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Goat Hill Railway Orange County Model Engineers train ride 10/15/2016

by Chris Guenzler

Robin and I pulled into the crowded parking lot and found a place to park then walked to the end of the line which I knew would be a forty minute wait until we could board a train for a ride.

Orange County Model Engineers History

The Orange County Model Engineers was originally formed in 1977 as the Orange County Live Steamers, after the demise of the short-lived Long Beach Live Steamers. Negotiations were started soon after with Orange County for a site in Mile Square Park. As work progressed on a draft contract between the County and OCLS, the County began placing conditions on the Club's use of the park, which the Club felt were not in its best interests. Finally the negotiations were broken off and the Club began looking elsewhere for a site.

Through Chris Anten, the City of Huntington Beach was contacted with a proposal for a facility in its Adventure Park. Huntington Beach was interested in the idea but indicated that it would be a number of years before it could pursue the proposal. About this time contact was made with the City of Costa Mesa, which expressed an interest and suggested a site in Fairview Park on the west side of Placentia Avenue. Costa Mesa said they would contact the Club as soon as the City and the State had finalized the City's acquisition of this land.

Around 1982 Bob Platfoot and Pete Garwood brought the Club and the City of Irvine together. The Club proposed a facility in Irvine's Heritage Park. Shortly after that, Irvine decided the Club would better fit in the City's planned new Civic Center park. Since the park was several years away, Irvine proposed the Club build a temporary facility on an eight acre site adjoining the proposed Civic Center park. In 1985 the Club formally incorporated in California with a change of name as the Orange County Model Engineers and a formal slate of officers was elected.

OCME developed a plan for the temporary site in Irvine, which was submitted to the city for discussion. A ground breaking ceremony was held in anticipation of the city's approval of the Club's plan. While OCME and Irvine were haggling over details, Costa Mesa contacted the Club and asked if we were still interested in using Fairview Park. Because of the state of negotiations between OCME and Irvine, the Club decided to pursue negotiations with Costa Mesa concurrently with those in progress with Irvine.

Costa Mesa decided that the forty plus acres on the east side of Placentia Avenue would be better suited to the OCME's needs and accordingly gave the Club a topographical map of the site with which to develop a Facility Plan, which was submitted to, and subsequently approved by, Costa Mesa. The outcome of the parallel negotiations with the two cities was a twenty five year renewable lease with the City of Costa Mesa signed in October 1988. Negotiations with Irvine were ended and a ground breaking ceremony was held in the new home of OCME.

In March of 1989 OCME began construction of a temporary six hundred foot oval of track at the site of the current station which was completed in time for OCME to hold its first public run in August, 1989. Following this first run, construction was started on the permanent facilities.

On March 19, 1991, with construction of the First Phase loop completed, OCME held its Golden Spike Ceremony, thus inaugurating operations on twenty four hundred feet of track, including the ninety foot Hank Hornsvelt trestle. In attendance were Mary Hornbuckel, Mayor of Costa Mesa and Keith VanHolt, Director of Parks and Recreation.

Work was next started on Phase Two, which incorporated another eighteen hundred feet of track out to the water tower at Mehren, included The North and South Y's. Also built at this time were: Higgins Loop, Matassa loop, Platfoot Yard and the access tracks from Skinner Yard at the exit from the compound. Up to this time, we had been using a temporary canopy for a station platform cover. A permanent cover was in order. In late 1998 plans were drawn up and submitted to the city for approval. The city reviewed the plans and asked for some changes to the support posts. The changes were made and the plans re-submitted to the city, which approved them in early 1999. Construction was started in mid year and the cover was completed within a couple of months.

In mid-1998, the plans for the rest of Goat Hill Junction Station, which included restrooms, a storage area and the club store, were submitted to the city for approval. Approval was given in the fall of that year. Construction was started in February 1999 and completed the following June. Most of the work of building the station was done by Club members.

In 2003, the Club received permission from the city to proceed with the third and final phase of the Club's Facility Plan, the Mountain Division. Construction was started in the Spring, including the transplanting of endangered Purple Needle Grass with the help of the Boy Scouts. Track work was finished in time to inaugurate operations on the Mountain Division at our 2003 Fall Meet.

More work lies ahead. The addition of a much needed siding off the Switchback is underway. Future plans include stub-sidings for prototype operations, and a re-build of the passenger loading area cover at the station due to termite damage which will be done by an Eagle Scout as a badge project.

Our visit and ride

We waited and I will show you some of the trains that came by us while we were in line.

A nice variety of trains helped pass the time while we waited.

The is the train we are going to ride. We boarded and we were then off on our ride here.

A view from the train.

There was a Halloween flavor along our route.

The Costa Mesa Fire Department was giving the public rides on their fire engines today. We completed our ride and will show you what passed our photo location.

Robin and I really enjoyed all these trains. I returned home via surface streets and finished the two stories by 3:50 PM which gave me an hour to relax before leaving for my Ian Anderson show tonight at the Pantages Theater.