Metrolink and Orange Empire Railway Museum
November 11th, 2000

Don Winter

The Pacific Railroad Society has decided to donate the Los Angeles Railway 3 ft. 6 in. gauge streetcar it has owned since the demise of LARy in the early 1960s to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in whose facilities in Perris, CA, it has resided for many years. Although the car has been stored at OERM, no maintenance, preservation, or restoration work has been done on it, since PRS folks don't work out at Perris (as PRS representatives, anyway), and OERM folks can't work on something not owned by OERM.

The transfer of ownership is planned for Saturday, November 11th, 2000, so PRS has arranged an excursion to OERM for the occasion. This excursion comprises Metrolink train travel between Los Angeles Union Station and Riverside, outbound by one route and back by another, along with motor coach transportation between Riverside and the museum in Perris. Chris and I are taking this excursion.

We could get from Hermosa Beach to LAUS using the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Green Line and Blue Line light rail lines, plus the MTA's heavy rail Red Line subway, but doing this would require that we get up at least 45 minutes earlier than the (to us) early start that is already necessary, so we elect to drive the 25 miles from home to LAUS. All is clear on the freeways this bright, sunny, but chilly (for Los Angeles) morning, so we're at LAUS in plenty of time for coffee and conversation among the assembling members of the PRS group, before it's time to walk out to the platform the train will depart from. When we arrive, Barbara Sibert, the PRS excursion director, is in line at the Metrolink Enquiries counter. A glance at the Departures Board in the station concourse shows the reason: it's 8:18 am, and the board shows our train as departing at 8:30 am, whereas our tour instructions had said 9 am. Barbara soon returns, assured that the departure time really is 9 am, and that "the board has been wrong for some time" (which I presume means since the train's time changed, some months previously).

The Arrivals Board shows that Amtrak Train 1, The Sunset Limited from Orlando, FL, and New Orleans, due at 6:15 am, is expected at 8:40 am, and Amtrak Train 3, The Southwest Chief from Chicago, due at 8:40 am, is expected at 8:50 am. Train 1 really does arrive at about 8:40 am, but Train 3 still hasn't shown up when our Metrolink train leaves the vicinity, a little after 9 am.

At 8:48 am, some time later than planned, our group walks out to Track 6, where the locomotive and cars for Metrolink Train 380 are waiting. This train has a General Motors F59PH diesel-electric locomotive, and five of the distinctive lozenge-shaped bi-level cars (the rear one of which is set-up as a cab car, to be used when the train is run in "push" mode, as it is 50% of the time). The PRS group boards and occupies the upper-level of the rear (cab) car. The train departs at precisely 9 am. As we pass the "Garden" tracks, we see private cars Point St. Charles, Overland Trail, and Silver Lariat on the nearer track, and some Amtrak cars including a full-length dome and business car Beech Grove, on the farther track. Curving around past the closed Mission Tower, we cross the Los Angeles River on the bridge intended for providing access to LAUS for trains of the original Union Pacific (nee Los Angeles & Salt Lake) line into LA, but then curve off onto the old Southern Pacific line running around the south side of its Bull Ring intermodal yard, and then connecting with the ex Pacific Electric line to El Monte.

It's particularly appropriate that we should be taking this line out to OERM, since OERM has a large collection of ex-PE cars, and this line follows PE right-of-way all the way to Claremont, on the way to San Bernardino. We stop at the station at California State University, Los Angeles, and then accelerate along the median of the San Bernardino Freeway (I-10). Before reaching El Monte, the line leaves the freeway median through a tunnel, and then curves over the Rio Hondo on a viaduct, from which it descends to parallel to old SP Sunset Route line through El Monte. After the El Monte stop, the Metrolink line again climbs up on a viaduct, crosses over the ex-SP line, and descend to join the Baldwin Park branch of the old SP. At the Baldwin Park station, the Metrolink line rejoins the old PE right-of-way, which it uses thence to Claremont. This line passes between the back gardens (such as they are) of the houses in Covina, and along the north side of the Fairgrounds in Pomona, where the drag racing track is scheduled to hold the year-end championships today (which will, in the event, be postponed a day due to rain that our group never sees).

