Los Gatos Railroad continues to give train rides to generations of families

As the sun comes up and the engine heats up, Kelly Locke puts the final details in place at the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad.  

"You have to show up three hours early to get it to where it will move, so you got to build it," Locke told KTVU aboard the train.

As the steam builds and the bell rings, it ushers in an unmistakable sound that calls to those young and old.

"We're actually on a bike ride," says Karla, a local mother who came to the park with her children. "We live in Campbell, and she heard the trains warnings is like, 'let's go.' So we went and we found the train." 


The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad in Los Gatos is one of the few non-profits of its kind. Most of the other small railroads in the region are for-profit organizations, said Jessey Oxford, operations manager.

"We rely entirely on donations on ticket sales to kind of help keep us afloat," he said.

The railroad was born out of a love of trains and community, and started back in the 1940s when Billy Jones found the Number 2 train in a scrapyard and saved it, creating something everyone could enjoy. Jones worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad for most of his life and grew up working with trains. 

"He loved trains," Oxford said. "He also just had a general love and care for the community, so he wouldn't charge for tickets, any donations that would come in, outside of just general maintenance costs, he would donate to local charities."

It became a part of the fabric of Los Gatos and Jones made sure it stayed, even after Jones' friend Walt Disney tried to convince Jones to bring the Number 2 train to Disneyland. 

"[Jones] convinced and encouraged [Disney] to get his own engine so that it would have its own history rather than erasing the history of the Number 2," Oxford said.

After Jones died in 1968 a group of businessmen came together to make sure his legacy endured and moved the train Oak Meadow park, where the tradition continues to this day.

While it is not free anymore, the railroad prices are kept as low as possible.

Just $3 gets you a seat.

One young rider named Jaden said the engine was his favorite part of the train.

Vinnie and Kari, two adults, said the train brings back found memories. 

"It takes you back to childhood memories," they said.

The train winds past Los Gatos Creek and through the 12-acre park.  

Three dollars will also get you a ride on the W.E. Bill Mason Carousel. Built in 1915, it joined the railroad in 1991, and beckons riders, young and old, to find that special horse.

"It was the color white, and it like had flowers and stuff on it," 7-year-old Cora told KTVU.

Kandace Rossini says because of the W.E. Bill Mason Carousel, all her kids wanted to do in Disneyland was ride the one there.

The carousel and this fleet of trains have a history, as do the people who care for them: The high school kids, who are your crossing guards, and the conductors.

"I like pretty much everything. And ever since I was like, 9 or 10, I've been really into trains," said 11-year-old Courtland who volunteers at the railroad. "I've been coming here since I was, like, probably a toddler."

Courtland said he likes any job his supervisor Doug gives him. 

"I scrape rocks out of the ties. I work on the roofs sometimes," he said

And that is just how Kelly Locke, the train conductor, got his start.  He came first as a teenager looking for a summer job, and ended up board president.

"I started training on the Number 2 engine and became an engineer on the railroad in August of 1975. So I've been an engineer here for 53 years." Locke Locke said with a smile. "I'm still trying to get it right. I hope I will continue doing it until either they kick me out or I get it right."