A Trip on the Old SP Santa Paula Line,
November 7-9, 2009

Don Winter


The Train Riders Association of California is holding its Annual Meeting in Ventura, in conjunction with which there will be a 'rare mileage' excursion on the track currently owned by the Fillmore and Western Railroad. We opt to drive down for the excursion on Sunday, but not attend the all-day meeting on Saturday, returning on Monday morning.

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

After lunch, we head out to drive to Ventura, taking the normal route towards Los Angeles, but in Sylmar taking I-405 to SR-118 west, across the San Fernando Valley and into Simi Valley and Moorpark, turning south on SR-23 to US 101, which we take west to Venture. Parking the car in the parking garage next to the hotel, we run into a woman from the Fillmore & Western who shows us the way to the hotel. After checking-in (and getting our tickets from the desk clerk), we visit the TRAC Registration table, meeting Mike McGinley (a TRAC Board Member) on the way and then chatting with Bob Reynolds, TRAC Secretary, at the table.

Later, after observing the passage of Amtrak Trains 775 and 792, and a UP freight. as well as watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, we eat dinner in the hotel restaurant. Train 11 passes during dinner, and Trains 796 and 785 after dinner, before we go to bed.

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

We arise in plenty of time to board the TRAC bus which is heading to Saticoy for passengers to board the excursion train. On the Bus, we meet Jed Hughes and Judy Decker, with her service dog. The bus leaves at 9:15 am, and takes us east, up SR 126, to the former SP station in Saticoy, where we are to board the train. The former SP depot at Saticoy is still extant, although in need of a little repair. The trains had been intended to run from the Metrolink station at Montalvo, but a track refurbishment project between Santa Paula and Montalvo had not been completed in time and the train was permitted only to run to Saticoy to collect us.

The train arrives about 9:55 am, with some excursionists who had boarded in Fillmore (including Chris Parker and Chris Guenzler), already aboard. After the rest of us board and take our seats, the train waits until 10:15 am before departing eastward.

F-unit        100
Coach      5052
Coach      3106
Coach        205
F-unit        101

Montalvo to Saugus Route Description

This line is the original route taken by the Coast Line to reach Los Angeles, by joining with the first Southern Pacific line at Saugus, in the late 19th-century. It was superseded in that function when the line through Chatsworth was opened after 1900, and relapsed into branch line status until being sold to the Fillmore & Western in the later 20th-century. F&W usually operates between Fillmore and Piru, with occasional trains to Santa Paula. The track west of Santa Paula hasn't carried passengers in decades. There is talk of making the entire route (including the missing trackage between Piru and Saugus) an alternative Metrolink line from Montalvo to LA.

About 11 am, the buffet lunch is served in the Dining Car (we're seated at tables in the adjacent passenger car), and since I'm taking detailed route description notes, Chris brings mine as well as hers. Approaching Fillmore, the train stops to wait for time before entering the station and boarding regular train-trip passengers for the jaunt eastward, about noon. The train then heads east to Piru, where it reverses just before 1 pm and heads back one mile to a honey farm, where there is a 20-minute stop for passengers to patronize the shop there. It then returns to Fillmore, reaching it about 2 pm.

The bus picks us up in Fillmore, departing at about 2:30 pm, and returning us to the hotel before 3:15 pm. Repairing to our room, we later take a walk out to the end of the Ventura Pier at about sunset, as before, observing the passage of Amtrak Trains 775 and 792, and a UP freight. and eating dinner in the hotel restaurant. Train 11 passes during dinner, and Trains 796 and 785 after dinner, before we go to bed.

Monday, November 9th, 2009

We drive back, taking SR 126 to Santa Clarita, and then failing to find the best way to SR 14, heading across the back of Santa Clarita and out on the east side via Bouquet Canyon Road, Vasquez Canyon and Sierra Highway before reaching Acton, after which we take the usual way home, reaching there just before noon.