Gross to Callahan

The Gross Cutoff

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Gross Cutoff looking southwest at CR 108 northwest of Yulee, FL. Photo by John Hendricks, October 2011.

The Gross Cutoff was built by the Seaboard Air Line around 1925 so their passenger trains could bypass the congested Union Terminal in Jacksonville. Florida was a major tourist destination and they had to upgrade their rail line in order to compete with their rival, the Atlantic Coast Line. Named for a small turpentine village on the SAL line just south of the Georgia State Line (near the present day intersection of I-95 and US 17), the bypass veered off to the southwest, joining the old Florida Railroad on a curve 1/2 mile east of Callahan. Once completed, the 13-mile long bee line sans curves funneled much of their passenger trains through the thick pine forests of Nassau County to Callahan and onto Tampa, St. Petersburg and Miami. After the ACL and SAL merged in 1967, the newly formed Seaboard Coast Line selected the double-tracked ACL line from Savannah as their primary line, regulating the Gross Cutoff to Amtrak passengers trains and local manifests. By 1985, CSX deemed the cutoff unnecessary, abandoning the line entirely from their live tracks in Callahan northeastward to I-95 and US 17.

Today most of the line runs through a privately owned timber management area, although CSX claims ownership of about 2 miles of the bed in Callahan.

Thanks to John Hendricks for contributing information about this route.

This line was indeed removed, however, CSX never reverted the land back to the orignal owners. There is VERY strong talk that most of this line will be put back in in the very near future to accomidate the new Intermodal traffic coming from Dames Point. Stay tuned for more details.

Vic Lewis
Florence, SC
12/3/2012

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The Gross Cutoff, as it was commonly referred to, served a much greater purpose as SAL routed many manifest freights this way as well. The route was equipped with CTC in 1948 with 3 controlled signalled sidings to keep the trains moving. After the SCL merger, the route continued to be used by freight trains operating between Savannah and Baldwin Yard over the "S" Line. Much of the overhead traffic declined after Rice Yard was completed in Waycross as SCL began to route the freight through this new faciity. With the abandonment of a portion of the Everett Subdivision in late 1985, the Gross to Callahan segment was left without a purpose and it too was abandoned with the trackage being removed early in 1986. CSX owns the entire ROW and there is news as Vic mentioned that the line will be rebuilt at some point, but it is unclear how it will connect with the A Line now since part of the ROW in Callahan is being used for other purposes.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
9/14/2013

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Are the Points of Interest correct? I was out there today and unfortunately I didn't save this site to my phone.. had to use another source. They claimed the trestles are closer to town than displayed here. Also, the road signs aren't "properly" labeled on the road themselves. CSX has their signs all over the place, recently updated - No Trespassing was the one that turned me away. I won't tell where I tried to get access but it was completely submerged thanks to the recent rain we've had. I can't see them redoing this line as it appeared to run through peoples homes. Stranger things have occurred I suppose...

John, if you still check the site I'd like to ask you some questions. Excellent article and excellent site!!! This kind of stuff fascinates me.

Light
Jax, FL
4/20/2014

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The portion of the line north of Callahan to Gross never went through any neighborhoods that I know of. I think you are referring to the old line that ran to Yulee, much of which has been wiped out by houses, and development. CSX has

not been forthcoming with any further details of reactivting the line to Gross, but they do still own the ROW and can relay the track anytime they get ready. After the SCL merger, it was infact the S Line that was made the primary freight route between Savannah and Baldwin, but soon SCL began running most freight on the A Line after Rice Yard was completed at Waycross. The S Line was less important after this and CSX pulled the plug in 1985, but the route, if it still existed today would be ideal for Intermodal and coal traffic as well as Amtrak. I can't confirm this, but was told by someone at CSX that they infact wanted to keep the S Line, but the FRA said they'd have to keep it to 79 MPH standards, and so CSX dug it up.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, South Carolina, SC
4/23/2014

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Hey Light. The concrete trestle is located several hundred yards southwest of Petree Road which is off SR 200 leaving Callahan. Petree Road is also where the Gross Bypass merged into the old Florida RR line. Eugene: The Gross Bypass mile marker code was SM since the S line paralleled US 17 from Savannah to downtown Jax. My email is JHendricks459@aol.com if you have any questions. Hopefully the start of the new RR at the Jax Port will be the beginning of the relaying of the Gross Bypass.

john h
callahan, FL
6/19/2014

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It is still unclear how the rehab of this route will tie into the A line at Callahan. I have heard 2 stories...one is that CSX will use the old connection that existed prior to 1986....this was the connection heading south onto the A Line there...but the problem is that the Depot now sits right on top of the right of way there...duh!!!! The other story goes like this...CSX will turn north and join the A Line just north of Callahan. But I am wondering if this is ever going to happen now. Last I heard, plans were shelved for now. I hope to see it reactivated for sure, but I don't see much hope for the rebuilding of the line from Kingsland back to Bladen as some have speculated. This was CSX's back door to Waycross via the Brunswick Sub and why they closed it is beyond my understanding since it was so useful getting freight out of the North Jax area.

Eugene Cain
Hardeeville, SC
6/28/2014

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Hey Eugene. Thanks for the comments. I have heard both stories concerning the rehab of the Gross Line. The more favored version is the turn to the west just above Callahan which would spare the task of moving the Callahan Train Depot (for the 5th time). Both stories were placed on the back burner last year as a study was done by a transportation group on a 3rd possible route through northern Duval County. This route would allow NS direct access to the port without using much of CSX's lines. I am not sure how that turned out, but the railroad has begun the rail yard at the port and also through my connections I have heard that CSX has recently inspected the trestles along the Gross Line. I won't get excited until I actually see some sort of physical construction but I do know CSX will have to make a decision soon. I will post on here if I see or hear anything concrete. (PS, Daniel Callahan, our town's namesake and prolific RR contractor, built the ACL line (the one in Hardeeville) from Savannah, GA to Coosawhatchie, SC in 1859-1860, then rebuilt the same line after the War.)

john h
Callahan, FL
6/28/2014

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