March 4, 2019

Riding the Rails Through the Heritage Valley

It was a fabulous trip to Fillmore to ride and have lunch aboard the Fillmore & Western Railway! We boarded the train in the town of Fillmore, often referred to as “train town.”  Downtown Fillmore was established when Southern Pacific built the railroad through the Santa Clara River Valley in 1887. The town of Fillmore is named after J.A. Fillmore, a superintendent for Southern Pacific.  After much research on Fillmore and upon arriving it soon made sense why it is affectionately called “Train Town,” The Western Railway is the very heart of the town of Fillmore.

Arriving in Fillmore and pulling up to the train station felt like we had traveled back to simpler, easier times. The Western Railway is a collection of vintage passenger cars, dining cars, and locomotives (dating as far back as 1913).  The train takes you from Fillmore to Santa Paula along a preserved stretch of the southern pacific railway. We were eager to board as we had an entire dining car to ourselves!

The daytripp gang had the pleasure of riding in the historic Freedom car.  The freedom car ironically enough began on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1952 as a “Jim Crow” car.  Jim Crow was the nickname of the laws and standards used to enforce racial segregation and discrimination throughout the united states. Our tour guide, Dale, pointed out a partition area where a curtain once hung to seperate the whites from the people of color.  Why the heck would they call this the freedom car then? Well, Dale went on to explain that it was later purchased by Amtrak. The release of the double-decker train was the end of the Freedom train, she was junked. A woman from Bakersfield, CA found this train in the scrap yard and purchased it to make into an office for her welding business.  She named the train Freedom because she freed it from the junkyard. The freedom was recently used to shoot an episode of Law and Order, Criminal Minds. One train, so many different lives.


I have to mention how AMAZING the staff was.  From our guide Dale to the two lovely servers, our guests receive the 5 star treatment!  We had a delicious lunch and Dale supplied us with historical info about the train and gave us lessons in agriculture as we drove through farmlands and groves. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking.  The mountains and farmlands were so lush and green due to our very rainy winter! The grey skies made the green of the grass and plants really stand out. The colors were so vibrant, it was a visual feast!  It wa really cool to see the clouds and fog around the mountain tops. Watching the rain fall on a gorgeous natural backdrop from a slow moving train was an experience I will never forget. It was a little slice of heaven, and so was our carrot cake!  Carrot cake is my absolute favorite dessert so I was delighted when I returned to the train after exploring Downtown Santa Paula to find hot coffee and carrot cake being served!

I loved this tour because it gave me so much time to talk to all our wonderful daytrippers. I was lucky enough to be sitting right in front of an amazing group of world travelers and adventurers.  On both the bus ride to Fillmore and back home to San Diego, my new friends were kind enough to share some of their amazing travel stories. I always end my daytripps with a new group of friends and someone great recommendations for travel.  Life is good.

~ Johnny DeVenio
DayTripper Tour Manager

Tour: Fillmore & Western Luncheon Train
Date: March 2, 2019


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