A train that has delighted children and adults with rides around small tracks throughout the state disappeared Friday night when the trailer carrying the engine and cars was stolen in Fair Oaks.
An 18-foot-long red trailer with the words “Santa Fe” emblazoned on the sides was stolen from the driveway outside Peter Welch’s home near San Juan and Pheasant roads. Inside, on custom-built racks, was a ride-on scale model train, including an engine, two gondola cars, two boxcars, a flatcar and a caboose.
Welch built three or four of the cars. His grandfather, James Welch, built the gasoline-powered engine and the caboose.
The entire train cost about $40,000 to build, Welch said. In addition, a lot of time and skill went into the work, including riveting, welding and painting.
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“When you build a car from scratch, it includes going to the railroad yard and taking hundreds of pictures and measuring everything to scale,” said Welch. “Then there’s the time in the wood and metal shop, cutting, forming, designing and welding.”
Kids and adults would 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.
“I’ve been going out there with that train for over three years,” said Welch. “The train has traveled to 22 different railroads across the U.S.”
Welch had planned to take his train to Arizona next month, but he has canceled those plans. Welch reported the stolen train to the California Highway Patrol.
He suspects the thief was targeting the trailer and not the train. Once the trailer is opened, the thief might try to sell the train for salvage or just push the engine and various cars out of the trailer and drive off, Welch said.