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  • The Seaboard Coast Line Orlando Subdivision - Part II

    Running five hours late the Southbound Amtrak Silver Star arrives at Orlando, Fla., base of operations for the SBD/SCL Orlando Subdivision. At left is SCL U18B No. 378, one of 115 owned by the road, and typical power on the Sub for many years. - Photo: A.D. Soeker
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    by BY JIM SIX - Photos from the author unless otherwise noted

       In the last issue of Prototype Modeler, we presented Part 1 of the Seaboard Coast Line Orlando Subdivision which dealt with the prototype aspect of that colorful and once busy segment of railroading "down South." This month we look at modeling the line, and offer a trackplan and discussion of its design and operational possibilities. We'll also look at modeling the characteristic locomotives and rolling stock of the subdivision - a relatively simple task - and how to portray the real-world environment of structures, industries, and topographical features in a realistic, scaled-down manner.

       It's not easy to compress reality onto a 4' x 8' table top or even a 20' x 12' space-our allotment for the SCL Orlando Subdivision in HO. Within the obvious limitations of size and expense, a realistic railroad model can be achieved through "selective compression," but more than including appropriate structures and trackage is sometimes needed to achieve a satisfying and "successful" railroad model. The layout should create the illusion that all necessary ingredients are present - operations should be handled in much the same manner as the prototype, industries properly sequenced along the mainline and motive power and rolling stock used should be the same types the prototype uses. Not every siding and yard needs to be modeled, nor the density of traffic, but both should be present in enough quantity to capture the flavor of the real thing.

       It's a good idea for modelers to study the daily operations of a line in which they are interested. Note the frequency of service, which industries are switched and how often, the locomotives and rolling stock used and where trains are most often sighted. There is no real need to model things normally unseen, whether it's structures, scenery or your favorite type of locomotive.

    Above: SCL U18B No. 368 switches cars at the Plymouth juice plant, near the scC station at Plymouth. Typically, only one unit is used to handle trains on the Orlando Subdivision.

    Below: A scene recreated on our Orlando Sub trackplan is this northward view of the industries at Amelia Street in Orlando. A team track is to the right, in a concrete parking area next to the standing U18B.
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       In the case of the Orlando Subdivision, the original line from Wildwood to Orlando is far too long to fit within the constraints of our 20' x 12' space. Reality dictates that we restrict layout planning to include the trackage run ning from Robinson Street in Orlando Gust west of where it connects to the old ACL main) north to Zellwood along U.S. route 441. With the exception of the small yard east of Amelia Street, almost the entire length of this segment is within viewing distance of the highway, and in many places paralleling route 441 a few feet away. Those portions of the line which wander away from the highway have been omitted from our plan.

       For several years, Seaboard has been operating trains from Orlando only as far north as Plymouth (see part one). A daily train makes the run, and it switches several industries along the way before setting out or picking up cars at Plymouth. From there, another engine and crew work the line north to Tavares and west to Ocoee and Winter Garden. Essentially, our trackplan provides a setting for the Orlando-Plymouth run, with trains staged at both ends for point-to-point operation. A connecting track is located under the Interstate 4 overpass for continuous operation should you wish to simply watch trains run. If a 1950's or 1960's setting is of more interest to you, the plan similarly permits Orlando-to-points-north operation. Southbound trains are staged on the hidden track north of Zellwood, and northbound counterparts are set up at Robinson and Amelia Streets.

    These abandoned diesel servicing facilities are at Wildwood. The roundhouse is visible in the distance. A facility like this would be easy to model with parts and leftovers from the typical scrapbox.
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    Top: The SCL station at Plymouth, minus order boards and threatened by the undergrowth. After working the line west of Toronto (Fla.). the Orlando Sub locomotive would usually tie up here for the night. Above: The Wildwood roundhouse is unusual in that it has partial side walls, a feature dictated by Florida's mild winters and hot summers. Below: The SCL freight depot and office at Amelia St., Orlando.
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    Right: The Zellwood, Fla., station, which has seen better days. Note the open "porch" on the near end of fhe structure.

