The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad at Vasona Park – 18″ gauge Live Steam in Los Gatos, CA

I lived in Montreal when I first came to North America in 1968. Alas, I have not been back for many a moon. My daughters, Annalise and Holly, have visited and had a great time. All of this I told to two Quebecois who came to visit our layout here in Fort Bragg, CA. The visitors were making their first visit to California. They had foregone LA and traveled north along the Pacific Coast. Despite the cold weather and rain they had a delightful time. Until they reached Fort Bragg the highlight of the trip had been a steam train ride their Californian relatives had taken them to in Los Gatos.

A very quick search on the ‘net turned up this info and video about the railroad:

William “Billy” Jones’ railroad began in 1939, when as a regular engineer on the Coast Daylight run, he spotted a derelict miniature locomotive in a scrap yard during a layover in San Francisco. Purchasing it for the princely sum of $100, he moved it back to his prune orchard on Daves Avenue in Los Gatos. That locomotive turned out to be Venice Miniature Railway #2, formerly operated in Venice Beach, CA. during the heydey of Abbot Kinney’s artist-community development on the beachfront west of Los Angeles. Designed by John Coit and built by the Johnson Machine Works of Los Angeles in 1905, the now over 100 year old locomotive has hauled thousands if not millions of happy children and adults over its long career. Billy Jones operated the 18″ gauge 2-6-2 “Prairie” type locomotive on a loop around his orchard from 1942 to 1967, always for free, to the delight of local kids and families.

Billy Jones passed away after a brief battle with leukemia, and in 1968 local volunteers began planning to rescue the equipment and re-locate it to a new home at Vasona and Oak Meadow Parks. The Wildcat began operations at Vasona Park in July of 1969 and has been open to the public ever since. The railroad now also has a second, larger steam locomotive and a diesel locomotive to help the aging two-spot with its duties. This footage was shot in 2006 shortly after the #2 received a new boiler. The original scotch ‘marine’ boiler is on display in front of the engine house. The logo seen at the beginning was designed by Disney animator Ward Kimball.”

Thanks for the heads up guys – I’ve added this one to my bucket list.