View Full Version : Railfanning in SW Florida

12-28-2010, 11:44 PM
We are staying in Cape Coral, FL for the winter and wanted to know where there are some good railfan spots . Thanks

12-29-2010, 12:28 PM
The Seminole Gulf is right in Ft. Myers, so that will be your closest option. Their freight traffic is way down, and presently they're only making the run to the CSX interchange at Arcadia one day a week, typically north to Arcadia Wednesday and return south on Thursday. That is a run worth seeing and photographing if you have the time. They also run passenger excursions and a dinner train, so that may be a nice ride for you at some point. Check out http://www.semgulf.com for more info.

You could also head over to Clewiston and see the South Central Florida Express and US Sugar operations there. It is getting toward the tail end of sugar cane harvest season, and that is when they are busiest. Local from Sebring typically comes in early morning from a night turn, and will continue on to Ft. Pierce mid to late morning after swapping crews and switching cars around Clewiston. Cane trains should be operating to and from the fields north and south of Clewiston, and back and forth through town all day provided harvest is still underway.

For mainline action, CSX is your closest bet. Plant City is a popular spot, and about as busy as you'll find near the west coast of FL. I particularly like the Bone Valley operation, which is centered out of Mulberry. The phosphate industry is in a general decline, so there aren't as many locals as there used to be, but it still can be a productive day chasing trains there. Definitely want a scanner and a map for that one, as there are several lines in the area and they dispatch by track authority.

That's pretty much it for action close to you. If you decide you're up for a longer trip, going over to the FEC at Stuart would get a pretty strong recommendation from me. If the schedule is still the same, you should have a couple of trains around there mid to late morning. I can verify that if you definitely decide to go over. General rule of thumb with FEC in south Florida (or just about any part of the system, really) is plan an early day, don't sleep in.

Enjoy your time down there!

12-29-2010, 10:15 PM
There are no (repeat NO) good railfan spots in or near Cape Coral. Your best bet is to drive North to Tampa/Plant City/Lakeland/Bone Valley where you will get a decent amount of traffic on weekdays and a varrying mix of traffic, or you can head East to Stewart/West Palm Beach/Ft. Lauderdale, where it's not much better.

The SGLR runs in Ft. Lauderdale, but it's a once a week operation now each way from Ft. Meyers to their interchange in Arcadia with CSX and completely unpredictable. There is a local that runs whenever someone actually has something they want moved (completely random). They have a dinner train that runs too, has an F unit (dead cab) but I dont know when it runs, check their website I would imagine. But that operation is not worth the hassle if you ask me.

Tampa Area Hotspots:

"78th street": which is a road which crosses the mouth of yeoman yard. It's public property you can sit and watch trains roll by. There is 3 yard shifts and you will likely see SOMETHING. The line that runs over 78th street is the former SAL mainline, about a mile North of that up Orient Rd is the former ACL mainline, and the only thing that runs over it is a pair of night intermodals, 2 Amtrak's a day + an occasional local.

Downtown Mulberry, FL the former ACL and SAL bone valley branches cross at grade in the middle of SR39. In the past year, the state decided to erect these ugly barricades blocking some of the photography angles, but you will catch everything in and out of the BV from here. A few miles up SR60 is Mulberry Yard where about half the crews and trains stage. The other half stages in Winston Yard, a bit from here.

Plant City Interlocking: In downtown Plant City, FL. Everything in and out of Tampa with few exceptions will cross the diamond. It's not terribly busy, but it's not dead either.

Lakeland: about 10 miles East of PC is Lakeland. You pass the entrance to Winston Yard on the way. Not a whole lot to see here, but you will get most traffic in and out of Winston Yard which is mostly loaded and empty phosphate unit trains, occasional unit molten sulphur trains, a mixed freight Q453 (I think) and the occasional loaded coal train and local + 2 Amtrak.

Thats a 5 minute brief on Tampa. Personally I go elsewhere for railfanning for the most part, and I LIVE HERE...

12-30-2010, 12:11 AM
Thanks guys, I will try to visit as many as possible.

12-30-2010, 12:32 AM
Checking with a friend that is in Stuart right now, he says there are only two trains through Stuart in daylight right now, early morning 121 and 123, somewhere between 0630 and 0830. He mentioned a local from Ft. Pierce comes through Tuesdays and Thursdays around 0930 in good light. But with short winter days, I'd plan that Tu-Th local as about your best bet...

12-30-2010, 10:37 AM
Yea, on the East coast, there is the FEC mainline and the CSX mainline. FEC is the busier of the two, but most runs at night, you get two nortbounds first thing in the morning + a local at some point, plus maybe a rock train sporadically. On CSX you have no day freight except maybe a local, but 4 Amtrak + many tri-rail (commuter)