Frank Allen, the creator and founder of the Orland, Newville and Pacific Railroad (ONP), had been
in the Merchant Marines for over 40 years until he retired in 1989. During this time ,he had also been building
race cars for over 30 years. Then one day, he quit and did not have anything else to do. Then one day he walked by the
Redwood Valley Railway located in Tilden Park near Berkley, CA and thought to himself, "Hey that would be fun to
do, I would like to try and build one of those things." So for about 6 months he tried to design a locomotive to build, but
could not come up with something he wanted. He went to RVRy. owner, Erich Tompsen and told him "It's not working!" Erich told
Frank "Go find a narrow gauge locomotive you like, and make a model of it." Taking his advice, Frank went to the California
State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California and one of the first narrow gauge locomotives he saw was the Sonoma. A beautiful
4-4-0 of the former North Pacifc Coast Railroad. Frank didn't hunt any further for another locomotive, he wanted to model
Frank would sometimes admit to being to protypical about building the locomotive. Baldwin Locomotive
Works (where the Sonoma was built in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) used strap rod iron to create a frame that was strong, yet
flexible. To replicate that that design, Frank used square sructurel tubing. Frank said that this frame is stronger by scale
then straps would have been.
It took Frank 8 years (1983-1991) to build the Sonoma and he then brought it
down to Railfair '91 in Sacramento for its official debut. He prided himself in building something that would smash into
a wall at 100 m.p.h.
When Frank first built the Sonoma, he had no idea what he was going to do with it, he had just
built it for the fun of building it. The Glenn County Fair in Orland was just starting soon after he finished
the Sonoma. He beought the engine on a trailer and parked it in the fairgrounds to show off his work to the locals, and
a man named Ray Lyon, a former fairboard member, said "We ought to have some tracks to run that engine on." Well, Frank spent
half the day trying to discourage him of all the problems you run into with a miniature railroad. He came by the next day
and Frank said he was not against his idea, he just didn't want to be accused of leading him down the "path".
called a meeting of the "Big Wheelers" in Orland. Frank told them the cost of materials, with the construction being
done with all volunteer labor. So they said "okay start, we will get the money, you get the volunteer labor." 11 other
guys came out, most of them form the local historical society.
They worked all through the summer of 1992 and completed
a 1/2 mile of track and boy was it hot! Operations then began in 1993 with the simple loop. All the rolling stock was built
from scratch with Frank doing most of the metal hardware (trucks, couplers etc.) and Reese Phipps doing most of the woodwork.
A short time later the extension to the new platform and ticket booth was built and a crossover was built in the
middle of the 1/2 mile loop to complete the main layout.Sprung switches allow for doubling back over most of the line. Finally,
in 2000, the extension to the shop and turntable was complete. Before then, all equipment needing heavy maintence had to be
brought to the shop on trailer.
Frank created a wonderful railroad. Sadly though, Frank Allen passed away on November
29, 2003 after a 7 year battle with leukemia. His passing was a great loss to the community and he will be missed
After Frank's passing, for a brief time, the railroad's future seemed uncertain. The Sonoma ran for the last
time for the Saturday and Sunday of the County Fair in 2004. It was then parked down in the shops never to run again. It was donated
to the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California where it is currently in storage. It has been run on occasion
at Hillcrest and Watoke Railroad in Reedley, CA near Fresno in 2007 and 2008.
In October of 2004, the Orland Newville
and Pacific then began operations with diesel locomotive #3, which now hauls all of our revenue trains.
After Frank's passing, Tom Sharpstein took over operations of the railroad. Tom had been one
of Frank's right hand men. When Tom passed away just 2 short years later, again the railroad was in a tangle. Quickly however,
Tom Johnsen stepped in and took over operations and would carry the railroad for the next 2 years. In early 2009 Tom and his
wife decided to leave Orland behind and move to Rocklin, CA again turning over operations to a new operator, Robin Petersen
who had joined the crew around the same time Tom took over operations. Even through all these jumps and changes in operators,
the railroad's future is looking strong and will continue to carry many a happy passenger around the fairgrounds.