Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Orange Blossom Cannonball

Mockup of proposed
Railfan & Railroad cover
Let's spend a few posts visiting Florida. I was down in the Sunshine State for a few days in February, and one of the highlights was visiting the Orange Blossom Cannonball, the passenger train operated by the Tavares, Eustis & Gulf over trackage owned by Florida Central.

A group of us arrived on February 9, and we were greeted by Neil Bagaus who showed us around. The new depot in Tavares was nearing completion. We had let the railroad know in advance we were coming (I will be writing a feature on it for Railfan & Railroad this fall) and they arranged for the locomotive to be properly oriented for most of the day.

Power for the railroad is a neat wood-burning 2-6-0 built by Baldwin in 1907 for the Lufkin Land & Lumber Company. It went through a variety of owners, but is probably best known for its work on the Reader Railroad in Arkansas. In recent years it has been the star of several movies including 3:10 To Yuma and the remake of True Grit.

Our day of chasing started out by waiting at the cool timber trestle in Tavares. Okay, it used to be a cool timber trestle; the bridge was replaced about a month before our arrival by a new concrete span that gives more clearance for tour boats and party barges on the canal. Still, the nifty Mogul made a nice sight crossing the bridge.
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf; Tavares, Fla.; February 9, 2013
The train makes three trips a day, with short trips to Ellsworth Junction and longer trips to Lake Gem. One thing the railroad does well is entertain people, and during the Lake Gem stop passengers were encouraged to get off the train during the run-around move and watch the switching. A blow-down was also done, with steam spewing from the locomotive to the delight of passengers. When the locomotive ran out of wood between trips, the run to the wood pile was turned into a photo opportunity for riders. It was well done. We shot the train as it made its approach to Lake Gem on the second trip of the day.
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf; Lake Gem, Fla.; February 9, 2013
As part of the work for the magazine article, we requested some night photography and the railroad was more than willing to cooperate. There is some street running in Tavares (actually on a median between travel lanes) and we found some nice Spanish moss to frame No. 2.
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf; Tavares, Fla.; February 9, 2013
Another night scene involved blocking a traffic circle near the Tavares depot. Neil called the local police, who pretty much said "go ahead and block it." It resulted in a very nice photo.
Tavares, Eustis & Gulf; Tavares, Fla.; February 9, 2013
All in all, it was a wonderful day. The railroad was extremely cooperative, and No. 2 is one neat locomotive. As this is being written, No. 2 has one more weekend of work to do this spring before heading back to Arkansas for its federally-mandated 15-year rebuild. It will be back in Florida when the tourist season kicks in again in September. When you make your plans for a winter vacation, be sure to visit this excellent railroad!

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Newton, New Jersey, United States

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