City Council approves resolution to transfer operating agreement to new buyer, operator Tuesday night

The Folsom City Council approved a resolution Tuesday night, securing the future of the much loved Folsom Valley Railway at Folsom City Lions Park. The resolution authorizes the City Manager to execute an Assignment and Assumption Agreement, transitioning the railway’s operations from longtime owner Terry Gold of Golden Spike Entertainment to incoming new owners Truson Buegel and Stephanie Bea Roy as Gold plans to retire in the year to come. 

The Folsom Valley Railway, a scale live-steam train, has been a fixture at Lions Park since 1970. Terry and Geri Gold, who have operated the railway since the early 1990s, decided to retire, prompting the need for new management. After evaluating potential buyers, the Golds selected Truson Buegel, citing his extensive experience in steam train operations and his tenure at Disneyland Park as key factors in their decision.

During a February 2024 City Council meeting, the Council expressed unanimous support for the continuation of train operations under new ownership. Mr. Buegel’s selection aligns with the City’s desire to ensure minimal disruption to visitors and maintain the established standards of service.

The current agreement with Golden Spike Entertainment, set to continue through December 31, 2024, will be seamlessly transitioned to Buegel. This transition supports a strategic decision to preserve the continuity and excellence of the railway’s operations at City Lions Park.

“The resolution ensures that the Folsom Valley Railway, a cherished community asset, will continue to delight visitors under new, capable management,” read a statement from the Folsom Parks and Recreation Department in the city staff report for Tuesday’s consent calendar.  According to the report, there will be no financial impact on the City of Folsom from this transition, and the action is not considered a project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), thus requiring no environmental review.

In a previous Folsom Times article earlier this year, it was reported that, for over three decades, Gold has owned, operated and maintained the Folsom Valley Railroad. With retirement and a residential relocation in sight for Gold, the future of the iconic ride remaining in Folsom was a bit uncertain with a potential buyer wanting to swoop it up and move it to Utah while Gold originally reached out to the city to give them the opportunity to keep it in Folsom, one way or another, which revolved around a purchase price of $375,000.

Historically, the concessionaire of the railroad, which has been Gold for more than 3 decades, pays the City of Folsom a monthly land use rental fee of $1,800 per month.  Over the years, the operation has reportedly been profitable, with roughly 40,000 riders per year, and generates rough net revenues between $100,000-$1 14,000 per year,” according to the analysis of the operation presented to the city of Folsom earlier this year as Gold was seeking local options to keep the train in the city when he retires.

The city purchasing the train soon became an non-option after the council presentation earlier this year, as news of the situation brought forth a handful of local buyers with interest in keeping the train operating in the city. 

 In the end, Buegel became Gold’s choice as the train’s future owner-operator with the final step in the transaction and transition completed by approval of the resolution Tuesday night that will transfer the operating agreement to Bruegel later this year. The details and terms of the sale and transfer of operations were a private business matter between Gold and Bruegel and not shared publicly.

The humble beginnings of Gold and the Folsom Valley Railroad

Growing up near Los Angeles, Gold was interested in trains, a passion he shares today with thousands of visitors to the small-scale attraction at Folsom’s Lions Park.

Terry Gold, pictured here during a recent day of what has been his life for 30 years, is planning to retire but the future of the Folsom Valley Railroad is good with a new owner operator and transfer of an operations agreement by the city of Folsom Tuesday night.
Folsom Times photos by Bill Sullivan

When he was older, Gold took a job at Magic Mountain running the steam engine. While he loved operating the train, Gold said, he looked for other options because he wanted a better salary and the location was far from his house. Soon after leaving Magic Mountain, Gold accepted a job at Disneyland running attractions and operations.

“Disneyland was the best job I have ever had. Disneyland is what got me into a theme park mentality and just loving theme parks,” Gold said. “I loved that job. However, it was extremely hard to get on full time because no one wants to quit. I tried my hardest to get on full time but it never worked out.”

While at Disneyland, Gold held other jobs and was working 70 to 80 hours a week to make ends meet. He saved as much money as he could to buy an airplane. After years of saving and finally buying his airplane, Gold was still very interested in operating trains and flew to Tilden Regional Park to inquire more about the train rides they offer.

After seeing how much money a train operator could make, Gold looked for a train that he could operate. He quickly found the Folsom Valley Railway for sale, along with a railway in Carson City, Nevada. 

“Originally, I was planning to buy the train in Carson City since it was the same type of train that I operated at Magic Mountain. It wasn’t until someone from Carson City convinced me to not buy it since there is little tourism there,” Gold said, “So I bought the Folsom Valley Railway.”

The Folsom Valley Railway was built in 1970 by the Sherman Brothers. From there, it was bought and operated by Mylon Thorley. Gold bought the Folsom Valley Railway from Thorley in June 1990 and officially took possession of the train on Jan. 1, 1991.

Both Bill Sullivan and Megan-Hoffman Davis contributed to this Folsom Times article.