A few weeks ago my grandson and I visited the Orange Empire Railway Museum (LINK) when the annual Steampunk fair was being held. This non-profit museum opened in 1956 to preserve Southern California’s railway history that dates from the 1870’s. With over 200 historic railway locomotives, passenger cars, freight cars, streetcars, interurban electric cars, buildings, and other artifacts from Los Angeles and the West, the 90-acre site in Perris, California is open to the public every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas (check site for current opening days, times and special events).
The Museum operates a railway where visitors can ride on the historic trains and trolleys that helped shape Southern California as we know it today.
Types of locomotives and cars available for viewing include:
Trolley’s from the Pacific Electric (PE) which was America’s largest interurban electric railway system, covering the Los Angeles region with more than 1,000 miles of rail lines. Opening in 1895, the region’s first electric interurban line connected Los Angeles with Pasadena. By 1914, more than 1,600 PE trains entered or left Los Angeles daily. The system reached its peak in the mid-Twenties after which it began a slow decline, halted temporarily by the traffic boom brought on by World War II, and then declining use in the postwar years until 1961 when the last line closed down.
The Los Angeles Railway (LAR) was the city’s local streetcar system. The streetcars used a yellow paint scheme, so they became known as the Yellow Cars that were in service from 1895 to 1963.
The Grizzly Flats Railroad, which the story began in 1938 in the backyard of Ward and Betty Kimball’s San Gabriel, California orange grove. Ward, an animator for the Walt Disney Studios and part-time railroad hobbyist, decided to purchase the last remaining passenger coach from Southern Pacific’s narrow gauge railroad. About the same time, a friend suggested the Kimballs should have an engine to go with their “new” 1881 coach. The historic Nevada Central Railroad was about to be abandoned, and had for sale a nice, vintage Mogul-type steam locomotive, numbered 2 and once named Sidney Dillon, which had operated in the Nevada desert since 1881.
Artifacts, railcars and locomotives from the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and others are also on display.
It was quite a visual scene with all the vintage locomotives and the Steampunk culture in the same place. We had a great time and will go back again to visit. An upcoming post will be about the Steampunk portion of this day.