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A Final Trip Aboard The Fillmore & Western Railway 6/19/2021

by Chris Guenzler

It was announced that the Fillmore & Western Railway would be ceasing operations as of June 26, 2021 due to the owners' retirement and Ventura County deciding not to renew their lease. Even though Elizabeth and I had ridden it just four months ago, we decided that we should take a final ride on the railway as we know it. We invited Marty Smith to join us and one night, we bought tickets for the trip. Chris Parker also had bought a ticket for the trip after additional tickets went on sale. A few days before the trip, I received a phone call from David Aten who had also purchased a ticket. On the morning of June 19, 2021, we picked up Marty and headed up Interstate 5 as if it was any other trip. My phone rang when we in the eastern San Fernando Valley which changed all that.

The caller was Chris Parker's brother, Scott, with some very bad news. Chris Parker had suffered a brian aneuryism two days beforehand and was in a coma at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. To say this put a damper on the whole day was beyond words. I almost decided not to go but knowing Chris would want me to still ride, we did so. The rest of the drive was me calling friends I knew who knew Chris and told them what happened to the best of my ability. We arrived in Fillmore and soon found David Aten, who told us where to park and I then told him the news about Chris. We drove over to the street on the north side of the depot and parked the car then started to take pictures as I would normally do with any trip. My mood was rotten but I made the best of the day despite it and Marty and Elizabeth was very supportive throughout. I met Chris Parker in late 2004 and we became good friends. He decided to go to the NRHS convention in Portland, Oregon in 2005 and rode the train with me to it. He went to most of the subsequent conventions with me until his business venture would not allow it and the amount of time he had to take off. Chris did go to the Alaska in 2013 and had the time of his life there. He has always been a good friend and very supportive of me in everything I have ever done. In recent years, he has ridden the weekend Metrolink trains with us, always on a Sunday and has brought a few of his friends along. Chris is one of the most loyal and cheerful people you could ever want to know. This story is dedicated to him.

Fillmore & Western Duluth and Northeastern 2-6-0 14.

Fillmore & Western S-6 ex Ventura County 9; ex. Southern Pacific 1226; nee Southern Pacific 1059.

Fillmore & Western F7A 101, ex. Maryland Midland 101; ex. Winchester and Western 101; ex. Rails Diversified 413; ex Metra 413; ex. Chicago and North Western 413; nee Chicago and North Western 4083A.

Fillmore & Western GP35 3501 ex. Arizona and California 3501; ex. Conrail 2262; ex. Penn Central 2262; nee Pennsylvania Railroad 2262.

Fillmore & Western F7A 100 ex. Maryland Midland 100; ex Winchester and Western 100; ex Rails Diversified 410; ex Metra 410; ex. Chicago and North Western 410; nee Chicago and North Western 4068A.

Two different views of our train to Santa Paula. We took seats in the front open car.

Elizabeth maskless for a few seconds.

Me and my most beautiful wife taken by a new friend. A few minutes after noon the train started to move toward Santa Paula.

The main road in Fillmore.

The tree packing houses as we made our way out of Fillmore.

The train crossed Sespe Creek. Now sit back and enjoy a ride to Santa Paula through the Orange Groves on the Fillmore & Western Railway.

The train had a run of 9.6 miles to Santa Paula. We were first off the train and went to the same restuarant as we had been to during our last visit in February, the El Capricho, but the service was poor. It took twenty-five minutes to just have our order taken then an hour before Marty got his meal and said a prayer for Chris, followed by my French Toast and bacon with Elizabeth still waiting for hers. I left to photograph the trainset while she still waited for her meal. It arrived but had to be put in a to-go container.

The whole train crew and our conductor making her final run on the platform of the Fillmore & Western business Car 409.

Fillmore & Western open car 904614.

Fillmore & Western open car 8017R.

Fillmore & Western cafe parlor car "Powhatan" built in 1928 for the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad.

Fillmore & Western 6052 "Freedom", ex. Amtrak 6052, nee Louisville and Nashville Jim Crow coach 3256 built 1955.

Fillmore & Western coach 3106 "Monte Carlo", originally New York Central 3106 built in 1946.

Fillmore & Western coach 1107 "Rancho del Oro", nee St. Louis-San Francisco 1107 built in 1918.

Fillmore & Western combination coach 2551 "Rancho Temescal", nee Colorado and Southern 551 built in 1922.

Fillmore & Western coach 2553 "Rancho Camulos" nee Colorado and Southern 553 built in 1922.

Fillmore & Western concession baggage 3884, originally Santa Fe.

Fillmore & Western GP35 3501 ready to lead the train back the 9.6 miles to Fillmore. Elizabeth returned to the train carrying the to-go container filled with her lunch which she ate on the train ride back. I would just relax on the way back. David did not get lunch because they were so slow and he got a free iced tea out of the deal because of it.

Sunkist Santa Paula Association packing house on the way back.

During the thirty-minute stop at the Loose Caboose, I photographed the Southern Pacific upper quadrant semaphore signal. It had been a great final ride with the present owners of the Fillmore & Western Railway. Now we must all wait for that final run next week and then the sales change to a new owners. We drove back via Interstate 210 until we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic so we took California 19 through Temple City and made our way to Fullerton on surface streets to the Amtrak station. There we found the members of the Saturday Train Watching Meeting and told them what had happened to Chris Parker, their friend and member. The three of us then waited to see the Southwest Chief.

The Southwest Chief Train 4 arrived at Fullerton, while Pacific Surfliner 785 was still in the station, before leaving for the two-day trip to Chicago. I drove Marty home to Orange then Elizabeth and I back to our apartment in Santa Ana.