    Above: Part of the juice plant at Leesburg. Left: An agricultural seed and feed industry at Orlando. Both structures would be good modeling projects with their unusual fowers and associated facilities. The juice plants in the area are the basis of the Subdivision's traffic.
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    When this picture was taken in 1976, the Kissam Builders plant seen here was a major concrete supplier to central Florida. The plant is located at Amelia St. in Orlando.

    At Plymouth, part of the warehousing facilities of the large juice plant complex. Note the chain-link fence which surrounds one of the sidings.
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       Let's take a tour of the model Orlando Subdivision. The day begins around 7 a.m., with the crew reporting to the Amelia Street yard office where the locomotive is tied up. A U18B has been idling through the night, and is currently being serviced by a truck called in to top the fuel tank. The crew climbs aboard to inspect the locomotive.

       With the unit facing south, the engineer backs it out of the pocket and proceeds south to the wye near Robinson Street. The U-Boat will be turned here and will pick up a dozen or so reefers and several general merchandise cars set out during the night by an Orlando switcher. The train is taken along Robinson,and around the bend to Amelia Street where a few setouts are made at the feed and concrete companies. With chores completed, the engineer pulls back on the throttle and eases the train across highway 50 as impatient motorists scramble to get across the tracks first.

       The next stop is the small Fairvilla yard where a few boxcars are picked up for transfer to Tavares. An Orlando switcher works this yard and the large industrial park west of U.S. 441 in the Silver Star area during the night hours. With a little modeler's license, this job can be operated in conjunction with the northbound train to add interest and duties for additional full size crewmen.

       Proceeding north, the train slows to a stop at Silver Star road as a crewman walks across and unlocks the gate at the oil company before signaling to the engineer that all is clear. The train is cut behind a large tank car, and it moves forward to clear the turnout. It backs into the siding and couples onto a pair of empties, then sets them out on the main just clear of the switch. The loaded tank is shoved into the complex, the train is recoupled and it continues north for a few miles before descending a slight grade into Lockhart.

       Passing beneath U.S. 441, the crew prepares to make setouts at the local scrap-metal dealer and steel fabrication company. The sand pit on the far north side of Lockhart usually gets four to six open-top hoppers, most frequently Southern 77-ton cars.

       North of the Lockhart area, the crew ushers their train to Plymouth where it will be dropped. Empties are switched out and a waiting cut is picked up. The trackplan provides ample yard trackage here, including run around capability. The waiting cut of freight cars should be on the siding next to the depot since the northbound terminates its run there. Another locomotive is based at Plymouth and it relays cars to local industries and the Tavares area (not in the plan). After the southbound train is assembled, in cluding the empties brought in on the northbound run (these are destined for Orlando Yard), it departs, running directly back to Orlando.

       Meanwhile, the Plymouth switcher works the gasoline storage facility located at the south end of town, along with the various juice plant sidings there. It then proceeds north to Zellwood where Musselwhite Feed is serviced before it continues around the bend into the hidden track behind the Robinson Street yard. Later in the operating session (or in the next session) the train returns to Plymouth as a southbound with new cars and makes the switching moves necessary to leave the cut for the next northbound from Orlando. Plymouth acts as the relay point like it currently is on the prototype. The Plymouth switcher job is perfect for that guest engineer who often drops in.


       The scenery between the east end of Robinson Street yard and Silver Star road is urban, with the areas around the yards and siding's built up with light industry. The curve between highway 50 and Fairvilla is in an older residential area dominated by Spanish-moss-covered trees.

