Future of beloved Fillmore & Western Railway in Ventura County uncertain

FILLMORE, Calif. (KABC) -- Dave Wilkinson and his family have run the Fillmore & Western Railway Company for some 30 years.

The vintage trains have been a fixture in the Ventura County community of Fillmore for decades. Families and train enthusiasts have come from all over to enjoy the nostalgia-filled train rides through Heritage Valley, especially during the holiday season.

The trains have also been featured in a number of movies over the years.

At 73, Wilkinson says it's time for him to semi-retire.

"It's just been a lot of fun, a lot of good people. We've done a bunch of film shoots and met a lot of the actors and actresses in the industry. It's always been an exciting place to work," he said.

But, as he takes a step back, it's not yet clear who will keep the trains running.

The Fillmore Railway Commission is working on bringing in another railway company to operate the trains.

"I am so hopeful that someone will come along and pick up where Dave left off. I'm sad that he's moving on but I really want something good for this town and that is great for our town," said Stephanie Thomas of Fillmore.

Families have made lifelong memories riding the trains. Nearby business owners, like Norma Amaro, are keeping their hopes up the trains will continue to run and attract visitors to Fillmore.

Amaro owns Vintage Pleasures right down the street from the train station.

"We really count on it a lot. Having the COVID crisis was difficult. A lot of businesses had to close down, so we're depending a lot on the train. Without it, I'm afraid others may not make it," she said.

The last run of the vintage trains was scheduled for Saturday at noon, but everyone we spoke to is hoping it's not the very last run.

Copyright © 2021 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.