o let’s just say, hypothetically, you were standing trackside in Titusville in the 70s (when it was still a sleepy little southern town). It’s about 3pm on a perfect Florida afternoon.
Some blue units with 930 mounted on the number boards have been in town for a while. You might have checked references (mimeographed off a typewritten sheet by the Florida East Coast Railroad Fan Club (if such an organization existed)) to see that this was the Titusville Turn. Oddly, it listed its duties as light switching in the small offline yard but here it was with a long string, the engines running up and down the length of the oversized cut as if trying to determine what to do with it. All the brakemen were out throwing mainline switches (your references list these as fairly new interlockings, so why are they overriding?). As the lead units roll past, you hear the increasingly shrill dispatcher yammering on the cab radio, the engineer shaking his head. Finally the entire overlong cut is pushed back into Titusville, the main and siding now clear. And well down the tracks to the south, you see shimmering headlights. You get your polaroid camera ready for a shot.
It roars in, the brakes squealing as the train (a general freight number-boarded 208) eases to a stop at the Garden Street crossover. Now why would…?
The opposing train, rumbling up behind you, catches you by surprise. It’s down the siding before you know it; you catch 311 on the boards, more freight. Brakes squealing, it rounds the long curve out of town and grinds to a stop, the caboose juuuust clear of the crossover. And from behind it, you see exhaust rising. Clearly, another train is holding just outside of town behind 208. What’s going on?
The twin turnouts in front of you throw over with a heavy clunk and 208 begins to slowly ease into the siding behind 311, shaving it so close the caboose grab irons are nearly carried off. You snap shot after shot as the heavy freight cars sway their way onto the siding. As it clears, the points come over with a second resounding crash and suddenly 208 is backing up until the cabooses actually couple. It seems that Titusville siding is packed today, perfect for dozens of pictures (you don’t have time to peel the photo paper off the shots you’ve taken).
With a mad ringing of bells and a series of sharp honks for the benefit of the well-blocked grade crossings, a third train hurtles past, glimpsed in the space between freight cars, gathering speed for its run to Jacksonville – bright orange Tropicana cars. 202, a reefer block.
Shortly after this, 311 is on its way. 208 finally gets a yellow board to proceed out of town in the wake of fast-moving 202. And you are left on the side of the tracks, peeling paper off your photos and applying the fixing agent to them. Action shots! These ones are keepers. You are still at it when lowly 360 rumbles south to continue its work down the line…
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And, full disclosure, while Bruce had his hands full with the Titusville Turn, he did save me from running over a cyclist on the way over today so there is that.