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

by Chris Guenzler

John Goodman and Skip Waters of the National Railway Historical Society convention commitee invited me to go on a NRHS Discovery Visit for the 2020 Convention on the Fillmore & Western Railroad, and I accepted their generous offer. So on a Saturday morning I arose and fixed breakfast before I drove 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 in Fillmore with an hour to spare. Skip and John would be making their first visit 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, television and commercial shots. Movies shot on the railroad include "Throw Momma from the Train", "Three Amigos", "Seabiscuit", "Get Smart", "Rails & Ties" and "Race to Witch Mountain". Television series "CSI", "NCIS Los Angeles" 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 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 former Duluth and Northeastern 2-8-0 14 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 Center.

Our Trip

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

Fillmore and Western F7A 100 (ex. Maryland Midland 100, exx. Winchester and Western 100, exxx. Rails Diversified 410, exxxx. Metra 410; exxxxx. Chicago and North Western 410, nee Chicago and North Western 4068A).

Duluth and Northeastern 2-8-0 14 built by Baldwin in 1913.

Fillmore and Western GP35 3502, originally Pennsylvania Railroad 2339.

Fillmore and Western F7A 101 (ex. Maryland Midland 101, exx. Winchester and Western 101, exxx. Rails Diversified 413, exxxx. Metra 413, exxxxx. Chicago and North Western 413, nee Chicago and North Western 4083A).

Fillmore and Western GP35 3501 (ex. Arizona and California 3501, exx. Conrail 2262, exxx. Penn Central 2262, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 2262).

Fillmore and Western RS-32 4009, originally Southern Pacific 4009. 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 which is 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 409 built in 1929 by Pullman

Fillmore and Western S-6 1059 (ex. Ventura County 9; exx. Southern Pacific 1226, nee Southern Pacific 1059)

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

Another view of business car 409.

We rolled by Fillmore City Hall.

Main Stree.

Our train taking the first curve in Fillmore.

Villa Park Orchard Association packing house.

Skip 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.

Santa Paula Elementary School.

Curving to the left.

The train took a curve to the right.

Passing 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 Argricultural Museum. We arrived at Santa Paula and detrained looking for lunch.

A work of art here.

The El Capricho Resturant where we ate lunch with me having a hamburger.

Southern Pacific Santa Paula station.

There is a fantastic mural in Santa Paula.

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