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Eastern Railroad Discussion > FEC Railfanning Questions

Date: 02/23/24 20:41
FEC Railfanning Questions
Author: trainmandan

Hello to the members of the Eastern Board!

I've heard through the grapevine that Florida East Coast's parent company, GrupoMexico, has started to repaint the ES44ACs into a new corporate blue/gree/gray scheme that, IMO, is not nearly as striking as the famous Champions scheme. Because I live in Chicagoland and never get down to Florida, fanning the FEC has never really been a priority item - more of a bucket list thing - until I heard about the paint news. Now all of a sudden I feel like the timeline to visit has moved up rather considerably to see some of these units before it's too late, so I'm considering a potential trip to visit the line.

Because I work as an accountant, I have very little free time to travel anywhere until post-April 15, and other priorities around Chicagoland would prevent me from making a visit until mid-May at the earliest (more likely late May - early June). Such a visit would likely be a max of 1-2 days and would primarily be focused on catching some of the remaining Champions units (though I am not opposed to capturing the new scheme or even seeing the new Vets unit and the Breast Cancer Geeps, plus a little Brightline action while I'm at it, time permitting).

Given all that, here are my questions for a potential visit:

1) What would be considered the busiest portions of the route (which could include / exclude Brightline traffic)? I'm primarily hoping for mainline traffic but not opposed to local traffic if it's nearby.
2) Are there any famous landmarks along the route (e.g., depots, signals, etc.) that are must-sees for a first-time visitor?
3) Similar to (2), what should be included in my top 3 locations to capture FEC traffic to maximize my visit?
4) Do traffic levels vary considerably between day / night? I'm not opposed to bringing flash equipment with me if it's worth the effort.
5) Any safety concerns that I should be aware of (e.g., rough neighborhoods near the tracks to stay away from)?

Appreciate all the insights you can provide to help me with the planning process! Would love to make a trip down there work out, if possible. Thanks much!

Date: 02/24/24 06:38
Re: FEC Railfanning Questions
Author: ShortlinesUSA

I'm going to narrow your planning down quite a bit based on what you're seeking to accomplish-- You need to go to St. Augustine. It features the most trains in daylight and the best potential to photograph mainline trains in good light favorable for direction as any spot on the line.

For a very few FEC basics, yes, more trains run at night than during the day on MOST spots of the line (I'm not including Brightline). St. Augustine is roughly equal between night and day, which is quite good for FEC trains on other portions of the system. The further south you go, the fewer trains you'll see in daylight. Also, FEC is notoriously slow on WEEKENDS! Unfortunately, this is a time when many folks who work regular hours want to visit the line. You absolutely do not want to be there on a Saturday, and to a lesser extent Sunday if you are seeking to maximize your railfanning.

St. Augustine features a number of fine photo angles, and the "signature shot" is the bridge over the San Sebastian River, which is a morning northbound shot. This is good, because there will be 3 northbound mainline trains most weekday mornings. 210, 204, and 202 will come through from sunrise through about 10am.  Sometime after 202 goes north, local 905 will come south. The hotshot 105 will come through southbound around 1-1:30 pm. 905 will come back north sometime later in the afternoon, possibly just before or just after 107 goes south around 6pm.

Here are a couple of shots of St. Augustine. Sorry for the links, but my photos post upside down here--



If you want to see a bit more of the system, I'd recommend seeing 105 through Bunnell (if you want a good track speed location) or the city golf course in Daytona Beach (more scenic for photography).

There is no better place than St. Augustine to photograph the morning northbounds because the line takes an easterly bend over the San Sebastian River. 107 will be in darkness much past St. Augustine during shorter days of the year.

You should stay at The Ponce Hotel in St. Augustine. It is right on the tracks, and be sure to request a room on the backside of the hotel when you make your reservation; Second floor is better for viewing.  This is the view from your back window--


204 is THE train to get right now, as it is regularly using older EMD power. FEC just sent 5 of the Champion scheme ES44C4s to Mexico, so the repainted units (yes, that's more than true) are going to be more of a factor on the mainline trains when you visit. 

If you REALLY have your heart set on south Florida, Stuart would get my top recommendation, but you're only going to see two mainline trains in daylight-- southbound 101 mid-morning and northbound 206 mid-afternoon. This is 206 crossing the Stuart drawbridge--


Local 912 crossing southbound--


I hope this helps with planning your visit. Please feel free to ask any follow-up questions.

Mike Derrick

Date: 02/24/24 07:12
Re: FEC Railfanning Questions
Author: Lackawanna484

Good advice. I would add that you have to get down to Cocoa / Rockledge to see any BrightLine trains.

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