• Jacksonville

  • Discussion relating to the FEC operations, past and present. Includes Brightline. Official web site can be found here: FECRWY.COM.
Discussion relating to the FEC operations, past and present. Includes Brightline. Official web site can be found here: FECRWY.COM.

Moderator: GOLDEN-ARM

  by dhaugh
Since I could not find a forum that deals with Florida, I guess I'll start here. I'm going to Jacksonville in the near future and am looking for a hot spot or two, where I might see a lot of trains- FEC, CSX, and whoever else might be there. Thanks - Dave

  by ACLfan

For FEC action in the Jax area, the most action will be at FEC's Bowden Yard in S. Jax.

Directions are:

From I-95 / J. Turner Butler Blvd. interchange: head west on J. Turner Butler to U.S. 1, turn left (south) on U.S. 1 for about 2 blocks, then turn right into FEC's Bowden Yard (just beyond BP gas station).

When on FEC property, BE SURE AND STAY OUT OF THE WAY, PARK IN DESIGNATED PARKING AREAS, DON'T WANDER AROUND, OR DRAW ATTENTION TO YOURSELF, and you'll have a very enjoyable time! Otherwise, you won't, and may spend much more unquality time in Jacksonville than you want to! FEC personnel are generally very friendly, but react very quickly and decisively to people who are being jerks, or doing stupid things.

Bowden Yard always has lots of FEC power for assignments, some in for repairs. NS power lays over between assignments (some NS intermodals originate/terminate in Bowden Yard as "hand-overs" to/from NS).

Much of the FEC mainline is visible from U.S. 1 between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, FL

I have posted info on the other railroads in the Jax area on your CSX post.

Good Luck and enjoyable train watching!


  by Noel Weaver
I think a word of caution is advisable here, it is NEVER advisable to go on railroad property regardless of where you might go on that property. I think you would be better advised to go a little bit further south and get your pictures of the trains charging by on the main line at speed rather than risk problems around the yard.
Noel Weaver

  by octr202
Now, not to sound like I'm encouraging going onto ANY railroad's property, but, keep in mind that for years the FEC has had a reputation as being very quick to "remove" anyone on their property. The company has a long history of being wary of trespassers, dating back to bitter labor disputes in the 1960's that turned violent on a couple occasions. When I lived in Jacksonville in the 1990's, even the most dedicated FEC fans that I knew of wouldn't dare consider driving into Bowden Yard's main entrance off of Route 1. This included railfans who (in the pre-9/11 days) would be willing to drive into paved parking lots at other yards (if the lots where on the perimeter, and not across yards tracks, etc.).

That said, there are several roads near the north and south ends of the yard where I often got a good view of the action. get yourself a good street map, and you will see how you can drive all the way around the yard via Phillips Hwy. (US 1), University Blvd. on the North (SR 109), Baymeadows Rd. on the south (SR 152), and Old Kings Road and Powers Ave. on the west side. When I was living there, there were a couple of small side streets off of Powers Ave., south of University Blvd., where you could go right to the end of the street and be at the tracks. One of these is right at the start of the north end of the yard, and you'll see the north end yard switchers, and transfer moves in and out of the north end. )Looking at Google Maps, I believe this is Morton St.) Also, there is a stub of the old University Blvd. (before the bridge over the RR) (creatively called Univ. Blvd. Ct. -- enters off of Powers Ave.) remaining under the highway bridge to serve businesses...this goes right down to the tracks as well. These might be better evening/weekend locations, when the businesses are closed...some of them have a lot of trucks going in and out.

I believe there are sidewalks on both the Univ. Blvd. and Baymeadows Rd. bridges, and failing that, a drive across either gives you a good look up into the yard to see what's moving about.

South of the yard, the first grade crossing is at Sunbeam Road, and just north of there the double track goes to single. There are side roads just west of the railroad that go off of Sunbeam (listed on mpas as "Historic Old Kings Road"). The last time I was there, there was just about 25-35 feet of wide open grass between the road and tracks, and pulling off on the side of the road to photograph was easy. Back when the FEC liked to put their GP-9's on road trains, the old units would often put on a good smoke and sound show as southbounds notched it out as they passed Sunbeam Road. You will sometimes also see a southbound waiting north of Sunbeam for a northbound to arrive.

