The Orange Blossom Cannonball, which gave families and tourists an old-fashioned steam engine ride between Tavares and Mt. Dora, will make its final run Sunday.
The Cannonball ferried thousands of visitors each year between the two Lake County train depots. It traveled at a leisurely 10 mph to make the 75-minute round-trip.
The popular tourist train failed to negotiate a new lease.
Florida Central Railroad did not renew the lease to Tavares Eustis & Gulf Railroad, owners of the train. The general manager for Florida Central Railroad said it was strictly “a business decision.”
“We had a fantastic five-year run and were happy to be a part of this neat historical business but we made the decision to pursue freight and storage opportunities along that line, said Matt Schwerin, general manager of Florida Central Railroad.
The only steam engine operating in Florida, outside of an amusement park. has a long history of service. Built in 1907 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, the Cannonball was first used to carry logs through Texas. Then, it moved to Arkansas, where it pulled excursion trains.
As steam engines were phased out, it started a new career as America’s Movie Train on the television ABC mini series “North and South.” The Cannonball was used in 20 TV and film projects including “True Grit,” “O Brother, Where Art Thou” and “Rosewood.”
The reconditioned train arrived in Tavares in 2011.
Now it’s the end of the line for the Cannonball and its backup, the Lake Dora Limited, a 1941 diesel engine. The wood-burning train will run its scheduled route Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Passengers will be served cake to celebrate the locomotive’s 110th anniversary and its final run.