The Palmetto is often associated with Amtrak's present-day service between New York and South Florida. However, long ago this same name was given to a new train launched by the Atlantic Coast Line during the early 1940s connecting the Big Apple with eastern Georgia. Under the ACL's direction the Palmetto offered passengers numerous amenities providing a consist of Pullmans and coaches that was predominantly heavyweight in nature, at least until the train's late era when most had been retired (it became noteworthy for fielding heavyweights for many years). As ridership declined a number of accommodations were lost although it survived until a year after the Seaboard Coast Line merger when the Palmetto was removed from the timetable.
The Atlantic Coast Line added what was then known as the Palmetto Limited to its timetable during the summer of 1942, likely as a means of providing more services for the rush of wartime demand in moving troops and other passenger movements related to the war effort. The new train was listed as #77 (southbound) and #78 (northbound) providing service between Boston/New York and Savannah, Georgia. As always, such a schedule was dependent on help from several partnering roads; the New Haven handled the train between Boston and New York where the Pennsylvania carried it to Washington, D.C.; from there the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac handled it to Richmond at which point the ACL picked it up for the remaining journey south to Savannah.
Interestingly, in 1944 the railroad embarked on an endeavor to shorten the names of several trains; the Palmetto Limited became simply the Palmetto and the Coast Line Florida Mail was shortened to just the Florida Mail. There was also a change for the flagship Champions; when first launched they had been known as the Tamiami Champions but were later regarded as simply the "East Coast" Champion and "West Coast" Champion to reflect which part of Florida they served. According to Larry Goolsby's book, "Atlantic Coast Line Service: The Postwar Years," the Palmetto would depart New York early in the afternoon (the Boston section left around breakfast) and arrived in Savannah around lunchtime with a schedule of just under 24 hours.
Since the Palmetto was always considered a secondary train it often ran with a lot of head-end mail/express within its consist. The ACL also regarded it as a "Coach-Pullman Train." For instance, according to the company's December, 1956 timetable a typical consist would include reclining-seat coaches, a full diner, cafe-lounge, and up to seven sleepers. While the railroad acquired a large batch of lightweight, streamlined cars after the war the Palmetto was not assigned many of these for years and still ran predominantly heavyweight through the early 1950s; in fact, the train carried one of ACL's last heavyweight sleepers still in service through early 1959, a car offering 6-section/6-double bedroom accommodations.
The era also witnessed the loss of ACL's gorgeous Royal Purple and silver livery. During 1957 incoming president W. Thomas Rice abolished the paint in favor of a more drab black and yellow scheme citing high maintenance costs. By the 1960s even the ACL was feeling the affects of declining ridership and began cutting back services; for the Palmetto it lost its Savannah-Washington sleeper during February of 1964, leaving it only sleeper service via its connecting train to Augusta (it also carried a connecting sleeper to Wilmington but this service operated on the West Coast Champion during the summer). During the summer of that year more cutbacks ensued as the train's southern terminus became Florence, South Carolina. As Mr. Goolsby's book notes it appears the train's primary purpose from then until its demise was carrying through cars for connections to Wilmington an Augusta.
As a result, not much happened for the Palmetto from then on, as it quietly carried on in its secondary role. According to one of the ACL's last public timetables, the train's consist in the spring of 1967 included five reclining-seat coaches, a parlor, bar-lounge, the Washington-Wilmington sleeper (10-roomette/6-double-bedroom), and a cafe-lounge for the connection between Florence and Augusta. During the summer of that year the Seaboard Coast Line was formed through the merger of ACL and SAL. As the new railroad prioritized its remaining passenger operations, not surprisingly the Palmetto was eventually removed, making its final run under the SCL on December 30, 1967 although its Florence-Augusta connection still ran and, timed with the Champion.