Facebook Page

Orange Empire Railway Museum 5/27/2012

by Chris Guenzler

5/26/2012 Bob and Elizabeth Alkire decided to come down to the Los Angeles area for the Memorial Day weekend as the Stephen Sondheim musical "Follies" whose cast included the famous English actress Elaine Paige, was playing in Los Angeles on a limited run. They wanted to go to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris and decided to go there on Sunday. I planned to meet them when they arrived at LAUPT off the Flyaway Bus, and also invited AC Adam to come along.

That Saturday morning I took Pacific Surfliner 562 to Oceanside then Metrolink 661 all the way to LAUPT. With no signs of the Southwest Chief yet as it was running late, I went out to where the Flyway Buses arrived and sat on a hill that overlooks that area. Their bus arrived and soon I met up with Bob and Elizabeth Alkire. We walked over to the Metro Plaza Hotel where they checked in then stopped at Subway for lunch, returning to LAUPT and caught the five- hour-late Southwest Chief arriving with Amtrak P42DC 66 in 40th Anniversary paint scheme on the point. On the rear was the "Great Dome" and "Beech Grove" with Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman aboard.

From here we took the Red Line to 7th/Metro Center where I took Bob and Elizabeth on their first trip on the Expo Line. Once finished, we took the Red Line one stop to Pershing Square where I took Bob and Elizabeth on their first trip aboard Angels Flight. After that we rode the whole Gold Line before I returned to Santa Ana aboard Metrolink 664.

5/27/2012 I took Pacific Surfliner 562 down to San Juan Capistrano where I boarded Surfliner 763 to Santa Ana, finding AC Adam on board. We walked around to Track 2 where Bob and Elizabeth arrived on Pacific Surfliner 564. We went to our van and I drove us all out to Perris to the Orange Empire Railway Museum. The store in the station was not open yet so we started looking around.

Orange Empire Railway Museum History

What was it that caused fourteen young members of the SC/ERA, the Southern California Division Of The Electric Railroaders' Association, to step forward in the early 1950's and focus on the preservation of electric rail interurbans and streetcars for the purpose of eventually creating an operating museum? In a sentence, "their world was slipping away". The SC/ERA was formed in 1950 to give organizational form to rail fans who were primarily interested in red cars and yellow cars of the local transit operations.

Buses were replacing Red Car and Yellow Car lines. Before long red cars were stacked four high at National Metal and Steel's scrap yard on Terminal Island along with rows of yellow cars. The last of the "Last Runs" were playing out. It was time for the equipment preservation conscious members of SC/ERA to form a separate organization with the purpose of establishing an operating trolley museum. Fourteen members of SC/ERA gathered in the home of Ronald Longworth on the evening of March 23rd, 1956 to discuss such an organization. At that meeting they chose the name Orange Empire Traction Company, adapting the name of an early Pacific Electric excursion through the inland empire of San Bernardino, Redlands and Riverside. At the first meeting, Pat Underwood was elected president, Jim Walker was selected as secretary and Dick Burns became treasurer.

On June 10th, 1956, at the home of Jim Walker in Lynwood, the group adopted articles of incorporation. Three members who were at least 21 years old and thereby eligible to sign a legal document signed the document. Those members were Richard H. Burns, Norman K. Johnson and Patrick L. Underwood. The signatures were notarized by Jim's father, Jim Walker, Sr.

Orange Empire Railway Museum Timeline

A little over a month later, on July 20th, 1956, the State of California granted a charter of incorporation as a non-profit educational organization.

The Orange Empire Traction Company's first home was at Travel Town, an already-established display of retired railway equipment in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. By 1958, the group had changed their name to the Orange Empire Trolley Museum and had brought 10 pieces of equipment to Travel Town. Then came the event that started the wheels in motion to form what would become today's Museum. Ironically, it was the same type of event that had hastened the demise of the equipment they were collecting: the construction of another of L.A.'s famous freeways. The group was informed that the new Ventura Freeway would cut directly through Griffith Park, isolating the site from access to major roadways.

The Orange Empire Trolley Museum found a new home on an abandoned railroad right-of-way just outside of rural Perris, California, some 70 miles southeast of Los Angeles. Except for a small two-room farmhouse and a rock dugout dating from the 1880s, the site was a lonely, semi-desert field. There was no running water, no indoor plumbing, not much of anything but trolley cars and youthful enthusiasm. The early years at Perris were a time of intense activity, though mostly on weekends, as almost all of the participants worked regular weekday jobs. Track was hurriedly extended as more and more trolleys arrived, eventually evolving into a yard arrangement. The few visitors that found the place thought of it as “the trolley farm” and this moniker would stay with the Museum for years to come. By late 1959 a used Cummins diesel generator power plant was acquired and set up to provide the 600 volt DC electricity for trolley car operation. Overhead wire followed and operations were soon possible on a short stretch of track.

