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Steam & Excursion > 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad


Date: 07/26/20 02:34
50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: KMiddlebrook

Billy Jones, an engineer for the Southern Pacific Railroad, opened a 18” miniature railroad on his 10 acre ranch in Los Gatos, California in 1943.  Motive power was a 2-6-2 locomotive, originally built in 1905 for the Venice Railway, that Jones had acquired from a scrapyard.  Offering free rides, the Wildcat Railroad became a popular attraction over the next twenty five years. 

Upon Billy Jones’ death in January 1968, a grass root effort was undertaken to keep the railroad in the community.  It was quickly determined the most appropriate location would be a nearby town park.   Numerous fundraisers were held and the new non profit organization was able to acquire the equipment from the Jones family.    Volunteers constructed a roundhouse, station, turntable and ⅓ mile of track at the new location in Oak Meadow/Vasona Parks.   Another volunteer crew rebuilt the equipment in the new shop structure. 

On July 26, 1970, the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad opened at its new location and remains a local tradition for generations of followers averaging over 100,000 riders annually. Operations are supported by ticket sales and volunteers.  Using centuries-old steam technology, this little railroad is a true Silicon Valley success story. 

The railroad is currently closed in observation of Covid-19 restrictions.

Image 1: Locomotive #2 leaves the turntable for its first revenue run at the park, July 26, 1970
Images 2 and 3 First revenue train crossing Los Gatos Creek, July 26, 1970 








Date: 07/26/20 02:37
Re: 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: KMiddlebrook

Billy Jones began his railroading career as the Boulder Creek hostler for the narrow gauge South Pacific Coast Railroad.   He would become a passenger engineer on Southern Pacific’s Coast Division where his seniority eventually led him to become a regular engineer on Daylight locomotives between San Francisco and San Luis Obispo.   It was during one of these visits to San Francisco in the late 30s that Jones discovered Venice Railroad’s 2-6-2 #2 in a scrap yard.   Never an accomplished mechanic, Jones took evening courses and with help of friends at SP’s Bayshore shops spent several years rebuilding the locomotive at his Los Gatos ranch.

The railroad entertained many visitors during the 25 years the railroad operated on the ranch.   In the early 50s, Walt Disney visited establishing a long friendship between the families.  On the opening day of Disneyland, Billy operated one of Walt’s steam locomotives that looped the new park. 

Jones’s selection for HIS locomotive’s paint scheme was easy.
 Both images, circa 1955 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/26/20 02:46 by KMiddlebrook.






Date: 07/26/20 04:48
Re: 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: gregscholl

I believe I have a few scenes on film of this railroad.  I remember the name, and it came out of the Shattock Collection, probably shot in the 50's or 60's. Next time I run across it will have to take a look better.
Greg



Date: 07/27/20 19:44
Re: 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: Harlock

Here's Billy Jones with Walt.

Mike Massee
Tehachapi, CA
Photography, Railroading and more..




Date: 07/27/20 19:50
Re: 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: Harlock

And here is the locomotive in 2006, one of the most attractive park locomotives ever built.  The Johnson Machine Works and John J. Coit were a little more in tune to prototype than Crown, Cagney and the other manufacturers of the day.    My family has been visiting the railroad since 1952, when it was still on Jones' ranch on Daves Ave.   When the valley was still relatively open with orchards, you could hear the whistle from miles away as he was up where Winchester goes up a hill before it descends into Los Gatos.  I hope to be able to take my grandkids there some day when things are up and running again.

Mike Massee
Tehachapi, CA
Photography, Railroading and more..




Date: 07/28/20 16:14
Re: 50th Anniversary - Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad
Author: wnehoc

IIRC, the bridge over Los Gatos Creek is a re purposed railroad flat car.  A wooden walkway and railings have been added, so it's almost unrecognizable as a flat car now.



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