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JAUNTS: Ventura County

Off the Beaten Patch

Catch the vintage train from Fillmore to a remote field filled with pumpkins.

October 29, 1998|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It's not too late for a trip to the pumpkin patch, and if you're tired of the old familiar haunts, here's one you've probably never been to.

Saturday, Halloween, is the last day you can hop the Fillmore & Western Railway Co.'s "pumpkinliner" for an excursion to a pumpkin patch in the middle of a citrus orchard west of Fillmore.

In fact, the only way you can get to this three-acre field is by train. So you'll have the place to yourselves--you and 300 or so passengers. These popular October weekend runs have been drawing big crowds.

The pumpkinliner leaves Fillmore's Central Park Square at 9:15 and 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Reservations are recommended.

The trip takes 90 minutes, with a 20-minute stop at the pumpkin patch where you can pick out tiny pumpkins for 50 cents or splurge on a 50-pound monster in the $12 to $15 range. The pumpkins make the return trip on the train.

"If they have a huge one, we have someone who will help them get it onto the train," said Tresa Wilkinson, one of the train company owners.

This is no ordinary train--it's an antique. Fully restored, it also leads a glamorous double life appearing regularly on TV and in movies, videos and commercials when scripts call for a vintage train.

Billy Crystal rode it in "City Slickers II." In the 1992 movie "Chaplin," actor Robert Downey Jr. stepped off the train in Hollywood--except it was really a spot outside Fillmore. And in the remake of "Of Mice and Men," that was the train the men hopped. It also garnered a spot on the season premiere and finale of the TV show "JAG," and it's in a Pepto-Bismol commercial running now.

For Saturday's ride, the five-car train and caboose will be pulled by a 1949 diesel through the orchards of the scenic Santa Clara Valley. The oldest car, an open-air flat car with old-style seating, dates to 1918. Another, fitted with a piano, was made in 1928. And another, called the Moulon Rouge, is a vintage dining car. One of the cars serves as a concession car, selling hot dogs, drinks and train memorabilia.

During the ride, passengers can explore the train. It chugs along at a slow pace, and along the way spectators on the ground and at crossings wave and honk.

This is the first year the train company has provided its own pumpkin patch. At the patch, kids will find more to do than search out the perfect--or the heaviest--pumpkin. They can dabble in crafts, making beaded bracelets and necklaces.

And to get into the Halloween spirit of things, a witch just might be out there amid the pumpkins doling out some creepy trinkets.

*

At Malibu Creek State Park on Saturday, kids won't find any witches, but they'll be able to indulge in a little Halloween fun while they absorb information about a few other creatures.

At "Halloween Treat for Kids," parents and kids, ages 4 to 11, can try on costumes depicting local animals--frogs, bears, owls and rabbits.

At the park near Agoura Hills, families should head for the Braille trail. In addition to costumes, they'll find stops along the way for crafts or games. They'll also pick up some Halloween treats.

The event is free, except for a $5 parking fee. "There's nothing scary about it," said Ranger Jim Holt.

BE THERE

The Fillmore & Western Railway Co.'s Pumpkinliner's last run is Saturday. The station is at Central Park Square, just north of Highway 126 in Fillmore. (800) 773-8724.

"Halloween Treat for Kids," Malibu Creek State Park, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; call (818) 880-0363.

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