As the 1960's began, tracks were extended further, and more trolleys and hardware acquired.

With streetcar service ending in Los Angeles in 1963, the Orange Empire Trolley Museum began to gather momentum. Museum members travelled to sites throughout the region salvaging abandoned railway infrastructure that could be reused for the Museum. California Southern Railway Museum shared the site, and mainline railroad equipment continued to appear in large numbers.

By the mid-1960's, a core group of dedicated volunteers began to emerge. From among this core emerged leaders who began planning for the Museum's future. They identified more land, protective carhouses, a public restroom and a gift shop as priorities.

By 1968 A trolley line had been constructed along the periphery of the original property, and the Pinacate Station gift shop and a public/member restroom building both opened.

In 1969 construction started on the first carhouse, beginning the process of providing protective cover for the growing collection.

The Santa Fe Railway donated the historic 1892 Perris depot to the Museum. Although at the time the Museum could not yet operate its trains there, the building would later become a focal point in downtown Perris for both the Museum and the city's redevelopment efforts. Adjacent land was purchased, and the completion of a continuous trolley loop occurred.

A major extension of the standard gauge mainline trackage in 1977 permitted a better demonstration of the growing collection of mainline railroad equipment.

In 1978, regular steam locomotive operations began, together with the concept of holding a large Rail Festival event in an effort to draw more visitors.

A third carhouse opened in 1983, and construction of an ambitious shop facility progressed significantly.

In 1996, Carhouse 4 opened raising the number to fifty railcars in the collection with an indoor home (representing about one-third of the total collection at that time). This same year also saw electrification extended for several blocks over the trackage connecting the Museum's main line to the Santa Fe trackage in downtown Perris.

In 1992, Ward and Betty Kimball donated their 3-foot gauge Grizzly Flats Railroad along with major funding to help assure its continued preservation. The four track Grizzly Flats Enginehouse opened.

In 1993, Landscaped park was added, connecting the center of the Museum with the new enginehouse.

In 2003, Grizzly Flats was further expanded with the addition of a replica Southern Pacific gallows type turntable, built on site by Museum volunteers with financial support from the Kimballs. Acquired 19 additional acres of adjacent property, which gave it the ability to site a major new collections storage facility.

In 2006, OERM celebrated its 50th Anniversary!

In 2007, the 62,000 square foot Ron Ruffulo Carhouse was completed. The Ruffullo Carhouse has six tracks inside, each 600 feet long. This facility doubled the amount of indoor storage space for the Museum’s collections, permitting a major cleanup and reorganization of the entire site.

In 2011, main visitor parking lot was paved, and the front entrance remodeled. Several generous gifts allowed the Museum to begin a focused program of car and locomotive refurbishment using a contracted painter to supplement its volunteers. The program has turned out beautifully repainted railcars and locomotives at an impressive pace, encouraging additional donations to support the program.

Santa Fe caboose 1761 built by American Car and Foundry in 1929.

Southern Pacific caboose 374 built by American Car and Foundry in 1947.

Santa Fe flat car 206204 (nee Santa Fe 209104) with burro crane 749 built in the 1950's.

United States Air Force 80 ton switcher 1601 built by General Electric in 1951.

Hutchinson Northern steeplecab 1 built by General Electric Company in 1921.

Southern Pacific caboose 1213 built by the railroad in 1942.

Intracity Transit bus 20118 from Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Seattle King County Metro electric bus 656.

South museum crossing scene.

Santa Fe caboose 999076, nee Santa Fe 2047, built by American Car and Foundry in 1931.

Orange Empire Railway Museum MRSD-1 1975, ex. Department of Transportation 015, nee United States Air Force 8018 built by American Locomotive Company in 1942.

Orange Empire Railway Museum RSD-1 1956, ex. Department of Transportation 012, nee United States Army 8009 built by American Locomotive Company in 1941.

Santa Fe FP45 98, ex. BNSF 98, exx. ATSF 5998, exxx. ATSF 102, exxxx. ATSF 5998, exxxxx. ATSF 5948, nee ATSF 108 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1967. This was the last FP45 bought by the railway and was the first of two to be re-painted in Superfleet red and silver livery in 1989.

United States Air Force 45 ton switcher 7441 built by General Electric, originally at March Air Force Base.

Santa Fe combine 2602 built by Pullman in 1923.

Santa Fe Railway refrigerator car 21028 built by American Car and Foundry in 1920.

Southern California Edison ML 6 switcher 12 built by Plymouth in 1941.

