James Vail  III

Obituary of James Vail III

James Bradford Vail III

September 13, 1934 – January 28, 2018

Resident of Santa Cruz


Friends and family sadly say farewell to a loving father, grandfather, and passionate model railroader, Jim Vail, who passed away here early Sunday, following a lengthy illness at the age of 83. Born in Wadena County, Minnesota, he moved to Santa Cruz as a youngster with his mother Verley Vail and his father, Dr. James Vail II.  He treasured memories of his childhood days living in an innocent Santa Cruz, where a boy could camp in the redwoods, with his buddies, or ride bicycles at night without a care or concern. He graduated from Santa Cruz High School, class of 1952.


Jim had a lifelong love of cars and trains. He built two street rods for himself, the latest being a 1941 Chevy convertible, that he loved to bring out on warm summer days.  He started building model trains at the age of 11, with an ongoing persistence that saw him recognized internationally. Jim’s layouts were visited by people throughout the world, he enjoyed sharing his craft with other modelers by giving educational clinics at National Model Railroad Association conventions and writing monthly articles published since 1988, for the "Narrow Gauge and short line Gazette." magazine. He was an active member of NMRA , and achieved the level of Master Model Railroader along with numerous other awards. He loved Jazz music and was a familiar face at Kuumbwa Jazz Center.


Jim’s love for his daughter and granddaughter became the light of his world as his illness progressed and his shared memories growing up in Santa Cruz will be cherished by his family.


He is survived by his daughter Katherine Welch and granddaughter Gabriella Welch, both of Santa Cruz, and a host of friends that will miss his humble passion of craft and strong work ethic.  At his request, no services are planned. You may visit the Benito and Azzaro homepage to leave your thoughts and prayers. Any kind acts of charity can be made to Hospice of Santa Cruz County.