Q. Jacksonville Today newsletter reader Dave U. brings up a familiar — and sometimes annoying — issue for anyone driving around the communities on the south side of the St. Johns River.
Freight trains are the bane of many who get stuck as they block numerous crossings in San Marco and south along Philips Highway.
“For those of us who drive through San Marco, getting caught by a slow-moving train can be a frustrating time-killer,” Dave wrote. “Is there any schedule that we could view to know when the trains are coming through and disrupting traffic? This would make a great app!”
A: Most jokingly call the freight train the San Marco Train. Someone even generated a presence on X — twitter.com/SanMarcoTrain.
As @SanMarcoTrain posted recently: “We aren’t beholden to schedules like you automatons. We go wherever the wind takes us. Slowly.”
To answer Dave’s question, we tried to contact the Florida East Coast Railway, which calls itself “the sole rail provider operating along the East Coast of Florida,” with ownership of 351 miles of mainline track from Jacksonville to Miami. But the railroad does not publicize a phone number or email for its public relations staff.
After more research, we found that the FEC has no dedicated train schedule as such. What it does have on its website is a Flexible Schedule of its routes in Jacksonville, Titusville, Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami-Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere.
That schedule, split between northbound and southbound trains, shows train IDs and departure days as well as “Origin Gate Cuts” times and “Destination Availability.” All of this information is “subject to change,” the web page said.
Next we checked with traingeek.ca, a trainspotters website, which provided this answer:
“The short answer is, unfortunately, there’s no public schedule,” the website said. “And there’s no easy way to know if a train is coming.”
Traingeek.ca said freight trains have “call times,” when the crews are due to start work, but that is not when the train leaves a yard or loading area. It is when crews arrive, check in, get their destination and cargo information, then get on board and prepare for departure.
That does not include maintenance and equipment checks or even switching a car or two, as well as what the weather might mean to the rollout time.