Santa Fe 120 ton crane 199774, nee Santa Fe 99774 built by Industrial Works in 1909.

American Potash & Chemical Company E-513 built by Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton in 1956.

Southern Pacific maintenance-of-way wrecking derrick MW7090, ex. Southern Pacific MW-7024, nee Central Pacific 615 built by Industrial Works in 1912.

Southern Pacific maintenance-of-way relief tender 7091 built by the railroad in 1912.

Kerr McGee S-12 844, formerly Southern Pacific 1543, built by Baldwin in 1953.

Kerr McGee S-12 845, formerly Southern Pacific 1550, built by Baldwin in 1953.

Port of Los Angeles VO-1000 8, nee United States Navy 2 built by Baldwin in 1945.

Mojave Northern 0-6-0T 2 built by Davenport in 1917. It later was transferred to Southwest Portland Cement 2 before being donated to the museum.

Union Pacific chair car 542, nee Los Angeles and Salt Lake 4140 built by Pullman in 1926 and rebuilt in 1950.

O'Neill's Streamlined Diner built in the 1930's fashioned from a 1906 Santa Fe coach. It provided meals along Highway 395, six miles north of Perris.

Museum view.

Los Angeles Railway Type H streetcar 1201 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1921.

Los Angeles Railway PCC 3001 was the first PCC type car delivered to Los Angeles built by St. Louis Car Company in February 1937.

Los Angeles Railway 1201 in front of the Pinacate station. We bought our tickets and looked around then with no trains to ride yet, we walked over to explore the Narrow Gauge Trolley Car Barn

Los Angeles Railway Huntington Standard 665 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1911 and retired in 1948. The five-window front with curved glass at the corners was a signature feature of Los Angeles Railways and Pacific Electric cars.

Los Angeles Railway Funeral Car "Descanso" built by Los Angeles Railway in 1909. They offered funeral car service from 1909 until about 1924. Most cemeteries were connected to urban hubs by rail. With unpaved roads and horse-drawn hearses, the trolley funeral car offered a more dignified ride to one's final resting place. Chartering this car cost $25.

Los Angeles Railway Type F4 Car 1160 built by American Car Company in 1899.

Los Angeles Railway Type H3 Car 1450 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1924 as a test car due to it having a bix of Westinghouse and General Electric components.

Los Angeles Railway Type K Car 1559 built by Los Angeles Railway in 1925.

Los Angeles Railway Type C Center Entrance "Sowbelly" 936 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1914.

California Street Cable Railway double-ended single truck horse car trailer 77 built by Sutter Street Railway as 77 in 1887 and acquired from Knott's Berry Farm.

California Street Cable Railway 43 built by the railway in 1907 and acquired from Knott's Berry Farm in 1985.

Los Angeles Transit Lines Type P-3 PCC 3165 built by St Louis Car Company in October 1948.

Los Angeles Railway Tower Car 9350 built by the Los Angeles Railway in 1907.

Kyoto Japan City Car 19 built in 1910.

Los Angeles Railway 5 Ton derrick 9225 built by Los Angeles Railway in 1912.

Los Angeles Railway Rail Grinder 9310 built by the Los Angeles Railway in 1925. From this car barn, the four of us headed north to Grizzly Flats Railroad Building.

We were greeted by this sign.

There is a replica gallows turntable outside to the east of the display building.

Grizzly Flats Railroad four-bench open car built in 1975 for use behind "Chloe".

Grizzly Flats Railroad 0-4-2T 1 "Chloe" nee Waimanalo Sugar 2 built by Baldwin in 1907.

Grizzly Flats Railroad stock car Southern Pacific 65 built by the Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad in 1912 as 156. The Nevada-California-Oregon Railroad ran north from Reno, Nevada through Alturas, California to Lakeview, Oregon. They sold the southernmost portion of their line to Western Pacific in 1917 and the remained to the Southern Pacific in 1926. Both companies converted their portions of the railroad to standard gauge. In 1926, Southern Pacific sent this car and 29 others to the Carson and Colorado, where it became 65, but was re-numbered 173 in 1946. The Southern Pacific abandoned the remaining portion of its narrow gauge operation in 1960 and sold this car and several others to the Tropico Gold Mine near Rosamond where it was displayed until 1991.

Southern Pacific gondola 216 built by the railroad in 1892 using the body of South Pacific Coast flat car 253 and was used primarily to transport loose cargo such as ore and talc. It spent 36 years on Southern Pacific's former Carson and Colorado narrow gauage line between Mina, Nevada and Keeler, California. After the Southern Pacific completed conversion of the former South Pacific Coast line to standard gauage in 1908, this car was part of a group of equipment transferred to the Carson and Colorado where it became Nevada and California 144. In 1924, it was rebuilt into gondola car 144 and in 1946-47, was re-numbered 216. The Southern Pacific abandoned the remaining portion of its narrow gauge operation in 1960 and sold this car and several others to the Tropico Gold Mine near Rosamond where it was displayed until 1991.

