Seymour F. Johnson

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Seymour F. Johnson was the grandson of Warren S. Johnson, founder and chairman of Johnson Controls.

For many years the late Dr. Seymour Johnson owned and operated a huge Live Steam miniature railroad in the Montecito hills of California. His club was the Goleta Valley Live Steamers (GVLS). He operated both 1 1/2" scale, 7 1/2" gauge rolling stock and locomotives as well as much larger 3" scale, 15" gauge rolling stock and locomotives.

Tom Remembers

Tom Parris wrote in the Summer 2005 edition of the Warren S. Johnson Society of Retirees, Inc. newsletter:

Do any of you model railroaders remember Seymour F. Johnson’s railroad? It was called the Montecito & Pacific Railroad. As I remember it, Seymour Johnson was the grandson of Warren S. Johnson. He was the first person that I remember that had a Greyhound bus converted into a motor home. He would park it in the company parking lot when he attended Board of Directors Meetings. One year, he had scale model stainless steel spikes made by our Model Shop for his railroad. Yes, he reimbursed the company for them. The railroad had a 15 inch track, steam locomotive and coaches with a half-mile loop track near his estate above Santa Barbara, California. The locomotive was a model of a New York Central J3 Hudson. Other model railroaders stored and ran their steam locomotives at his facility. Eventually, a collector purchased the locomotive and coaches from his estate. He also wrote technical articles for Live Steam and Modeltec magazines.

Linn H. Westcott Pays a Visit

Linn H. Westcott, then editor of Model Railroader magazine, paid a visit to Dr. Seymour Johnson at this Goleta Valley Western Railroad in 1969. Westcott wrote an extensive article on the operation which was published in the September 1969 edition of Model Railroader.

What Happened to the GVWRR?

The club and layout were built on Dr. Seymour Johnson's private estate. Seymour was born on May 7, 1901. Unfortunately, he died on April 4, 1992 at the grand old age of 90 years. The club continued to meet at his track until shortly after his death. Eventually, all track was removed. Most of the 15" gauge went to the San Diego area and is at Glen Bell's "Bell Gardens" Farm. Some of the 7.5" live steamers negotiated land in Ventura and built a new livesteamer facility. However, this club property was eventually vacated and the railroad that was built on it no longer exists.


The railroad at Seymore's ranch was run by the Goleta Valley Railroad Club. After he died, and the property was up for sale, the club removed everything. The club is still alive with a few members. All the equipment was taken to another club, Bitter Creek Western Railroad, at Halcyon near Arroyo Grande, in San Luis Obispo County.

LivingLegend wrote on

If you have Google Earth software for satellite imagery installed on your computer (not Google Maps)....
Seymour's estate was located in the area of the 5000 block of Vista Linda Lane in Montecito (Santa Barbara), CA. The following coordinates will put you right in the center of Seymour's home at the top the hill just above the railroad.
* 34-degrees 26-minutes 31.15-seconds North
* 119-degrees 34-minutes 09.46-seconds West
The home was to the east side of the track. The most resent satellite image on Google Earth is from 2009, but you can access images going back to 1994 when the railroad right-of-way could still be seen. The 9/29/2007 image shows construction to replace Seymour's home as well as other new home(s) construction where Seymour's property was sub-divided. You can overlay street maps over the satellite image.

Harrison Hitchcock posted on Facebook:

4751 resides now at the Bitter Creek Western Railroad but is still owned by the members of the Goleta Valley Club.

National Geographic Special

National Geographic produces a video special entitled "Love Those Train". Seymour Johnson is interviewed starting at the 10 minute mark.

Seymour Johnson operating his oil-fired Northern on the Goleta Valley and Western RR with an IBLS 50th Anniversary Banner in the background. From the National Geographic special "Love Those Trains".

LivingLegend wrote on

For those who may not be familiar with it's history....
Seymour Johnson's original railroad was at his home in Goleta, CA, Goleta is to the west of Santa Barbara. This railroad was called Goleta Valley. It was this railroad where the photos of Seymour's 4-8-4 were taken that were featured in the 1.5" Northern section of the Martin Lewis catalogs of the 1950's, 60's, 70's
During the early 1960's, Seymour started building a new home and railroad in Monticito, which is slightly east of Santa Barbara. The railroad was renamed from Goleta Valley, to Goleta Valley Western.
It was the Monticito property which was built up the mountain and overlooked the ocean.

3 inch Hudson

Mr. Pearson sold a complete set of drawings for Seymour Johnson's 3 inch scale Hudson on


FarewellToSteam LP 1955.jpg

Seymour produced an LP (vinyl) record of steam locomotive sounds under the name Seymour F. Johnson Enterpises. From

Farewell To Steam! - Seymour F. Johnson Enterprises, Santa Barbara, CA. GB-4043 (1955)(Mono)(US) ...This auction is for an original, first edition Record pressing on U.S. vinyl. This recording tells the story of that bright winter day (February 6, 1955) when the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway ran the last train on the Los Angeles Division to be pulled by steam. Also included will be a second pressing of this release as well.
  • Tracks listed: (Engine 4-8-4 number 3759)
  • (Side One)(A)Los Angeles to San Bernardino, California (B)Pasadena to San Bernardino, California
  • (Side Two)(A)San Bernardino to Barstow, California (B)Sounds of Southern Pacific Trains at Santa Barbara, California

Amateur Radio


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