Recently Patrick and I went to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris (about an hour and a half east of Los Angeles) with a couple of friends for a day filled with not just train history, but a glimpse into the history of Los Angeles transit, as well as added bits of Disney history!
Now before I show all of the interesting things the Orange Empire Railway Museum had to offer, I’ll share with you what I wore.
At first glance, it may appear that I am just wearing another western inspired outfit with turquoise jewelry, but I specifically chose to wear turquoise to pay homage to Fred Harvey, a man closely tied with the restaurant industry, railways, and turquoise jewelry.
Fred Harvey was a restaurateur who transitioned into the railroad business. He became fascinated with the southwest and built trading posts at rail stops, filling them with Native American goods, such as blankets, baskets, and jewelry. Harvey went so far as a to make pre-cut (and hallmarked) pieces of jewelry, to then be embellished (traditionally by stamping, like my bracelet) by Native Americans and then sold at his trading posts. The Orange Empire Railway Museum even has a building dedicated to Harvey and his influence on train travel.
The Orange Empire Railway Museum proved interesting before we even entered, as we were greeted by these rather familiar looking ticket booths…
I quickly thought “Those look like the ticket booths from Disneyland from when I was a kid!” And my suspicions were soon confirmed! These were indeed the ticket booths located just outside the gates of Disneyland beginning in the 80s, and were retired in California Adventure was built. But the Disney ties didn’t end there! The Orange Empire Railway Museum is also home to locomotives owned by Disney legend Ward Kimball.
Kimball was one of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men” who were key animators at Walt Disney Animation and responsible for developing techniques that are still used to this day. Kimball also founded and played the trombone in the Dixieland band, Firehouse Five Plus Two, which played at Disneyland. As Disney moved into the realm of television with its show Disneyland, Kimball wrote, directed and produced three episodes about space exploration, which I have watched and prove to be extremely interesting.
Disney and Kimball bonded over their love of trains, as Kimball had his own backyard railroad, Grizzly Flats Railroad, beginning in 1938. Disney didn’t have his Carolwood Pacific Railroad until 1950. Additionally Kimball’s was made up of real, full size locomotives that he acquired, while Disney’s was a 1:8 scale.
Another interesting piece in the Orange Empire Railway Museum collection is the Descanso, the believed last remaining funeral car. Built in 1909 in Los Angeles, the Descanso features stained glass details, a compartment for the casket and originally had wicker chairs to accommodate 24 mourners. Later it was redone with green plush seats to accommodate 40 mourners. It was retired in the 1920s as automotive hearses became more common.
One of my favorite pieces was the US Mail Railway Post Office that was used for collecting and sorting mail.
Of course the museum is also home to many wonderful pieces of California transit history, including cable cars from San Francisco, the famous Red Cars of LA and much more, many of which are available for visitors to ride! It’s also home to some movie history as well, cars that were used in Singin’ in the Rain and Changeling call the Orange Empire Railway Museum home.
Many of the trains are under restoration, and hope to hit the rails one again soon, so if you love trains or just weird SoCal history, the Orange Empire Railway Museum is a great place to visit!