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FOR THE KIDS : Trip Back in Time : A vintage-train ride between Fillmore and Santa Paula transports the passengers back to a bygone era.

April 01, 1993|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Riding the train may not carry the same thrill as a whirl through Magic Mountain, but it's still a kick for many kids who only know trains from the movies.

But if they take the train between Fillmore and Santa Paula, they will find out firsthand about vintage trains--and get a glimpse of the movie-making world as well.

The newly formed Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society has begun sponsoring occasional scenic train rides between the two cities on trains owned by Short Line Enterprises Ltd.

Short Line, based in Fillmore the last two years, is actually in the movie business. The company provides its trains for the entertainment industry, and its credits include "Throw Momma From the Train," "Chaplin," "Night Train to Kathmandu," and the television miniseries "War and Remembrance."

Short Line's next public excursion to Santa Paula and back to Fillmore is scheduled for April 10. The trip is billed as the "Orange Blossom Special."

"It'll be a nice leisurely ride through the orange groves," said Dave Wilkinson, president of the historical society. "It's like it was 50 years ago--it hasn't changed."

Nor has the train. Two 1950-vintage diesel locomotives will pull 11 cars, some dating to the 1920s and earlier. The quarter-mile-long train leaves Fillmore at 3 p.m., arriving in Santa Paula about 4. There, travelers can dine on a tri-tip barbecue. The train departs the Santa Paula depot about 6:30 p.m., arriving back in Fillmore about 7:30.

This whole affair is not cheap. Round-trip train tickets are $20 for adults, and $1 per year for each child under 12 ($7 for a 7-year-old, for example). The barbecue is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

The cost didn't stop several hundred people from packing the train for the first excursion to Santa Paula, sponsored by the historical society three weeks ago.

"People were hanging out all over," Wilkinson said. The upcoming trip is expected to draw 375 to 400 people, so he recommends making reservations.

Any proceeds from the trips will benefit the group, which formed in January to promote railroad preservation, acquire train memorabilia, and maybe someday open a museum.

The train cars are like museums themselves, and passengers can roam through them as the train makes the 20-mile round-trip. The oldest is a 1910 baggage car, and the newest ones are 1950-vintage, similar to those used by Amtrak.

One car dating from the 1920s sports walls and ceiling with ornate, hand-painted designs. There are lounge cars, dining cars, sleepers, and a baggage car that has been converted into a snack bar and gift shop.

For Jim Clark, who owns Short Line with Stan Garner, each car yields a story. He pointed to a private sleeping compartment with movable walls to accommodate cameras for shooting scenes from "War and Remembrance."

In addition to running the train for movie shoots, Clark himself is something of an actor, having had small parts in "General Hospital" and "Matlock."

Most passengers go for the open cars, from where they can also get better pictures and take in the aroma of the orange blossoms.

"We're trying to promote what California used to be like," Clark said, "the beautiful old orchards and the countryside."

* WHERE AND WHEN

Short Line Enterprises Ltd. and the Santa Clara River Valley Railroad Historical Society are offering a scenic train trip between Fillmore and Santa Paula, Saturday, April 10. For reservations and ticket information, call 524-1201, 524-0351, or 525-5561.

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