Facebook Page

NRHS Discovery Visit for the 2020 Convention Fillmore & Western Railroad Trip 2/23/2019

by Chris Guenzler

Johm Goodman and Skip Waters Waters invited me to go on a NRHS Discovery Visit for the 2020 Convention Fillmore & Western Railroad and I accepted their generous offer. So on a Saturday morning I got up and fixed breakfast before I drove up to the Fullerton Hotel to meet them. We discussed the plans for the 2020 NRHS Convention in Fullerton then talked about Maine for a future convention. We then drove the Riverside Freeway to Interstate 5 to CA Highway 124 and arrived into Fillmore with an hour to spare. Skip and John would be making their first visit ever to the Fillmore and Westeern Railroad.

Fillmore and Western Railway History

The Fillmore and Western Railway is a railroad owned by the Fillmore and Western Railway Company. The company operates on track owned by the Ventura County Transportation Commission. The majority of F&W rolling stock was acquired from three major studios: 20th Century Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros, and MGM. The rolling stock and right-of-way are frequently used for the filming of television series, motion pictures and commercials and as a locale for private and commercial still photography, Visitors to Fillmore often see filming activity as well as sets and support equipment at the company's rail yard and along the tracks between Santa Paula and Piru.

The F&W has been used in more than 400 movie, TV and commercial shots. Movies shot on the railroad include Throw Momma from the Train, Three Amigos, Seabiscuit, Get Smart, Rails & Ties, & Race to Witch Mountain. Television series CSI. NCIS LA and Criminal Minds have used the railroad for location shooting. The railway also featured in the documentary series Mystery Diners "as itself".

The railroad also operates a year-round tourist train and offers numerous special events, including the Railroad Days Festival, the Pumpkinliner, Christmas Tree Trains, the North Pole Express, and the Day Out with Thomas. The normal schedule involves weekend excursions, dinner trains, murder 4 mystery trains, barbecue trains, and shopping excursions to nearby Santa Paula.


The track is a standard gauge railroad constructed in 1887 by Southern Pacific Railroad through the Santa Clara River Valley in Ventura County, California. This line was originally part of the Southern Pacific's main line between San Francisco and Los Angeles before a shorter route was built through the Santa Susana Mountains in 1904. State Route 126 follows roughly the same route from Ventura to Santa Clarita. The track was used extensively by Southern Pacific as late as the 1950s to haul citrus from packing houses at the communities along the Santa Clara River. In 1989, the branch line that connects at its west end to the Union Pacific at Montalvo in Ventura was purchased from Southern Pacific by the Ventura County Transportation Commission. The eastern end of the line now terminates in Piru as storm damage in 1979 severed the eastern end of the line to Saugus in Los Angeles County.

Short Line Enterprises was a company that provided railcars for use in movie productions. They came to Fillmore in 1991 to use the rail line and eventually added tourist and dinner trains.

Current equipment

The roster of the F&W includes two GP35s, two F7s from General Motors Electro-Motive Division and an S6 and RS32 from Alco. The railroad also owns numerous coaches, freight cars, cabooses and excursion cars. The F&W roster also includes an Ex-Duluth and Northeastern Baldwin 14 2-8-0 Consolidation steam locomotive. Also in operation is an 0-4-0 Porter tank engine, the Sespe.

The Thomas the Tank Engine train is actually powered by a diesel at the other end in a push-pull operation down the F&W branch line towards Piru.

The rail yard is located adjacent to the restored city hall in downtown Fillmore and is part of the revitalized section of the city rebuilt after the extensive damage caused by the 1994 Northridge earthquake that brought down the facades of many nearby businesses. A vintage 1906 80-ton turntable bridge originally installed in Capreol, Ontario, was purchased from the Canadian National Railway by the Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society and was installed in a newly constructed pit on February 7, 2007. The turntable allows not only turning of locomotives and cars but also access to planned facilities on tracks in the narrow yard area. This area is planned to be the center of a proposed railway heritage park complex that will also feature a roundhouse and a Railroad Interpretive.

Our Trip

The front of the train which will couple onto the regular consist of today's train.

Fillmore and Western F7A 100.

Ex-Duluth and Northeastern Baldwin 2-8-0 14.

Fillmore and Western GP-35 3502.

Fillmore and Western F7A 101.

Fillmore and Western GP-35 3501.

Fillmore and Western RS-32 4000. We then went to the ticket office where we went to see the lady who was coordinating with the NHRS on our convention trip. We picked up our tickets for today's ride then explored the Fillmore Southern Pacific station now a museum. At train boarding we walked through five cars to get to the open air car the place I always love to be and took our seats.

Fillmore and Western Business Car 50.

Fillmore and Western S-6 1058.

Our trip then started with us passing a cab used in the Unstoppable Movie.

Another view of the Fillmore and Western Business Car 50.

We rolled by the Fillmore City Hall.

Main Street in Fillmore.

Our train taking the first curve in Fillmore.

Villa Park Orchard Association packing house.

Ship Waters and John Goodman in the open air car.

Crossing Sespe Creek.

Sespe Creek.

Crossing Sespe Creek on the Truss Bridge built in 1902.

Sespe Creek

The train taking a left hand curve.

Crossing Cliff Avenue.

Cliff Avenue along the Orange Groves.

San Cayetono Mountain.

The full train on a curve.

An interesting tree looking back.

Orange groves along our route.

San Cayeteno Maountain and Santa Paula Peak.

Down at the end of the road on 7th Street

Orange groves and the South Mountains.

Sespe signpost.

The train took a right hand curve.

San Cayeteno Mountain.

The train took a right hand curve.

Beautiful views along this railroad with Santa Paula Peak.

Trees along this road.

We went by the Keith signpost. Now we will climb Bellio Hill.

Two views of the South Mountains.

San Cayeteno Mountains and Santa Paula Peak to the north.

The South Mountains.

Crossing Bountiful Creek.

The train took a left hand curve.

The train reached the summit of Bellio Hill.

The South Mountains are ahead of the train.

The train dropped down Bellio Hill to the grade crossing of CA Highway 124.

Curving through the orange groves to the right.

Curving through the orange groves to the left.

Three views of the South Mountains.

The Santa Paula Elementary School.

The train took a curve to the left.

The train took a curve to the right.

The train ran by the Milepost 418 sign.

The train took a curve to the left.

The train took a curve to the right.

A father and daughter on their horses.

Timber Creek.

The train took a curve to the left to Loose Caboose.

Ballast cars at the Loose Caboose siding.

Semaphore signal at Loose Caboose.

Two views looking north.

Santa Paula Creek.

Santa Paula Orchard Association packing house.

Southern Pacific Santa Paula station.

Santa Paula Argricultral Museum. We arrived into Santa Paula and detrained looking for lunch.

A work of Art in Santa Paula.

The EL Capricho Resturant in Santa Paula is where we ate lunch with me having a hamburger.

Southern Pacific Santa Paula station.

There is a fantastic mural in Santa Paula.

Click here for Part 2 of this story