By Liv Pearson
For over 60 years, the Southern California Railway Museum, formerly the Orange Empire Railway Museum, has been working to keep a bit of electric railway history preserved.
The museum, located in Perris, invites people of all ages to visit its collection of more than 200 streetcars and railway vehicles. It also offers weekend train and trolley rides.
Along with weekend train rides, the museum hosts many events throughout the year and has a venue available for booking personal events and parties.
Visiting the museum was a rather relaxing way to spend the day. There were two active lines running: the main line, which takes passengers around two miles through the City of Perris, and the trolley, which travels about a half mile around.
The vintage streetcars and engines make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to the trains’ glory days. The decorated trolley walls are complete with pop-culture images and ads from the 1950s and late 1970s.
Conductor Mel, who has been a part of the organization since 1977, offered a bit of historic knowledge.
“This organization was formed by a group of 14 young rail fans from the Los Angeles area,” he said.
According to the museum’s website, they founded the organization in 1956.
“These guys wanted to preserve some of these cars and provide a place where they could operate them and to give rides,” the conductor said. “In ’58, these men bought the property — something you couldn’t do nowadays — but they bought 10 acres of property of what used to be a potato farm. We call this The Farm.”
As for my personal experience, I would say I definitely enjoyed my visit. It was a pleasant way to spend my Sunday morning.
The staff on the trains and in the museum’s gift shop were quite friendly, which is exactly what one might expect in such a quaint setting. Everyone was very helpful and eager to answer any questions patrons may have — whether you’re looking for information on an upcoming event or just want to know a little bit about the history of the Southern California Railway Museum and it’s collection.
I found the train and trolley rides to be relaxing and fun. Once passengers have boarded, an attendant stands at the front of the cabin and gives a quick rundown of what to expect as the train begins to leave the station.
With a brief jolt, the train slowly moves through the rural town, passing the industrial and the residential parts of the surrounding neighborhood and back to the platform at the station.
The rides are slow paced but short in time, so it gives guests plenty of time to ride multiple times during their visit. There’s a shady and breezy park at the museum’s center which makes for a great place to have a picnic — maybe even just to walk around and enjoy the calm of the wind blown trees. Along the paved walkway you’ll find humorous painted wooden pictures meant to frame guest’s faces and imitation train cabooses for guest’s to take photographs.
It’s a great way to spend a relaxing weekend for people of all ages. The trains run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Visitors can ride as many times as they’d like.
More information about the Southern California Railway Museum and tickets can be found on the museum website socalrailway.org.