"The Trip With Many Pauses"


It's spring of 2006 and it's roadtrip time again for the Johnson's.

However, as has often been the case the last few years there are problems. This year around it isn't a question of money, or time, or taking care of mothers or even not knowing where to go...

...it's a question of allergies.

Dee Dee has 'em - bad. "How bad?" you ask. Well, bad enough they trigger her asthma.

So she's taking shots for them. And that's where the problem lies: She's just started taking them a few months ago, so she's on a two-shot-a-week schedule, one every Tuesday and Friday.

That makes it tricky to get more than a couple of days from home - which makes it difficult to take a viable trip anywhere. Most places, we'd have to go, spend a night, then come right back.

That's not a good bang for the vacation buck.

So it's going to be a somewhat...diffuse road trip this year - and the road will have very little to do with it.

Fillmore (Sunday, March 19th, 2006): "The train! The TRAIN!"

(note: Formatting works best at 1024x768)


The Route of Day One


Roughly fifty, sixty miles northwest of Pasadena, in the Santa Clara River Valley, lies the small town of Fillmore. Fillmore is primarily a rural farming town (yes, the area is still mostly in farms - how long that will last is anyone's guess, of course), but it is also home to the Fillmore & Western Railway - the "Movie Train."

Why "the Movie Train?" Well, in an effort to avoid too much typing, I'll just paste what the company's website says:

"During this time (1985), Short Line moved its movie operations to the Newhall Ranch, placing it within the Hollywood production zone. Between 1985 and 1990, Short Line was used in over seventy feature films, television series and commercials. No Hollywood railroad location had ever amassed that number of credits in such a brief period of time. The track lease was cancelled in 1990 when the Newhall Land and Farming Company decided to develop the surrounding area in a way, which was incompatible with movie operations.

A search began for a new home for Hollywood's "movie trains". All potential sites in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties were explored. The only line that met the specific needs of the film industry was Southern Pacific's Santa Paula Branch in rural Ventura County. The pastoral surroundings of the area also bode suitable for development of a passenger excursion business. The City of Fillmore showed great enthusiasm for the operation of a vintage train in conjunction with the revival of its 1920-era Central Business District. The objective - to create a major visitor destination that features the movie trains, passenger excursions and dinner trains as the master theme for the community redevelopment.

The "Movie Trains" found a home, and Fillmore became "Train Town".

In 1996, Short Line Enterprises became the film division of the Fillmore & Western Railway Company. Operations expanded from movie work and limited passenger trips to regularly scheduled daytime passenger excursions and Saturday Night Dinner Trains."


Anywho, like most railway museums, they have an annual RailFest and after years of just thinking about it, this time we planned to actually go there.

So it's eight-thirty in the morning and we're on the 210 heading north to the 5 and then the 126. It's a pretty morning, cool with blue skies and just enough clouds to make things interesting. Fifty-six miles don't take long at all (especially at SoCal freeway speeds) so soon we're entering the town of Fillmore and looking for a place to park next to the Fillmore & Western site.

The small railyard next to the town's civic center is filled with trains for the day's events. While the park around it is equally filled with various vendors, all trying to sell equally various foods and souvenirs and scented candles. We head over to the caboose that acts as the F&W's office and buy our tickets for the day.

Then it's off to explore briefly while we wait for a train. The fest will be running two - one east to the even tinier town of Piru, one west to the "big" city of Santa Paula. We check out some of the shops, then hop the ten-o-clock to Piru.

The railyardFillmore and Western RailFest 2006Dee Dee reads the schedule
The E-UnitPiru, thataway...


The big yellow and silver "E-Unit" slowly pulls us out of town, then heads off east though small farms and actual orange groves. This is a little slice of what, for instance, the San Gabriel Valley was like fifty, sixty years ago, before it started filling in with homes and freeways - and as that kind of ruralosity is how I've got TrolleyWorld's San Gabriel Valley, I take a lot of mental notes...and pictures.

leaving townfarms
orange grovesreally old house is falling down, falling down, falling down...
more grovesinside the dining car


After having my old one for a decade, I finally broke down and bought a new camera. Digital this time, of course. I've got a gig of space on the card and a spare set of batteries and I'm taking pictures like crazy because I know that this trip, I'm not going to run out of film...

...other things, however, will cause problems.

Welcome to PiruFifty minutes later we slowly pull into the station at Piru and get off to explore...briefly.

Very briefly. Do to how the trains are scheduled for the day, we can either catch the same train back in a mere thirty minutes...or wait three hours to do the same. We elect to go for the "thirty minutes" wait as, no offense to Piru, but there wasn't three hours of stuff to do there (or, more correctly, there wasn't three hours of stuff to do there when we still had so much stuff to do back in Fillmore and Santa Paula).

We explored as fast as possible, mostly getting stamps in our RailFest booklet (they had a contest where if you got stamps from enough sponsors, you could enter to win a nice vacation prize. We got enough...but didn't win, darn it) and I very quickly checked out the Heritage Valley Inn, ( which is Piru's one and only hotel, but nicely restored and on our list of "places we might like to stay sometime."

Dee Dee contemplates a new dishThe train's whistle called and we climbed aboard for the trip back to Fillmore. On the way, we hit the dining car and got a light lunch. Dee Dee had something called a "Barbeque Salad" which gave her some cooking ideas she wanted to try later.

back in FillmoreA little before twelve-thirty sees us getting off the train back in Fillmore. For the next couple of hours, we wander around the small "downtown" checking out the shops (or at least, the shops that we needed stamps from... ), buying the odd bit of jewelry, and generally having a nice time. Fillmore is a pretty little town, especially since the train has brought some money back into it.

Three in the afternoon sees us climbing on another train, this one heading for Santa Paula. We ride through new homes, over old bridges, past beautiful mountain vistas and through one of the largest orchards I've seen, Limoneira, before the train pulls into Santa Paula's 1887 depot.

over a bridgevistas
more vistasarriving in Santa Paula
back across the riverthrough the groves
the vistas roll by......as some of us sleep...


It's only supposed to be a ten-minute stopover - and it's the last train of the day - so we don't really get off. I just run around taking lots of pictures. I find I have to keep swapping the batteries as the camera's eating them fast. I've only got two sets, but out of the camera and "resting" for a while seems to "revive" them for another go. Still, I vow to bring more batteries for longer trips as it's burning through them worryingly fast.

Ten minutes sorta drifts into twenty, as they have to spend some time moving things about so that the Metrolink train on display at the depot can get out and go home. Eventually, though, we're chugging eastwards once again towards Fillmore as the sun sinks behind us. By six we've de-trained, bought that candy we promised to buy from a shop we saw that morning, and dropped off our contest booklet. Home is just an hour's drive away...

...well, an hour if we hadn't stopped at a fruit stand, a honey place (closed), and Santa Clarita for dinner...

The Santa Clarita River Valley


To Second Day of Trip



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