SHORT LINE ENTERPRISES, LTD. / SLE, INC.
1988-1994

 

Between 1985 and 1990 the Newhall Ranch Movie Train was used in over seventy features, television series, commercials and music videos. No Hollywood railroad location had ever amassed that number of credits in so short a time. The track lease was canceled in 1990 when Newhall Land decided to develop the surrounding area in a way that was incompatible with the movie operation. A search began for a suitable new location. After exploring all potential sites in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, the Southern Pacific's (S.P.) Santa Paula Branch in rural Ventura County was found to be the only line that met the specific needs of the film industry. It also had pastoral surroundings suitable for development of a passenger excursion business. The S.P. still served two shippers at Santa Paula, but was in the process of discontinuing service on the remaining seventeen miles of track to the east.

Short Line initiated discussions with the S.P. to obtain an operating lease and contacted the cities of Fillmore and Santa Paula to determine their reaction to the idea of having this type of operation in their communities. While both cities gave positive responses, the City of Fillmore showed great enthusiasm because Short Line's proposal provided a theme to use in the revitalization of its downtown area. The city offered incentives to insure Short Line's involvement, and in July, 1990 the collection of equipment was trucked from Newhall Ranch to a storage site on a private spur at the Fillmore-Piru Citrus Association in Piru, California..

The City of Fillmore Redevelopment Agency purchased the thirteen-acre station parcel in its downtown area from the S.P. in late 1990. Building on the opportunity presented by Short Line's involvement, two urban planning firms were engaged to masterplan this parcel and coordinate its development with the adjoining 1920-era Central Business District. The objective - to create a major visitor destination that features the Short Line Enterprises movie trains, passenger excursions and dinner trains as the master theme for the community redevelopment.

During the period between July 1990, when the equipment left Newhall Ranch, and December 1992, Short Line did a limited number of films on both the private spur and the city-owned track in Fillmore. Two feature motion pictures were shot out on the branch in October and November 1991, using 1906 steam locomotive #51 and several newly acquired 1920-era passenger cars. Because a track lease was not in place, these films were done under S.P. jurisdiction. The company also pursued various research, consulting, appraisal and restoration projects, and company personnel served as "train coordinators" on major feature films in Illinois, Arizona and Minnesota, arranging to provide leased railroad equipment and supervising the operation of this equipment.

The City of Fillmore and Short Line Enterprises executed a two year operating lease with the S. P. effective December 31, 1992, whereby the city held the primary lease and Short Line sub leased from the city. The two year time period was established because the S.P. had started negotiations with the Ventura County Transportation Commission for the sale of the entire line to VCTC and it was expected the sale would be completed before the lease expired.. The lease provided for a month-to-month continuation should the sale not be completed within the two year time period.

Short Line Enterprises, doing business as the Fillmore & Western Railway, operated movie trains and special excursions from its rail yard in downtown Fillmore. The collection of company-owned or leased equipment grew to include two steam locomotives, three diesels, sixteen passenger cars and seventeen freight cars. This enabled the company to assemble any type of train from the turn-of-the-century to the present. This, coupled with the opportunities presented by the new location and an outstanding reputation for professionalism in the film industry validated the decision to pursue the Santa Paula Branch and helped make the business very successful.

The VCTC purchased of the entire 29-mile Santa Paula Branch from the S.P. (intended to preserve it as a future transportation corridor) and the City of Fillmore Redevelopment Agency's plan to turn its quaint downtown area into a major railroad-theme visitor attraction, offered a number of exciting business possibilities for the future. To facilitate its growth, Short Line Enterprises/Ltd., transferred the limited partnership interests to the corporate general partner, SLE, Inc. and renamed the company Short Line Enterprises, Inc., a California corporation. This change was effective December 31, 1994.

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