Stop 12: The 1912 Atlantic Coastline RR Depot
(Atlantic Coastline Depot) Dade City Heritage & Cultural Center (formerly Train Museum) This is not a walking stop. Please check the website at: http://www.dadecityheritagemuseum.org for their hours if you would like to visit the current occupant of the historical depot.
Located at U.S. 301 and Highway 98 at the east end of Meridian Avenue is a brick Victorian style Atlantic Coastline Depot building that is largely unchanged from its 1912 origin. It is an example of brick railway stations of the early twentieth century. Two depots in that general location have existed; when the earlier structure was in disrepair, the new 1912 building was erected just down the road. Photos of both depots are included. Often confused with the downtown depot, freight was more frequently transported in the Atlantic Coastline Depot and the downtown Seaboard Coastline Depot (which also occupied at least two buildings over time) near The Edwinola Hotel was more frequently utilized for passengers. As Tom Touchton, a native of Dade City and a founding member of the Tampa Bay History Center with a world-renowned map collection, recalled in 2017, it was not just freight as the circus trains came through Dade City periodically and the children who were sons and daughters of merchants, were quick to make their way to the depot to gaze at the magnificent animals…giraffes, zebras and the like…Oh my!
The city purchased the depot building in 1990, and made a commitment to renovate and utilize it.
By 1997, the depot was restored at a cost of $540,000, with eighty percent coming from federal money. The renovation closely resembled the original although air conditioning, handicap ramps, and enlarged restrooms were new conveniences. The restoration of the Depot earned Dade City the Outstanding Rural Community of the Year Award in 1994 with a $2000 cash award.
At the rededication of the ACL Depot in May of 1997, Mayor Charles McIntosh accepted a plaque from Pasco County Commissioner Sylvia Young noting the depot had attained status on the National Historic Registry.
After utilization as a Habitat for Humanity Office, a train museum and theatre were opened by Jim Guedry in 2006. Guedry, the CEO of Dade City Business Center, operated a trolley tour through historic Dade City, staging theatrical reenactments at the depot with actors. Guedry claimed that he gathered $150,000 worth of historical pictures, an actual railroad crossing, and train sets that replicated Dade City in the 1950s. His partners, Don Dueker and Ronnie Triplett also donated historical artifacts to the effort.
With the discontinuation of the Train Museum & Trolley, the Depot had yet another life as office space for city officials for several years.
In 2019, the city embarked on a partnership with an area resident who had operated a museum in West Virginia, Joy Lynn, to create a Heritage & Cultural Museum in the depot space. This new life of the ACL Depot commenced with a ribbon cutting on February 14th of 2019. Their website states, “We are hands on and offer personal, non-scripted tours so you may understand the secrets, curiosities and heritage that is Dade City. Active tracks lend to a wonderful train experience. Our collections and exhibits offer a fascinating story telling adventure.” It serves as an all-volunteer center and a 501c3 not for profit that continues to facilitate understanding of history and travel.