Assuming schedules are the same, the evening hours usually have a parade of southbounds leaving Bowden. I used to live about 3 miles from here and could hear them every night.

The next siding south is Bayard, in souther Duval County, then the next is in St. Augustine. The FEC and US1 are close all the way to St. Augustine, but chasing is tough...the FEC has well maintained track, and they use it well. You won't be able to outrun anything (legally) unless it goes in the hole at Bayard or St. Augustine.

Finally, the FEC Bridge in downtown Jax. is easily visible from numerous locations on the north bank and southbank. If you're downtown, you can usually hear the siren on the bridge going before it lowers for a train. Usually gives you 5-10 minutes to get into position to see it.

Hope this helps.

  by dhaugh
Thanks for the replies. Don't recall if any of you replied to my similar post/question under the CSX forum, but if not, I should let you know that 1) I won't have a vehicle while there, 2) I'll be staying at the Hyatt Jacksonville on Coastline Dr. (wherever that is), and finally, I will be on a tour bus that's going to St. Augustine dinner and shopping. I'm hoping there will be an opportunity to catch some action then - some names (meaningless to me) while in St. A include St. George Street and Creekside Dinery. Dave

  by octr202
Coastline Drive is in the vicinity of the CSX Headquarters building. In that case, I'd recommend looking for the FEC action over the bridge downtown, as its all a good area for walking. You can walk over both the Acosta (the new bridge with the Skyway monorail on it) and the Main St. (blue lift bridge) Bridge, or take the Skyway from the northbank to the southbank. There are numerous grade crossings on the Southbank and San Marco where you can photograph the FEC too.

CSX and NS areas are not in places I'd recommend wandering to on foot in Jax.

As for St. Augustine, the FEC is out along Route 1. I can't recall how far it is from downtown, although it might be walkable (have to be in the 15-20 minute range). Maybe you'll get lucky and the bus will take US1 instead of I-95 (though I doubt it).

  by ACLfan
Gosh, Dave,

Your trip itinerary and footpower limitation generally restrict you to the FEC's St. Johns River bridge rail traffic.

As a word of weather warning: In the summertime, Florida's weather can change dramatically. Summer thunderstorms can happen rather suddenly, and in dramatic fashion, with strong, gusty winds, torrential downpours of rainfall, usually accompanied by severe lightning. Not a situation to be trapped in. So, don't plan to walk too far, or you may be trapped for over an hour or two by a passing thunderstorm.

As for St. Augustine, it seems like your train watching opportunities range from very slim to none. Sorry!
But, St. Agustine was Mr. Henry Flagler's first tourist destination point, and he built 3 grand hotels with several blocks of each other! The 3 hotels are:

The Ponce de Leon: Built between 1885 - 1888 as a huge Moorish-style palace with tall spires, turrets and red tile roofs. It was the first major building in the U.S. to be constructed wtih poured concrete. Since 1968, the former hotel building has been the main building of Flagler College, a 4-yr college. Located at King St. - Cordova St. on the W side of the downtown area.

The Casa Monica Hotel: Constructed in 1887 - 1888 in a Spanish / Moorish architectural design. Following its use as a grand hotel, the building served as a County Courthouse for many years before being restored to use as a hotel. Is a 138-room hotel that currently has a 4 - diamond rating by the AAA. Located at Cordova St. near King St.

The Alcazar Hotel: Construction completed in 1888; in the Spanish Renaissance Revival architectural style, based on the Royal Palace in Seville, Spain. The building is currently in public usage as the St. Augustine City Hall, and also houses the Lightner Museum. Located at King St. and Cordova St.

I thought that the railroad-related historical significance of these buildings may be interesting to you if you happen to see them on your trip to St. Augustine.

