My introduction to Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line began when my stepfather (a Florida native) moved my mother and stepbrothers and sister from Dallas, Texas, to Tampa in June 1959. Born in Dallas on July 4, 1946, I turned 13 in 59. We lived with my stepfather's parents in Tampa on B Street until we found suitable housing. The ACL's Rome Avenue spur off the Port Tampa branch crossed B Street where a switcher, usually an assigned SW7, switched the many industries on Rome as well as a few team tracks as well. We took the train from Big D to Tampa. T&P-L&N-SAL. Indeed, a grand trip which included a daylight layover in New Orleans, where I got to see streetcars again, as Dallas had converted to busses by 59.
By 59 Purple Diesels were becoming rare as the railroad had switched to black although buildings, baggage cars, and CN&L GP7s (a South Carolina subsidery of ACL) remained for several years into the 60s, a reminder of a proud past.
Soon after our second move back to Tampa from Texas (we relocated back to Texas briefly in 61) I met Robert Taff at a hobby shop in north Tampa and we became best friends until his untimely passin g in April 2006. (RIP Robert). Tampa Union Station became our regular hangout. We met a veteran engineer who permitted us to visit him in the cab of E units when he was on duty. Oh to return to those carefree pre-9/11 days with no "armed" security forces...!!! LOL After TR 92, the northbound West Coast Champion left TUS at 12:01 PM we'd hike down the Port Tampa line to spend the afternoon with Chester "The Most" Holley* in his hobby shop in the Palma Ceia area of south Tampa.
*Item: Chester and his wife Margo were instramental in organizing the Southern Division of the TCA. "The Most" was used in ads Chester placed in MR and Railroad Model Craftsman. It meant he maintained a well stocked inventory of trains in all gauges. Note that O Gauge Railroading ran a three part series on Chester in the 1980s.
ACL freights to and from the port hauling outbound loaded phosphate dumps and inbound loaded tank cars would pass by the rear of Chester's shop, usually behind F units with red painted wood cabooses bringing up the rear. A large lift up garage door in the back of the shop was always open with a fine view of the track putting on a real neat show for two teenage boys who dreamed to go railroading after high school. We did too!
Though apartment living here in Germany leaves little space for a layout, other than perhaps a small compact S scale shelf layout in my basement, after it receives a facelift. Any smaller scale is out of the question! It would be freelanced, with a brick red painted depot, perhaps Plasticville? Nothing close to Tampa Union Station of course, but to qoute an old Model Railroader magazine slogan, "Model Railroading IS Fun!"
You bet it is!