Grizzly Flats Railroad gondola car Southern Pacific 223 built by the railroad in 1917.

Southern Pacific narrow gauge box car 449 built by Carter Brothers in 1891.

Grizzly Flats Railroad Nevada Central 2-6-0 2 "Emma Nevada", ex. Union Pacific 2 "Sidney Dillon", nee Nevada Central 2 built by Baldwin in 1881. It was retired in 1938 when purchased by Ward Kimball. Emma Nevada was a famous opera star of the late 1800's.

Nevada Central Plymouth hydraulic switcher 589 built by the Plymouth Locomotive Works in 1938.

Southen Pacific stock car 157 built by the railroad in 1915.

Grizzly Flats Railroad caboose 7 built by West Side Lumber in 1949 using the frame of an 1890's logging flat car. It spent its entire life trailing behind logging trains in the Sierra Nevada mountains near Yosemite National Park. The museum purchased the car in 1994 and volunteers rebuilt the exterior with new lumber.

Southern Pacific coach 39 built by the Carter Brothers in 1881 for the Southern Pacific subsidiary South Pacific Coast Railway. Following 28 years of use as a coach in the San Francisco Bay area, this car was taken off the rails in 1909 and converted into housing for railroad workers. By the mid 1930's, coach 39's body had been moved to San Miguel where it was assigned to Southern Pacific track worker Victor S. Martinez and his wife Maria. Partitions were added inside the car, dividing it into a dining room, living room and bedroom. After Mr. Martinez retired in 1957, he acquired the car from the Southern Pacific and moved it to his own property in San Miguel.

Carson & Colorado business car 10 "Esmeralda" built by Viginia & Truckee in 1896 for the Superintendent's use as a mobile office to conduct business and inspect the right-of-way. As built, a clerestory roof covered two-thirds of the car, a cupola and a standard roof covered the remainder. In 1900, the Carson and Colorado was acquired by the Southern Pacific and in May 1903, the car was rebuilt by the Southern Pacific shops in Sacramento. The clerestory roof was extended to the full length of the car and the intreior included a parlour, dining room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. The car was named "Esmerelda" in 1903.

Three years later, it became Nevada and California Railway business car 10 following a corporate reorganization. In 1912, "Esmerelda" became Southern Pacific business car 10 with the transfer of the line to the Central Pacific subsidiary of the Southern Pacific. In 1927, it was retired, detrucked in 1928 for use at Keeler a train crew sleeping quartrs and later as a section gang dwelling.

Pacific Coast Railroad box car 704 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1906.

Grizzly Flats coach 5 built by Barney and Smith in 1881 as Carson and Colorado 5 which later became Central Pacific 5 and Southern Pacific 5. This was the first piece of railroad equipment acquired by Ward and Betty Kimball and its arrival marked the beginning of the Grizzly Flats Railroad, the now legendary 500 foot long rail line located in the Kimball's back yard in San Gabriel. The car ended its Southern Pacific career on the Owens Valley line, being finally retired in 1938.

With that picture, we returned outside.

Another view of the replica gallows turntable.

Denver and Rio Grande Western gondola 732 built by American Car and Foundry in 1904.

Denver and Rio Grande Western flat car 6768 built by the railroad in 1957.

Denver and Rio Grande Western gondola 1155 built by American Car and Foundry in 1902.

Why did I feel like I was just back in Colorado?

United States Air Force 44 ton switcher 8580 built by General Electric in 1944.

Union Pacific 2-8-2 2564, ex. Oregon Short Line 2564 1923, exx. Los Angeles and Salt Lake 2725 1922, nee Los Angeles and Salt Lake 3725 built by American Locomotive Company in 1921. It was acquired by OERM in 1996. When in LA&SL service, it operated on the east end of the line between Salt Lake City, Utah and Caliente, Nevada.

The future Southern Pacific water tank from Keeler.

The sprout for that water tank.

A line of ore cars.

Mining locomotive.

Museum scene. We walked to the Pacific Electric Car Barn and the Ron Buffalo Carhouse but both were still locked so returned to the depot and waited for our first of three loop rides this morning.

We took our first two rides aboard Los Angeles Railway PCC Car 3001 and then took one ride on the Los Angeles Railway 1201. After that we waited to ride out on the mainline.

Click here for Part 2 of this story