Orange Empire Railway Museum

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The Orange Empire Railway Museum was founded in 1956 in Perris, California as the "Orange Empire Trolley Museum."

The collection centers around Southern California's railroad history and houses the largest collection of Pacific Electric Railway rolling stock in the world, much of it rescued from scrapyards after the discontinuation of their passenger operations.

Two early Los Angeles streetcars run each weekend on the half-mile long, dual-gauge "Loop Line" while a passenger-carrying diesel or electric freight train with open gondolas fitted with benches and at least two cabooses runs on the 1.5-mile (2.4 km) long, standard gauge mainline that was once an abandoned spur line of the Santa Fe Railroad. The main stretches from just south of the property northward to a historic Santa Fe depot on Highway 74. Beyond the depot, the museum's main merges with a Burlington Northern Santa Fe spur still in active use, and the railroad grants permission for OERM trains to use the spur for special events. A Pacific Electric interurban "Red Car" also operates on the mainline on selected weekends, but the line is electrified only as far as a block south of the depot. Streetcars and locomotives are selected on a rotating basis. The museum maintains a steam locomotive in operating condition and its use is scheduled for certain special events and major holidays.

Both admission to the OERM and parking are free except for special events, but a ticket must be purchased to ride on the museum railway. The ticket is good for unlimited rides on the train and streetcars.

Tours of the grounds, static exhibits and shops are self-guided. A picnic area is located near the main entrance as is an interactive railroad "signal garden." The signal garden has working examples of block signals and grade crossing signals, including two working examples of the "wigwag" grade crossing signals once common throughout California.

Notable exhibits

  • The Emma Nevada is an 1881 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 "Mogul" narrow gauge steam locomotive purchased by Disney animator Ward Kimball and his wife Betty for their backyard "Grizzly Flats Railroad" in 1938. Originally built for the short-line Nevada Central Railway connecting Battle Mountain with Austin, the beautifully restored locomotive features Kimball's own artwork on the cab and headlight and was finally fired up in 1942. Boiler problems permanently sidelined the Emma Nevada in 1951. Kimball, one of the museum's founders, donated the locomotive to the museum and it can be seen today in the museum's "Grizzly Flats" car barn. The love of trains that Kimball shared with Walt Disney and fellow animator Ollie Johnston is credited with the idea of building a railroad in Disneyland. An area in Disney's California Adventure theme park is named "Grizzly Flats" in honor of Kimball. At Disneyland, a 1902 Baldwin narrow gauge locomotive is currently undergoing restoration and will be named after Kimball. The Ward Kimball will be the first locomotive added to the Disneyland Railroad since 1959.
  • The museum's newest rail vehicle, ATSF 98 is a 1967 EMD FP45 diesel locomotive. Featuring a 3600-horsepower (2.7 MW), 20-cylinder prime mover and six traction motors, the FP45 was intended for fast passenger service and is geared to run in excess of 90 miles per hour (145 km/h). ATSF 98 is especially notable as being the last passenger locomotive ever purchased by the Santa Fe Railroad and was used to pull Santa Fe's finest passenger trains, including the world-famous Super Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles. Relegated to fast freight service in 1971 when passenger rail operations were transferred to Amtrak, the FP45 was donated in operating condition by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe in 1997, but its size limits its use to occasional demonstration service and special excursions. It continues to be maintained in service-ready condition and is sometimes used to pull off-property work trains.
  • A General Electric U25B diesel locomotive once owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad is the last operating example left in the US. Built in 1963, it became SP's bicentennial engine in celebration of the nation's two-hundredth birthday in 1976. Numbered as SP 3100 prior to being donated, this locomotive is used in regular service. Like the FP45, the U25B is certified to run on any railroad in the nation and its two-axle trucks and 2500-horsepower (1.9 MW) prime mover make it an economical and ideal candidate for off-property work trains as well.

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