|Photo from the Orange County Model Engineers|
When Newport Harbor High opened in 1930, a cross-town rivalry developed between the Newport Beach teens and those who lived in Costa Mesa. Costa Mesa kids referred to the high school on the hill over Newport Beach as “Mackerel Flats,” while the NHH students called Costa Mesa “Goat Hill.”
There are a couple of references that remain today recalling the moniker. On Newport Blvd. near 19th street there is a dive bar called “the Goat Hill Tavern.” The other notable reference is the Goat Hill Junction Railroad, located on Placentia Avenue in Costa Mesa.
In 1977, a spin-off group from Long Beach founded the Orange County Model Engineers (originally the Orange County Live Steamers), and began looking for an appropriate place to be able to permanently develop and display a miniature railroad. They first considered Mile Square Park, but developers balked at the idea of allowing a large swath of land for what seemed to be something of limited interest.
Undaunted, the OCME took their search elsewhere, including Huntington Beach and Heritage Park in Irvine. But none of the proposals took root. Finally, they were approached by the city of Costa Mesa, and in 1989, they broke ground on what was to become their permanent home just off of Placentia along the edge of Fairview Park. They opened in 1991.
Today the Goat Hill Railroad operates regularly on the third weekend of each month, offering free rides to families fascinated with the tiny railroad. Originally a simple loop, the train track has grown to over five miles of track, including a bridge over Placentia. You can also arrange to hold special events with the railroad on closed weekends.
Goat Hill Junction has one of the largest miniature train layouts on the west coast, enjoyed by young and old alike. They are a non-profit organization and welcome your donations. They not only offer free rides, but lately many of the older engineers have begun apprenticing young “at risk” youth to help them learn valuable skills in steam machinery operation.
The volunteer staff are all very friendly and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
There is free parking, and you can ride as often as you like. Lines can get long midday, so plan to arrive early.
Goat Hill Junction Railroad operates from 10 am to 3 pm. Telephone: (949)548-7246 in Fairview Park on Placentia Ave. and Swan Drive in Costa Mesa. 2480 Placentia Costa Mesa, CA 92626.
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