Florida Live Steamers, Dundee, FL 2004
This year I decided to travel to Florida to visit at least one track. I choose the FLS meet hosted by the Ridge Live Steamers in Dundee, FL. All the plans were made, routes plotted, and hotels made ready for the trip. I left on a Wednesday evening after work in a driving rain and drove the first 250 miles of the trip in lots of it. Finally I got past the thunder clouds and arrived in Dundee around 11:30pm. The hotel was ready for me, I checked-in, and crashed for a good night’s sleep. Here is what happened:
Awoke to a blustery cold day with lots of wind. It was overcast and the weather forecast wasn’t too good. It was pretty cold (at least for Florida) but it didn’t matter…I was here to run some trains. Got to the track after a hearty breakfast and the place was buzzing already. Quite a few locos on the steaming bays in various stages of firing up. Got unloaded without incident and set about making some steam of my own. Talked to a few people to find out about the track, how its laid out, the general rules, etc. Dan Rankin and Kevin Doe of the Canton group were already there so I garnered as much info from them as I could. The Shay was ready so I worked my way out onto the mainline and started the first circuit. Its a really nice track that winds its way through a lot of grade changes in an old orange grove. The track is capable of single loop running and also bi-directional running with the use of block signals. I had a great time exploring the routes. There is one really steep grade that you normally go down (about 4%) but when running bi-directional you get to go up it as well. The Shay never had any problems with it but I saw more than one locomotive (diesel and steam) with its passengers walking beside as it got to the crest of the hill. The track has several large cuts and trestles and one very nice tunnel. I made a short day of it around supper time and didn’t go back to run after dark…too cold!
Today was colder than yesterday. At least there was a bit of sun from time to time yesterday…today was nearly sunless. The wind kept up its howling which made it seem even colder. Ran quite a bit today with not too many others out on the rails with me. Stayed pretty late and ran until nearly 9pm when I was so cold and shivered so hard I could hardly get the Shay put away for the night.
Finally, a nice day in Florida. The temperature warmed up and the crowd of people grew with it. Lots of trains running today. They tried running bi-directional like we were doing last night but there were so many trains that the sidings were we stopped to get into the next block got clogged and we suffered a form of gridlock! The switches were quickly reset and we went back to loop running. That helped keep things moving much better. Had to go fill a propane bottle today too. Want to have enough propane to run again tonight. Ran most of the day except for a short time while I took video of the place and got a bunch of snapshots. Did a little horse-trading with the vendors and picked up a couple of things I needed. Ran into the evening hours again. Had the track to myself for quite a while at supper as everyone went to the banquet. I didn’t find out about it until late and there were no more tickets available (packed house!). So I did a quick bite at a fast-food joint and went back to steaming!
Ran just a little and then blew down and started to pack up. Got everything loaded and was ready to hit the road by about 11am. Said my farewells to everyone and hit the road. The drive back was uneventful but I was still tired.