Joseph Warren "Smoky" Jones was already a collector when he moved to Antioch from Idaho in the late 1950s, but it wasn't until he started enjoying some of the California rail lines that trains became his life's endeavor.
One step onto his one-acre property home transported visitors into another world of model trains and Jones' own garden paradise. Jones died of natural causes Feb. 24 at age 90, leaving all his trains and other possessions to benefit several Antioch organizations.
"Smoky was a wonderful person; a joyful soul, and he had a great love of trains," said Johnny Jackson, a friend and fellow member of Black Diamond Lines, an Antioch model train club.
Jackson had the chance to speak with Jones many times on the subject of trains and putting together various layouts. Although Jones dedicated his time to his own home layouts and designs, he was a member of the club since 1981 and attended many of the local events and activities.
Jones left behind dozens of engines and cars that he willed to Black Diamond Lines, said the executor of his will and longtime friend, Elizabeth Rimbault.
"We're sorry to hear of his passing and really appreciate his thinking of us," Black Diamond Lines president Tom Lutrel said. "We can make good use of his collection."
Not only did Jones have a beautiful full garden railroad with all the bells and whistles but also a gorgeous layout in a whole room inside his house, Rimbault said.
An estate sale is planned from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
"I don't think I will be taking that apart when I put the house and property up for sale," she said. "Doing so would be like taking apart his whole life's work."
Rimbault met Jones and his wife of 60 years, Jo Ellen (Jody), in the early 1980s through their association with the Antioch Historical Society Museum. Through the years, she stayed friends with the couple. They became great supporters of the historical society and the Rivertown Garden Club.
The couple also spent many hours donating their time and services to the Contra Costa Food Bank, winning a volunteer award for their service. They also supported several local politicians, including Rimbault's on the City Council. Jody Jones died in October 2012.
Last week, Rimbault invited the Riverview Garden Club onto the Joneses' property to take any of the pieces of the extensive garden supplies that might be useful for their club. The club is also taking clippings from several of the various plants around the property to sell during their annual spring plant sale.
Rimbault also said she is distributing a large collection of railroad memorabilia and will sell some of it at an estate sale for the couple's possessions on Friday and Saturday.
She has already donated a set of working railroad-crossing wigwags to the Antioch Historical Society Museum that are being installed on the museum grounds.
A celebration of life for Jones will be held at 1 p.m. April 12 at the Little Red Caboose on Fulton Shipyard Road. He asked that memorial donations go to the Antioch Historical Society Museum or the volunteer organization of one's choice.