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The OERM San Jacinto District Trips over the years

by Chris Guenzler

All pictures from the 5/11/2002 trip except where noted.

Perris to Hemet 11/13/1994

Flimsies had a note of a trip from the Orange Empire Railway Museum at Perris to San Jacinto. I bought a ticket for this trip and drove out to Perris the morning of the trip. Our train consisted of the museum's RSD-1 US DOT 015, a UP cupola caboose, two flat bench cars, a SP bay window caboose, a Santa Fe cupola caboose, another flat bench car, an SP cupola caboose, one more flat bench car and a Santa Fe cupola caboose. The trip would run up to the junction with the Santa Fe San Jacinto Branch before returning to Perris.

We left on time with the train backing out to the junction of the San Jacinto line with me riding in the cupola of the Union Pacific caboose. We went by the museum's collection of equipment before leaving the property at Oil Jct. We went through the southern neighborhoods of Perris with every grade crossing having flag protection by members of the museum volunteers. We backed past the junction switch and after it was switched we pulled forward. We headed southeast on a perfectly straight piece of track. We went by the former location of Ellis and a few minutes later ducked under Interstate 215. We proceeded across the Perris Valley to Ethanac before passing the wide open location where the train for the Wild West TV show was filmed sitting on the railroad. The scene looks like you could recreated it today if you would want to. We headed along the south side of Double Butte before we turned to the east running to the south of this large physical feature. The train run through some rock outcroppings prior to running through Winchester. A few minutes later, we turned to the northeast passing the airport and by the former siding location of Egan before we turned to the north to enter Hemet. Park hill was to the west and through the haze Mt San Jacinto could be seen. Everyone was out waving at our train as our arrival was a significant event. We pulled to the former location of the Hemet Depot where the train was unloaded and the power ran around the train before we returned. I enjoyed Hemet for the layover and on the trip back I rode in the cupola of a Santa Fe caboose. I really enjoyed this trip and wanted to take Jeff on this line someday.

My Return to Hemet 5/27/1995

Six months later after that successful trip to Hemet the museum advertised a second trip which I got tickets for Jeff and myself. That first trip was so well received that the museum had to have four sections of the train to accommodate all of the riders which would take almost all of the museum's cars. We were assigned to the first section that once on the San Jacinto line was pulled by the former Southern Pacific S-4 1474. What was interesting was looking behind us you could always see a headlight and on the two curves you could see three on one and four on the other. It was ingenious what the museum did to pull this many train's off. Running behind all of these trains was ex USAF 45 Toner 41 {ex 7441 from March Air Force Base} that would solve a major problem. There was no siding where the power for each train could run around their equipment. The solution was for the 41 to pull the last train back to Perris and each of the other trains engines would pull the train that they had followed back. Our 1474 would then run light back to Perris. Since we were on the first train out, we then were on the last train to run back being pulled by the RSD-1 US DOT 015 thus giving us the longest time in Hemet. The trip was a lot of fun and I enjoyed this second trip to Hemet as much as I did the first. My hat was off to the Orange Empire Railway Museum for running such great excursion.

Perris to Highgrove 4/22/1995

I always wanted to ride the San Jacinto District to Highgrove after last November's trip to Hemet and one day when I got my Flimsies there in the coming event section was a listing for a Perris to Highgrove excursion. The purpose of the trip was really to ferry equipment to Highgrove to be taken over to the Riverside Orange Blossom Festival at the Riverside Metrolink Station which would also have the Santa Fe 3571, a 4-8-4 steam locomotive on display. The trip would be run with all the display equipment run to Highgrove on the front end and the engine would cut off and run around the train to pull the excursion consist back to Perris. The Santa Fe would then have a switcher pull the display equipment onto the mainline for the short trip to the Metrolink station.

The Trip

Photo 4/22/1995

I drove out to the Orange Empire Railway Museum out at Perris and picked up my ticket in the book store. The Train was pulled by two Santa Fe GP-35's and we all boarded with me riding in a SP bay window caboose. We left on time and headed north through the museum grounds past the engines in the museum collection. We exited through the gate at Oil Jct before going through the neighborhoods of southern Perris. At all of these crossings there were flag men to protect them as we passed through. We ran onto the San Jacinto District before passing through downtown Perris. We ran by the Perris Depot built in 1892 before running along the base of a hill and left town running along Interstate 215. We traveled north going under Nuevo Road and passing local industries before we ran through Val Verde. It was a clear morning with Mt San Jacinto to the east, Mt San Gorgonio to the northeast and Mt Baldy to the north. We proceeded along at a nice speed and to the east across the freeway was March Air Force Base. We headed by the Riverside National Cemetery before ducking under Van Buren Ave. What was left on the Riverside Speedway was across the freeway before we reached the junction of Interstate 215 and Highway 60. We ran through Alessandro before we ran under the combined roadway into a narrow canyon that took us off of the Perris Surface down the grade towards Highgrove. We ran into Box Springs Canyon with trees along the creek and the hills covered with boulders prior to winding along down grade before the canyon opened up with UC Riverside off to the west and a great view down into the valley below. The train ran down along the west slope of Belvedere Heights making several tight turns before one sweeping turn. The train ran by the back yards where people were out waving at our train. We crossed the SP crossing {ex PE} and alongside the east side of a major industry before we arrived at Highgrove. The equipment for the Orange Blossom Festival was cut off before the power ran around the train. We headed back up the grade and had an enjoyable trip back to Perris.

4/23/1995 Metrolink Orange Blossom Special

Photo 4/23/95

Jeff Hartmann and I along with Jeff's parents rode a special Metrolink train to the Riverside Orange Blossom Festival. We looked at the railroad displays and the Santa Fe 4-8-4 3751 which was on display. We walked down the Santa Fe mainline to the Riverside Live Steamers before returning to the station for the trip back to Santa Ana.

My Return to Highgrove 5/11/2002

I saw this trip on and since this would be new mileage for Jeff, I bought tickets over the phone. The day of the trip he picked me up and off we went to Perris. I picked up the tickets at the book store. We rode an open car behind the Santa Fe FP-45 98 and the MRS-11956. We had a great trip both north and south with truckers blowing their horns at us. The descent down the Box Spring grade was as exciting as the first time I took this trip. At the SP crossing rails had been removed from this ex PE line at a private grade crossing. We arrived at Highgrove and detrained while the power was taken back to the next siding up the line to be rearranged. Jeff bought as some sodas after we had walked over to the ex PE line for a look and saw the UP power that had been trapped since the washout of the bridge over the Santa Ana River which had isolated them.

We had the1956 on the point with the Santa Fe 98 pushing on the rear for the return trip.

My face got toasted and I think open car covers like on the Verde Valley should be used on the OERM trips. We arrived back at the depot about half an hour late ending another great Highgrove trip.

In the "It is a Small World" department 5/11/2002

Jeff drove us back and we stopped at Pepperland Records in Orange where I was going to get the new Rush "Vapor Trails" album. Mike the owner commented about my red face and when I said that I was on a Perris to Highgrove train, a women said that she had been driving on Interstate 215 and saw the train. Now is not that amazing!