members set about the task of preserving this piece of Florida’s history. To date, several phases of restoration work have been completed, and the depot now serves as the town’s post office. The next phase of that restoration later this year will involve repairs to the masonry at the building’s southwest corner, and the replacement of the freight room door on the station’s platform along with associated repairs.
As a tax-exempt nonprofit organization, The Gulf Wind Chapter, is indebted to various entities for past grants received, including the state’s Division of Historical Resources and the NRHS Railway Heritage Grant program, as well as generous donations from various individuals.
The Chapter’s annual Depot Day celebrates the history and the cultural significance of the depot with an open house and free cookout for rail fans and all area residents. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. which coincides with the founding of the Gulf Wind Chapter in Tallahassee back in 1973. For Chapter members, it is an opportunity to put numerous railroad artifacts and memorabilia on display and to discuss the building’s historic significance.
Among the exhibits will be various pieces of vintage equipment used at the depot over the years, along with the chapter’s fully restored and functioning Fairmont S2 motorcar, which was built in 1938. Chapter member Larry McPherson will have on display in the building’s freight room an operating G-scale model train layout that he built.
“It’s hard to believe our organization has arrived at this 50-year milestone, but what better occasion to have our friends, family members and railroad history enthusiasts join us for a big celebration,” said Dan McDaniel, chapter vice president. “We will have displays of historic artifacts relating to the Lloyd Depot’s past, as well as exhibits about our chapter’s origins and its accomplishments.”
The Lloyd Depot is located at 8781 Old Lloyd Road in Lloyd, right on the Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad’s main line through the county. Heading east on Interstate 10, visitors are encouraged to use the State Road 59 exit and proceed south, then turn left at the flashing caution light at Old Lloyd Road.
Dave Hodges is the President of the Gulf Wind Chapter NRHS. Additional information about the depot and the NRHS Gulf Wind Chapter can be found at the Chapter website: GulfWindNRHS.org. Visitors are encouraged to follow the Chapter on Facebook at Facebook.com/GulfWindNRHS/.