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Railfest 2009 comes to Fillmore March 28, 29

Engineered for fun!

Posted: March 26, 2009 2:35 p.m.
Updated: March 27, 2009 6:00 a.m.
Railfest rolls into Fillmore on Saturday March 28 and Sunday March 29. Railfest rolls into Fillmore on Saturday March 28 and Sunday March 29.
Railfest rolls into Fillmore on Saturday March 28 and Sunday March 29.

You start with vintage train rides, speeder rides, engineer lessons, turntable demonstrations, model trains, historic train engines, cabooses and cars.

You toss in a few gunfighters, plus food, music, arts and crafts, museums, visitor centers and barbecued tri-tip.

Then you top it all off with free admission, good weather and a short drive.

That pretty much adds up to a must-do for your family this weekend when Railfest 2009 rolls down the tracks in Fillmore.

"It's kind of like a family fair," said Jim Mendrala, a member of the board of directors of the Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society.

This is the 14th year for Railfest, which is presented by the SCRVRHS, in conjunction with the Fillmore & Western Railway. The theme is "For the Love of Trains," and whether or not you love them when you come to the event, you should when you leave.

Along the way you and the kids will have a blast and learn a lot of history - painlessly, without even realizing your brains are being wrinkled.

For one thing you'll find out just how important the railroad used to be in the Santa Clara River Valley and learn about its decline and, of late, its ongoing resurrection. (The latter is due in large part to the efforts of the SCRVRHS.)

Fillmore and more
The primary location for Railfest will be in Fillmore's Central Park at the corner of Central Avenue and Main Street.

But the Fillmore & Western Railway will be running two vintage trains daily, round trip from Fillmore to Santa Paula, where other sightseeing and historic offerings await.

And though you can certainly drive yourself, Mendrala said there should be a bus running to nearby Rancho Camulos, the 1800s-style rancho famed as the inspiration for Helen Hunt Jackson's novel, "Ramona."

The activities at Central Park in Fillmore will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. Admission and parking are free. There will be arts and crafts and food vendors.

"The historical society will offer its famous barbecued tri-tip sandwiches as well," Mendrala said.

Antique farm equipment will be on display, as will model trains in various gauges. And, frontier-era gunfighters will enliven things with performances such as robbing the F&W train.

"There will be a band playing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days," Mendrala said.

Across from the park, at 455 Main St., the SCRVRHS Railroad Visitor Center will display many historical railroad artifacts, including a Lionel .027 model train layout. There is also a gift shop and 20-seat digital theater with surround sound.

Nearby, the railroad turntable will be demonstrating how giant railroad engines get turned around. This is the first turntable constructed in California in more than 50 years, and it is 96 feet in diameter and weighs 85 tons.

"We put the turntable in the ground in February of 2007 and demonstrated it at Railfest last year," Mendrala said.

And he explained that, if you'd like to become a part of history, the SCRVRHS will be selling bricks that will eventually be installed in the pavement around the turntable.

As an ongoing fundraiser, these bricks offer you two lines of text at $120 or three lines at $130, where you can memorialize your family name and offer your best wishes to the turntable project.

The railroad tracks will play host to several interesting exhibits and activities. The SCRVRHS will display a 1956 Union Pacific Pullman Sleeping Car, the "National Embassy," a Santa Fe caboose, the "Vicky Vee," and a Pacific Fruit Exchange boxcar. (These cars are in the process of being restored.) Metrolink will display a diesel-electric engine and Metrolink passenger railcars for walk-on tours.

How would you like to get a diploma that says you are a "Steam Engineer"? Mendrala said that, for $75, you can operate a real steam locomotive (built in 1880) and get your diploma through the SCRVRHS's Be an Engineer program.

You can also take a ride on a railroad "speeder" to get a feel for how railroad workers "got around" on the tracks.

Other historical sites will also be available. The Fillmore Historical Society and Museum will be giving guided tours of the Fillmore Depot, Bunk House and Dentist's Home.

Mendrala said that, if you get to Fillmore before 9 a.m., you might get to see the Fillmore & Western Railway putting together its train for the Santa Paula run.

Most of the Railfest proceeds will benefit the non-profit Railroad Historical Society and its railroad restoration efforts, which include the ongoing restoration of the turntable and a future roundhouse/railroad interpretive center/exhibit hall.

All of this should make for the kind of low-cost family experience that is so rarely available these days. So get your caboose out to the tracks and make a memory.

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