Sounds of a miniature steam train whistle and the delighted giggles of children of all ages once again will be heard throughout the orchards of Cover’s Apple Ranch in Tuolumne.
Train rides at the ranch are back.
This train could be called the apple of his eye. Sonora train buff Ken Keagy’s narrow gauge miniature railroad is nearly complete and ready for riders at Cover’s.
Keagy, a local grading contractor and gas station owner, as a hobby builds and operates scale live steam trains on his 2-mile-long Hetch Hetchy and Yosemite Valley Railroad located at his home.
This new rail line replaces the old train that once offered rides at Cover’s before the fire more than a year ago.
Wednesday morning marked the inaugural passenger trips by the miniature train. The crowd of school kids from Soulsbyville Elementary and a handful of adults kind of took Keagy by surprise.
“I didn’t realize we were going to have a hundred and whatever kids this morning, Keagy said laughing. “It was great. Everybody enjoyed it, and I know the Cover’s are real happy that it´s running.”
Keagy is known in railroad circles for his exact-scale miniature trains. He has his own foundry on his ranch near Sonora and casts all of the metal parts, wheels, frames and other railroad hardware the little locomotives and railroad cars might need.
The size of his trains are a little less than half of real narrow gauge train equipment, Keagy explained. Much of the railroad equipment he builds is based on the Westside Lumber Company 3-foot narrow gauge railroad that operated up into the 1960s from Tuolumne City into the woods.
So far Keagy and crew has installed more than 1,800 feet of narrow gauge track at Cover’s ranch along Cherokee Road. The line winds through the apple trees, around barns and through two tunnels.
Saturday marks opening day for train rides. Keagy and his engineer Ken Pimlott will run the trains on Saturdays and possibly Fridays while the weather remains nice, he said. Tickets are $2.