Retired conductor from the Western Pacific/Union Pacific Railroads, Chris Skow had a fascination with trains ever since high school. Living in Victorville, California at the age of 16 he spent his weekends taking pictures of Santa Fe and Union Pacific trains. After classes he was allowed to help load and unload the mail on the Chief passenger and City of Los Angeles trains. He then became involved with rebuilding Mojave Northern steam locomotive No. 2 after it was donated to the California Southern Railroad Museum and moved from Victorville to the Orange Empire Trolley Museum located at Perris, California. Once No. 2 was back in operation he became its fireman and sometimes engineer.
While living in San Bernardino in 1968-69 he attended college and was hired by the Santa Fe Railway as a station operator full time. This was when he started planning railroad trips with other students who loved the way Chris hosted and planned the adventures.
In 1969 he was working at Mission Tower in downtown Los Angeles, controlling all of the passenger trains coming in and out of LA Union Station. One day at 5 AM a close friend from Portola, Bob Larson, at Western Pacific engineering, called and asked him if he would like to interview for a break man's position. The only catch was that he had to be in Portola the same day no later than 3 PM. The trainmaster planned to hire 10 brakemen.
Chris agreed, and when he got off duty at 7 AM, headed for Portola about 450 miles away. Upon arrival he reported to the trainmaster around 3:30 PM, but by this time the brakemen were already hired. The trainmaster was so impressed that Chris drove up from Los Angeles that he hired him to be a temporary Clerk and crew caller at the Portola depot until a brakeman job became available. Chris accepted the position and the next day drove back to San Bernardino and gave notice to the Santa Fe that he was just hired by the WP. On September 9, 1969 he reported to work for the midnight shift at the Portola depot. Servicing and watering in the California Zephyr was the highlight of his job. The train master kept his word and two months later gave Chris his brakeman's job.
His love for photography went hand-in-hand with his love of trains, finding any opportunity to photograph them. When he joined the Army in 1970 he became a Public Relations Photographer working at the pentagon. He enjoyed being able to take pictures of military railroads and on one assignment got to visit Fort Eustis, Virginia to photograph military railroads and was given access to all areas of the railroad. He also worked on the crew for the nickel plate 759 Berksire with the High Iron Company.
Released from active duty in 1973 Chris returned to Portola and went right back to work for Western Pacific. He began forming tours for fellow Western Pacific employees and launched his first international tour in 1983 to South Africa to tour trains and see steam locomotives. The year after, he expanded his tours to locations worldwide, and his company Trains and Travel international has been providing tours ever since.
His resume and experience extends to many skills and abilities and his passion for railroads extends not only with his travel company, but also onto his unique labor of love surrounding his house. As you drive up a mysterious road and into the driveway of his house, you would never imagine the magic surrounding it. As soon as you step foot onto the property you are greeted
with the beginning of his extensive model train display. For many years Chris has invested extensive time and detail to his model train surrounding his property. As you follow the trail around to different scenes and trains, no matter what age you are, the wonderment of the miniature models makes you feel like a kid again. What seems like miles of model trains, tracks, and villages, the details involved are truly a masterpiece design. Telling decades of train travel, Chris has incorporated waterfalls, creeks, tunnels, and more to create another world around his garden.
One cannot imagine the magic of his intricate displays until you pay it a visit. He also plans to keep expanding his display, so make it a point to come back every year to see what has changed. He plans on running his trains all summer long, and you can give him a call to schedule an appointment before the season ends. You can see more information about his tour company at traintrips.biz and call him at (530) 836-1083.