       Though Florida is generally thought of as a relatively flat area with sandy beaches, the north-central part of the state is dominated by rolling hills. Much of the Orlando Subdivision penetrates this area so any railroad model of the line must include at least a few shallow cuts and fills. The track traverses flat terrain to Lockhart where hills begin at the route 441 bridge. The curve at the end of the peninsula passes through a cut just before entering the Lockhart industrial area. It then passes through another shallow cut as it climbs a one percent grade past the sand pit and around the bend through yet another cut. The city of Apopka, which would have been located here has been left out since it offers nothing to the modeler for switching at least in modern times. The track emerges from the previously mentioned cut at Plymouth. As a final scenery note, the backdrop between Lockhart and Tavares should show low, rolling, tree-covered hills.

    Locomotives and rolling stock

       Three decades of diesel operations have passed on the Orlando Subdivision and area train watchers have witnessed a variety of motive power from all major builders. During the late 1950's and early 1960's, Alco RS2 and RS3 models were regulars. They were known as Seaboard's "Florida Geeps." Atlas, Model Die Casting and Stewart Hobbies now offer versions of the popular RS3 from which an RS2 can easily be modeled. In fact, the Model Die Casting RS3 has separate battery boxes which facilitate conversion to the RS2. And don't forget Hobbytown of Boston, which has produced an all-metal HO RS3 for many years, one considered by many modelers to be as good as the current offerings.

       Other first-generation the 1950's and Alcos plied Orlando Subdivision rails throughout 1960's - RS11 road switchers and S2 and S4 yard locomotives. Atlas recently released an excellent HO RS11 model, and Cary Locomotive Works has an S2/S4 cast metal shell available which is designed to fit the Athearn SW 1500 mechanism. Century C420's worked the Subdivision during the late 1960's and early 1970's. Tiger Valley Models produces an all-metal C420 in kit form which is also available ready-built. Though Seaboard was a heavy user of Alco power and almost exclusively operated the Orlando Subdivision with the four-cycle growlers from Schenectady, Electro-Motive got into the act following the 1967 marriage of SAL and ACL into Seaboard Coast Line. SCL assigned ex-ACL GP7 and GP9 road switchers to the line. Athearn offers what has been labeled as a GP9 for some 25 years. This model more accurately portrays a GP7 though, since the louvers on the long hood and battery boxes match an early GP7. Strangely enough, when considering the GP9 was one of EMD's all-time leading sellers, no model manufacturer produced this locomotive in HO. Kitbashers can arrive at a relatively good GP9 by marrying the hoods of an AHM GP18 to the walkways and chassis of the Athearn Geep. You'll have to remove all hood top detail, build new roof panels and then add the proper fans and exhaust stacks - all are commercially available detail parts. For reference, see the feature on the Cleveland Union Terminal GP9 in the August-September 1985 PM.

       General Electric entered the picture during the early 1970's by introducing the U18B "baby boat." This somewhat rare locomotive has dominated operations on the subdivision ever since. Currently, the U18B is not available over the counter and it hasn't even been offered as a brass import. However, astute GE fans know Lionel produced an HO U18B during the early 1970's and some of us have squirreled away a few. An alternative is to kitbash a U18B by combining an Athearn 4-axle U-boat and a Bachmann U36B shell.

       Manufacturers offer only a few caboose prototypes to select from and unfortunately, the SCL class M-5 hack is not among them. If you want to be completely prototypical, a kitbash is required. Otherwise, you'll need to settle for any caboose which carries an SCL paint job.

       Most any type of freight car is appro priate for the Orlando Subdivision in cluding gondolas for scrap metal at Lockhart and Plymouth, tank cars at Lockhart and Fairville, covered hop pers for Amelia Street, Plymouth, and Zellwood and reefers for Plymouth and points north. Boxcars are switched in and out of the Fairvilla industrial park area in large numbers as well as many other types of cars. In addition, several cuts of reefers are usually set out and stored along the main at Plymouth, Zellwood and Tavares.

       The SCL Orlando Subdivision is a fine subject for the railroad modeler. Even built to represent modern times, an Orlando Sub layout would have plenty of operation to keep one modeler very busy at the controls.

    Article Details

    • Original Author JIM SIX
    • Source Prototype Modeler
    • Publication Date June 1986

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