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2022 NRHS Convention Knott's Berry Farm Shop Tour 5/19/2022

by Chris Guenzler

When I picked up my convention registration package, I was surprised to learn about three behind-the-scenes tours of Knott's Berry Farm which were being offered on Thursday morning to conventioneers. Tickets went on sale late Monday afternoon and I chose the 7:00 tour. That morning I woke up my with wonderful wife and after checking a few things on the Internet, we headed down the stairs to the hotel lobby and waited for our group to assemble. Elizabeth was one of the two "red vests" on this and the 9:00 tour to keep the group together. We were led out of the hotel and walked across the parking lot to a security gate where we entered the Knott's Berry Farm. We carefully walked to the train station where there was a surprise waiting for all of us on this very unique tour.

Knott's Berry Farm Railroad information

Walter Knott began grading and laying a three foot narrow gauge railroad at his Knott's Berry Farm in 1951. He had acquired a collection of vintage rolling stock and other railroad equipment, and wanted to create a railroad experience to run it on. Service started that November, and the railroad formally opened on January 12, 1952.

The locomotives and most of the other equipment of the Ghost Town & Calico (GC&T) have been restored to their original liveries of Colorado's Rio Grande Southern Railroad and Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroads.


The roster includes two C-19 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type steam locomotives built by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Denver & Rio Grande in 1881. When retired from service in Colorado, they were D&RGW 340 "Green River" (formerly D&RG 400, named Gold Nugget No. 40 for many years on the GT&C) from the Denver & Rio Grande Western and RGS No. 41 "Red Cliff", renamed "Walter K." at the 60th anniversary ceremony on January 12, 2012 from the Rio Grande Southern. D&RGW 340 was rebuilt in 2016 and is in use, alternating services with RGS 41.

"Galloping Goose" motor rail buses kept the Rio Grande Southern Railroad viable from the 1930s by carrying mail. Their last use was to scrap their own line in 1953. Knott purchased the RGS Motor 3, which is run on the GT&C during the off-season -- when there are not sufficient passengers to justify hostling a steam locomotive. The Galloping Goose was constructed from a Pierce-Arrow limousine frame, engine, radiator, cowling and body with a four-wheel truck at the front and putting flanged wheels on the rear axle. Later a bogie truck replaced the rear axle, linked to the front truck by a chain drive. A RGS shop-built freight box (converted with trolley seats for passenger service in 1950) articulates on the kingpin over the chain driven center truck. The wooden limousine body was replaced after World War II with a 1939 Wayne military-surplus bus body with both left and right doors. The Pierce-Arrow gasoline engine has been replaced, first with a war-surplus GMC gasoline engine at the RGS, then at Knott's with a war-surplus 6 cylinder in-line Diamond-Reo gasoline engine. In 1997 the engine was replaced once more with a Cummins Diesel engine supported with an I-beam frame extension salvaged from the demolished Windjammer Surf Racers roller coaster.

In late 1973, the park received ex-D&RGW K-27 464, a Mikado 2-8-2 locomotive. However, due to clearance issues, in 1981, Knott's donated the locomotive to the Huckleberry Railroad in Flint, Michigan.

Around 2010, Knott's Berry Farm became the home to an H.K. Porter 0-4-0ST tank locomotive "Jennie K.". The planned restoration of this locomotive did not happen and it was sold in 2017 to Garner Holt of Garner Holt Productions, who is planning to restore it to operating condition.

Rolling Stock

When the route opened on January 12, 1952 for passenger service, the locomotives would haul several yellow vintage closed-vestibule wooden passenger coaches led by a 103 parlor car "Chama" which was converted at Knott's in 1954 to combination baggage/coach "Calico" with arrows simulating an Indian attack embedded near the baggage door. The arrows have since been removed and the cars have been painted in heritage period Pullman-green livery of D&RGW. The consist also includes a gondola (converted from a flat car for open-air passenger seating), and a stock car which was converted from a gondola, fitted with side benches and a wheelchair lift. Rio Grande Southern 0402 is the only caboose on the railroad and is used today.


The B-20 "Edna" were held with the short way car "bobber" caboose and a wooden box car D&RGW 3350, on sidings during normal operation. Nowadays the Silverton has been converted to revenue service as a chair coach, and the caboose serves to embark bandits while in motion. The Business car B-20 Edna (formerly San Juan) was built for use by the Rio Grande Southern president Otto Mears on sidings and spurs as a portable office and temporary home while making track orders.

The parlor car "Durango" was restored in 2011 and was built by Jackson & Sharp as a chair car. It went through an iteration of parlor car before being rebuilt as a modern parlor car in 1937, complete with galley, a 4 seat dinette, parlor chairs, steam heat and electric lights. When retired in 1951, it was sold to Knott's Berry Farm; they have kept in in immaculate condition, and appears the same today as it did in service.

Our Tour

I was very surpised at what I saw this early morning.

Rio Grande 2-8-0 340 was being readied for the day.

Rio Grande 2-8-0 340 views. Our group was led to the two private cars which are on display.

The first car to walk through was Denver and Rio Grande Western B-20 "Edna".

Interior view of "Edna" on the way to "Durango".

Interior views of "Durango".

The drumhead on "Durango".

Denver and Rio Grande Western private car "Durango".

A hand car on display.

Hand car and trailers.

Rio Grande Southern caboose 0402.

The water tower at Knott's Berry Farm.

The Ghost Town train station.

Interior of the Ghost Town train station. Next came the real surprise as the group boarded the train and would ride it over to the engine house. This was very unexpected.

The Calico mine train ride that Elizabeth needs to ride.

Views along the train ride to the shop tour and once there, we all detrained.

One of the shop people talking with our engineer.

Rio Grande 2-8-0 340 at rest.

Galloping Goose 3 is in the shop for major work. Our tour guide was Miguel who was very knowledgeable.

The bogey truck that connects the two pieces of Galloping Goose.

Shop equipment.

The office area.

One of the railroad's cars having some work performed on it.

Drumhead of Galloping Goose 3.

More of the shop equipment.

Locomotive tires waiting to be installed.

Lubricating oils used for the engines. We went back outside.

Rio Grande 2-8-0 340 at still at rest.

Passenger car wheels with the space between the rim and the hub is filled with compressed paper which is suppose to give a smother ride. This type of wheel was used mostly on passenger cars in the late 1800's.

Two more views of Rio Grande 2-8-0 340.

As our group was small, everyone assembled for a photograph. We all reboarded the train and started back once w were all aboard.

The train passed "Durango" and "Edna" on the way back to the station. We then detrained and I had one more picture to take.

The cab of Rio Grande 340. We then walked the same way out of the park back to the hotel, very happy with what we had just seen and done. But breakfast was calling and today, I drove over to McDonald's where they gave me the wrong order and wanted to charged more for mine. I returned to the hotel, ate it in the room then went down to get on the bus. Elizabeth enjoyed the hotel's buffet breakfast, then accompanied the 9:00 tour before becoming a bus host for today's trip.