Also, the headquarters of the FEC Ry is located in St. Augustine. The Ry's headquarters consists of 3 interconnected buildings of the "Chicago commercial" architectural design. The headquarters is located about a block east of U.S. 1 on the west side of the City of St. Augustine. The address is 1 Malaga St.

Hope that this information may be of help to you in your travels.

And, I don't often often provide information about how to enter railroad property, but I have found from experience that FEC Ry personnel have transformed from some of the most railfan-hateful and rabid guard-dog types into some of the nicest railroaders that I have met.

But, a word to the wise: You take a definite risk every time that you set foot on private property. I simply told you how to get there. What you do, or not do, is your choice and your responsibility, and I assume that you will act responsibly.


  by dhaugh
I started this thread because I was heading to J-ville in June. Now I'll be returning at the end of December and will be staying at the Holiday Inn Baymeadows. I see from a net-map that the FEC runs semi-nearby, and was wondering about the area the hotel is in. It's approx. 9 miles from downtown, located by a golf course. First, is this area safe? And, second, just how close are the FEC tracks and is there any industry, yards or anything else interesting in the area. (I would be walking most likely). thx. Dave

  by ACLfan
Well, welcome back to sunny Florida, Dave!

I'm assuming that you will be using foot power again.

In response to your questions:

Baymeadows in proximity to the Holiday Inn is OK. A large office / commercial building complex named Perimeter Center is located to the north of Baymeadows between I-95 and U.S. 1 (Phillips Hwy).

Virtually all of the development between U.S. 1 (Phillips Hwy), which parallels the FEC, consists of a variety of industrial and commercial businesses. It's OK during the daytime, but I wouldn't recommend walking through the area at night.

Baymeadows Rd overpass is a good place to view FEC train movements. The other places mentioned in the previous posts above are also good, if you have a means of reaching them. Baymeadows is probably the only place within walking distance, except for the FEC Yard entrance off of U.S. 1, but I would not recommend walking into the FEC Yard. You would definitely attract attention --- not a good idea!

Hope this helps!

Take care and best wishes!


  by mmi16
dhaugh wrote:I started this thread because I was heading to J-ville in June. Now I'll be returning at the end of December and will be staying at the Holiday Inn Baymeadows. I see from a net-map that the FEC runs semi-nearby, and was wondering about the area the hotel is in. It's approx. 9 miles from downtown, located by a golf course. First, is this area safe? And, second, just how close are the FEC tracks and is there any industry, yards or anything else interesting in the area. (I would be walking most likely). thx. Dave
That is a safe area....the FEC is approximately a two mile walk to the West on Baymeadows Road, which crosses the FEC on a overhead bridge which gives a vantage point of the South End of Bowden yard. There used to be a GM Part Distrubtion warehouse just South of Baymeadows, however, this is being ground up remodeled into another shopping center and is still undergoing construction.

  by dhaugh
Got back from my Jacksonville trip a couple days ago. Unfortunately, time and weather prevented me from seeing much of anything, but upon leaving, I did see some things that I have some questions about -

Our buses left J-ville on the I-95 heading west toward Lake City. Just outside of J-ville, there was a track north of the interstate, but parallelling us for a ways. There were warehouses for Publix, Michael's, Winn-Dixie, a beer distributor I think, and a wood operation - the latter was the only one I could see cars at (center beams). My question is do any of the others receive cars, or are they at best getting TOFC/COFC? Thanks.

  by ACLfan

You were headed west on I-10. Most of the large distribution facilities on the I-10 corridor, like Publix, Winn-Dixie and Michaels, get loads and loads of TOFC / COFC, courtesy of the railroads (CSX and NS, with some from the FEC).

Some of Michaels' stuff comes directly as containers from the Port of Jacksonville via drayage trucks. but, most COFC / TOFC travel most of their routes by rail, then by local drayage from/to the intermodal terminals in Jax.

Even though their large intermodal terminal was constructed only a few years ago, CSX has recently announced that they are entering into discussions with NS regarding the possibility of constructing a new joint-use intermodal terminal in the Jacksonville area. No site has been mentioned.