Fillmore & Western Railway evicted from rail line

FILLMORE, Calif. (KABC) -- For nearly 20 years, the Fillmore & Western Railway has been chugging its way across the big screen. Its old locomotives and trains have appeared in movies like "The Lone Ranger" and "Water for Elephants".

But the Fillmore & Western Railway's Hollywood business could be nearing the end of the line.

"It's gonna put all these people out of work, and as you probably know, there is not a lot going on here in Fillmore to get a job," said Fillmore & Western Railway co-owner Tresa Wilkinson.

Wilkinson and her husband own Fillmore & Western Railway, but not the rail line. That is owned by the Ventura County Transportation Commission, which is fighting in court to evict the railway.

A Ventura County court ordered the railway to end its public excursions Wednesday. The transportation commission is arguing that it is spending too much taxpayer money maintaining the tracks and equipment, but Fillmore & Western Railway's attorney questions that claim.

"They say it's about the money, it's not about the money," said Donna Standard, Fillmore & Western Railway's attorney. "My client has offered to maintain the entire line at his own expense, and that was not good enough."

While the court's latest ruling does away with the holiday trips and dinner excursions, it still allows the railway to participate in Hollywood filming and carry freight. But the railway is afraid those rights will disappear soon as well.

"We're regrouping and seeing what our options are at this point," Standard said.

The Ventura County Transportation Commission's Executive Director tells Eyewitness News that the county pays the Wilkinsons' to maintain the tracks. That price tag is twice what the county makes in revenue from the railway.

Meantime, people in the small town of Fillmore are baffled by the move to shut down what they call one of their area's biggest tourist attractions.

"I hope and pray that we can keep it because it does so much for this little town," Joni of Fillmore said.

"We have fought so hard and put so much into this trying to maintain it and make something fun, historic," Wilkinson said.

To pay the company's growing legal bills, Wilkinson says she's been forced to sell-off an old west locomotive, and worries everything else will have to go as well.

A long look down the tracks and no happy, Hollywood ending in sight.

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