|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||United States Gulf Coast|
|First service||July 31, 1949|
|Last service||April 30, 1971|
|Louisville and Nashville Railroad/Seaboard Air Line Railroad|
Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (1967-1971)
|End||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|34,38 (eastbound), 39,99 (westbound)|
|Seating arrangements||Reclining seat coach|
|Sleeping arrangements||sections, and double bedrooms|
|Catering facilities||dining cars|
The Gulf Wind was a streamlined passenger train inaugurated on July 31, 1949, as a joint operation by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line Railroad (Seaboard Coast Line after merger with the Atlantic Coast Line on July 1, 1967). The Gulf Wind replaced the heavyweight New Orleans - Florida Express on this routing. The Gulf Wind was a limited stops train and offered amenities such as dining cars and Pullman service. The train left Jacksonville at night and arrived in New Orleans in the evening, as the Express had done.
Prior to the establishment of the Gulf Wind the New Orleans-Florida Express had a counterpart train, the New Orleans-Florida Limited, which left Jacksonville in the morning. For much of the twentieth century, one or two other passenger trains, numbered but unnamed, also plied this route daily; these were much-slower local trains, stopping at each small town along the route, and were labeled simply as "passenger, mail, and express" in timetables. The Express, contrary to its name, made stops at small towns; while the Gulf Wind did made fewer stops, mainly in larger towns and cities.
The train's 617-mile route ran from Jacksonville, Florida via Tallahassee, Chattahoochee, Pensacola, Flomaton, Mobile, and Biloxi to New Orleans. Locomotives were changed at Chattahoochee, where the SAL rails met those of the L&N.
With a schedule designed for passengers changing to or from the Seaboard's Silver Meteor at Jacksonville, the Gulf Wind originally departed both endpoints at 5 p.m. daily for the overnight run across the Florida Panhandle and along the Gulf Coast, arriving in the morning at the other end of the line. The name was likely inspired by the success of another train carried partly over L&N rails, the Chicago-Miami South Wind.
The consist of the Gulf Wind included baggage cars, coaches, and Pullman sleepers, as well as an L&N diner between New Orleans and Mobile, and an SAL diner between Chattahoochee and Jacksonville. A round-ended observation car was also a regular part of the Gulf Wind consist.
Passenger service existed on this route from its construction in 1882 by the Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad, at times with three or four daily trains in each direction. In 1949, the L&N and the SAL had a daytime local train that arrived at its destinations in the early evening. This day train had no diner or lounge; besides coaches, it carried just baggage and mail cars. (Its predecessor, the New Orleans-Florida Express, had a dining car.) The local was eliminated in 1965 or 1966.
In its later years, as passenger numbers dwindled, the Gulf Wind was often combined with L&N's northbound Piedmont Limited from New Orleans to Flomaton, and with the southbound Pan-American from Flomaton to New Orleans. The Gulf Winds daily schedule was cut back to triweekly in the late 1960s.
The last run of the Gulf Wind occurred on April 30, 1971. Amtrak, which took over nearly all passenger train operations in the United States on the following day, elected not to continue running the Gulf Wind, which despite good equipment and service was not a profitable train at that point in time.
The western portion of the Gulf Wind route from Mobile to New Orleans was briefly served by Amtrak's Gulf Coast Limited from 1984 to 1985, and again from 1996 to 1997.
The Gulf Wind route had no scheduled passenger train service between Jacksonville and Flomaton until the revived and extended tri-weekly Sunset Limited was inaugurated by Amtrak in 1993. The service was again suspended in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina did extensive damage to the Gulf Coast. Passenger service had not resumed as of 2016[ref]. In 2016 and 2017 Gulf Coast regional officials agitated for restoration of daily train service between New Orleans and Florida.