Ghost Town & Calico Railway

The Ghost Town & Calico Railway is a narrow-gauge vintage train and amusement park attraction located within Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.

In 1951, Walter Knott started grading and installing a 3 ft (914 mm) small gauge railroad at his Knotts Berry Farm. He had amassed a collection of vintage rolling stock and other railroad equipment and planned to run it on a railroad trip. Service began in November of that year, and the railroad was opened on January 12, 1952.

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad supplied the engines and the majority of the carriages.

For the 1949 Chicago Railroad Fair, the D&RG painted a narrow-gauge engine and a few narrow-gauge carriages in a hue dubbed Rio Grande Gold. In 1950, the business painted the equipment for “The Silverton” (which traveled between Durango and Silverton, Colorado) the same color. When the GT&C began operations in 1952, the train stock was painted this color. The engine had a diamond stack (the wrong shape diamond) and an unnecessarily garish paint scheme.

The train has since been restored to its 1940s appearance in an effort to make it more genuine. The engines, for example, now have a boiler-tube pilot and a straight stack. Pullman Green is the color of the passenger cars (which was mandated by the government when it took over the railroads during World War I).

The engines, on the other hand, were manufactured in 1881, as were the automobiles. And, in constructing Ghost Village, Walter Knott’s goal was to build an Old West town from the 1800s, not the 1940s. 

The coal-burning engines originally had diamond stacks (to capture the coal cinders), a wooden pilot, and a more ornamental sand dome (see accompanying photos). Except for the paint color, the passenger cars have been slightly updated over the years but retain their original appearance. Rather than Pullman Green, they were initially painted in Passenger Car Red.

Two C-19 2-8-0 “Consolidation” type steam locomotives manufactured by Baldwin Locomotive Works for the Denver & Rio Grande in 1881 are on the roster. They were D&RGW No. 340 Green River (originally D&RG #400, dubbed Gold Nugget No. 40 for many years on the GT&C) from the Denver & Rio Grande Western and RGS No. 41 Red Cliff (recently renamed Walter K at the Rio Grande Southern’s 60th anniversary ceremony January 12, 2012). D&RGW No. 340 was refurbished in 2016 and is still in operation, alternating with RGS No. 41.

Orange County Electrician

Next Point of Interest: Calico River Rapids