As I sit here in my kitchen, with the window open on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in February (I love Southern California!), I hear the occasional whistle of a steam locomotive going by. It’s the sound of my kids’ childhood, of weekends at the park across the way. You see, my little town, Poway, California, owns their own railroad. It’s a half-mile narrow-gauge track around the park, and it attracts little boys (and girls) from all around San Diego to ride and then have a picnic or a birthday party (usually with Thomas the Tank Engine theme of course). We walked by it every day throughout elementary school, and my youngest son and I rode it dozens of times back when his passion (obsession?) was trains. (No. 1 Son preferred fire trucks…)
The main attraction is of course the steam engine. It was built in 1907, and worked until 1952 in a quarry, and then for a few more years hauling scrap metal.
In 1960 it was sold to a hobbyist in Vista, California (about 20 miles northwest of here). When he passed away in 1966, it was sold to another hobbyist, John Porter who lived in Poway. He restored it and built the track and train shed. When he passed away, the City of Poway bought his property in 1987 – train included – for a park. Ten years later, volunteers had restored the train and it began regular operations in July 1997.
Usually they run the steam engine one or two weekends a month, and the trolley or speeder the other weekends. There are special events featuring the train for holidays — the train is “robbed” four or five times every Fourth of July, and Santa seems to like it (no snow in SoCal!).
More recently they built a turntable so they can run it the other direction occasionally to even the wear on the wheels, and a new ticket office with lots of Brio and Thomas toys for sale.
It’s a fun place for a young family. My kids are older now, so the train has lost some of its attraction, but we do still enjoy watching it go by, full of happy faces, as we walk to the farmers market to get breakfast every Saturday.