Riding the rails at Hunter Hobby Park

Last Sunday, we had the chance to “ride the rails” at Hunter Hobby Park, one of Riverside’s most unique attractions.

Hunter Hobby Park

7 1/2 gauge steam trains

Kids particularly enjoy the trains

Located in northeast Riverside, the 40-acre park began life in the late 1950s as an adjunct “backyard” of sorts to local engineer — and steam train enthusiast — Joseph L. Hunter, who laid track down for a personal, small gauge steam engine. The track, which was initially 4,300 feet in length, soon began attracting other train enthusiasts.

Following the 1965 death of Joseph — who, along with his brother Edwin, built Hunter Engineering, a pioneer of several key, industry-leading patents in the manufacturing of aluminum products — the park was donated to the city of Riverside. Not being experts in the area of steam engines, the city set up a partnership with local train enthusiasts — led by Dr. John Creighton of Riverside — to maintain the system, while the city maintained the park.

Formed in 1966, this all-volunteer group — Riverside Live Steamers — immediately began operating, maintaining and expanding the facilities. The club also started providing free rides on selected days each month (currently, the trains operate on the 2nd and 4th Sundays each month).

Today, with a track length of approx. 1 1/2 miles consisting of several switchable configurations, the club includes both personal- and city-owned, 7 1/2 gauge (1/8-sized) engines, with the overriding requirement being “steam-only.” Recently, the club built a new “car barn” to augment an already impressive workshop facility.

On the drawing boards — as part of the city’s Riverside Renaissance Initiative — are several major park improvements, including a new boarding station, train themed playground and a lake for remote-controlled boats. New restrooms, picnic facilities, a concession stand, expanded parking, tennis and basketball courts and improvements to the nearby ball fields are also part of the plan.

So, if you have a couple hours free on an upcoming “run day” Sunday, take a trip to one of the area’s most unique attractions for a bit of railroading.


Steam only
Leaving the station
Passenger cars
Jim Keith
(w/ one of J.L. Hunter’s
original workshops
in background)*
Carl Allen
(w/ view of
in background)*
@early 1980s
Barney Root and
John Stroud (standing)
(w/ Columbia Ave.
in background)*

* B&W photos courtesy of Riverside Live Steamers
Sources: Riverside Live Steamers, City of Riverside, The Press-Enterprise, Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce

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