The little train and trailer stolen from a Fair Oaks driveway Friday were found abandoned Monday night.
The California Highway Patrol called Peter Welch and told him that the trailer had been found a block or two away from where it had been stolen outside his home near San Juan and Pheasant roads.
The ride-on, scale-model train, including an engine, two gondola cars, two boxcars, a flatcar and a caboose, were undamaged inside the 18-foot-long red trailer with “Santa Fe” painted on a rear door.
“Maybe they were looking to make a quick buck,” Welch said. “Then, once they looked inside, it wasn’t what they were looking for. Or maybe they saw that it was going to be a hot item because, with all the news, everybody was going to be looking for it.”
A lock that held the trailer’s rear door closed was broken off, and a gas can was stolen. The trailer and train will now be protected with a better lock system and chained wheels, Welch said.
Welch built several of the cars, and his grandfather, James Welch, built the gasoline-powered engine and the caboose.
The entire train cost about $40,000 to construct, Welch said. A lot of time and skill went into the work, including riveting, welding and painting, he said.
Welch has taken the train to 22 railroads across the country. It is made so children and adults can sit on the cars and take rides on scaled-down tracks. Some of the rides were given at the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers track in Rancho Cordova’s Hagan Park.
On Monday, he had canceled a trip to Arizona to run the train at a scaled-down track. The trip is back on, Welch said Tuesday.