J. M. & P R.R. Route – 1818, 1892 on 1918 Quad

Clifton to Cosmo

HISTORY: In 1880 Jacksonville was a growing city, and prior to any form of air conditioning, there was a growing desire to go to the oceanfront during the summer months. People went down the unimproved river by boat to the small but growing community of Mayport. They then went to the ocean by carts or wagons along sandy trails. There was a trend developing along the eastern coast of the US to build railroad lines from cities such as Savannah to the beaches and Jacksonville was a prime candidate.

A group of Jacksonville businessmen chartered such a railroad in 1882 named the “Arlington and Atlantic” to connect Arlington and Mayport. They however had concerns about the length of the ferry ride from downtown to Arlington. The same basic group chartered another railroad known as the Jacksonville and Atlantic that ran from South Jacksonville (which already had ferryboat service from downtown) to Pablo (Jacksonville Beach). This railroad opened in 1885 and was taken over by Flagler’s Florida east Coast (FEC) Railroad Co. in 1900 until it ended in 1932; the R/W eventually becoming Beach Boulevard (in 1951).

In January of 1886 a company headed by a local businessman Alexander Wallace, chartered the Jacksonville, Mayport and Pablo Railway and Navigation Company to build a railroad from Mayport to the beach and then to a dock in Arlington. He later planned a line to go south to the terminus of the J&A at Pablo. He felt the Mayport community could become a significant player in the transportation future of North Florida. As a part of his plan he built a new hotel on the ocean called the “Burnside.”

By the summer of 1886 the first section of the line was opened between Mayport and Burnside Beach. There had been a small hotel even before the Civil War and Wallace now had his new “grand” hotel. The main line to Arlington was begun and the railroad had a grand opening May 17, 1888. The Knights of Pythias took a ferry ride from a dock at the foot of Newnan Street to a dock in Arlington (near Jones College) and on to Burnside Beach for a day of partying. The train sadly broke down on the return causing passengers to walk and stranding others at the beach. The railroad opened for business June 1, 1888 but the press had given it the unflattering nickname “Jump Men and Push.”

The JM&P had a twice a day schedule with stations at Eggleston, Gilmore and Cosmo, and stops at other remote settlements along the way. Things went well until Wallace died unexpectedly with a heart attack in 1889 and almost simultaneously the Burnside hotel burned. J. Stockton then managed the business for Wallace’s widow until 1892 when it was sold to Russell, Youmans, and Scott. The new owners saw the limitations of the dock in Arlington and extended the line through Clifton across the Arlington River and little Pottsburg Creek to South Jacksonville providing a 28-mile ride to the ocean.

The new line opened July 9, 1893 but had some problems with derailments and minor breakdowns. Cattle or wildlife threatened passengers at some of the remote stations. Income was the main problem as costs were only covered during the tourist season and regular operations ceased in 1895 with mail being delivered by handcar until ca. 1897.

Now at this point Paul Harvey would say “and here is the rest of the story.” The importance of this railroad in the development of Arlington in the early days can’t be overstated. Think of the convenience it gave people who lived along its route to ride the train for work, pleasure, and mail delivery. Mr. Hawley, who wrote the Arlingtonian, had several articles on his memories such as riding it on his wedding day and he and Mr. A. Gilmore using it to go back and to work by handcar. After the rails were removed it became a path to walk from the dock through the woods to his home in Gilmore. If Duval County had had the foresight, the JM&P R/W and trestles could have been the first road from South Jacksonville to the beaches long before the opening of Atlantic Boulevard in 1910.

The J.M.&P. RR opened for business in the summer of 1888 and had a station at Gilmore. The J.M.&P. also delivered mail, passengers and goods and literally put Gilmore on the maps. The Station is believed to have been about where the Crest Chevrolet show room is now located. The railroad ceased operation ca. 1897 but the tracks remained until ca. 1900, and access to Gilmore was facilitated by handcars to deliver the mail and for transportation to town. After the rails were removed the roadbed continued to provide access and the alignment can be easily seen on the 1918 Quad map. The railroad curved through Gilmore around the head of Mill Creek to avoid the wetlands.