After joining the ex-Santa Fe line that used to run between LA and San Bernardino via Pasadena, we stop at the ornate Claremont station, then head for San Bernardino along the ex-Santa Fe line. In Fontana, we pass both the California Speedway (which has a station of its own, along with storage tracks, for use by Metrolink specials on race days only) and the Kaiser yard (adjacent to the former Kaiser Steel plant, some of whose land is used for the raceway). Some 60 miles from LA, we come to San Bernardino, with the BNSF intermodal yard on the left, where we again climb up on a viaduct to cross to the South side of the BNSF line from LA via Fullerton and Riverside.

After a ten minutes stop in Metrolink's San Bernardino station (adjacent to the beautiful mission-style Santa Fe station building that is sadly no longer in use), we reverse direction and head down the BNSF main through Colton and Highgrove to Riverside (10 minutes early for our scheduled 11:10 am arrival), where we all detrain. To my surprise, at least, Ed Von Nordeck is on the platform, so we greet him warmly. Our bus is waiting, so we all get on and are whisked (ignoring the traffic delay due to construction on Highway 60 through Riverside) to the Nuevo Road Shopping Center in Perris, where we have lunch, Chris and I eat at Sizzler. At 12:15 pm, our busload moves on to the OERM, another couple of miles to the South.

At OERM, we are greeted by John Tait, OERM president Tom Jacobsen, and John Smatlak (once he has finished rounding up PRS Vice-President Will Walters). The PRS group does a ceremonial walk through LARy 1559, after which the document transferring ownership is formally signed. (Many of the PRS members, including ourselves, are also members of OERM, so we're transferring ownership of this car from one group we belong to to another group we belong to.)

John Smatlak then leads a group of PRS members on a tour behind the scenes and into normally closed areas of OERM. The tour starts out in the machine shop, which is well equipped with many machines and tools that are historic in their own right. As with all railway preservation efforts, OERM has to be prepared to make and/or modify replacement parts that once would have been bought off-the-shelf from suppliers to the railway trade. The machine shop at OERM is thus the heart of the museum's ability to restore and keep (selected members of) its collection in operational condition, for use on its demonstration railway(s), as well as to preserve, in some condition or other, the rest of the collection.

In the machine shop we see the disassembled components of a streetcar truck. Outside, we see another partially disassembled truck, this one belonging to ex-PE car 418, which is in the adjacent carhouse sitting on a shop truck. John explains that, now that it has been 40-50 years since any of these cars have had their last heavy maintenance shopping with their former owners (the railways themselves), the museum is now finding it has to learn how to do the heavy repairs on various components that, until now, have been kept running with just medium repairs. This includes things like stripping and rewinding traction motors, which is what is going on with this car (the motors have been removed from the truck that is laying outside). John also shows us the deteriorating wheelsets of another car sitting adjacent to the machine shop, as well as the state of restoration of the ex-Bamberger railroad Brill Express car.

We then walk over to carhouse 4, to look at the various restoration projects ongoing over there, but first we stop to look at the ex-UP Pullman-car National Scene, sister car to PRS' National Forum, that is outside Carhouse 4. Inside, we see several different aspects of trolley-car restoration, on several different cars. Both John, and Walter Abendseth, who is there, talk about these restoration projects in some detail. Walter also shows us through ex-PE Business/Parlor Car 1299, which was transferred to OERM from the R&LHS site at the Pomona Fairgrounds (which houses the R&LHS Collection of mainly big steam locomotives) a few years ago.

The tour then takes us through the area where OERM is constructing its "Future Tracks Out Back" (ex-"Five", ex-"Four"), which will eventually provide an enclosed carhouse covering six tracks that will double the area of covered storage the museum has for housing its collection. Along the way, we see the culvert that had to be build to permit floodwaters to escape (on those rare occasions that it rains out here in the desert), along with a car that is totally enclosed in a wrapper, to prevent further deterioration in its condition.

Next stop on the tour is the scratch-built turntable for the three-foot gauge lines built to enable turning of the locomotive and/or cars donated by Ward Kimball. This is a fully functional 'armstrong' turntable, built as an exact copy of the still-extant SP narrow-gauge turntables in Carson City, NV, and Laws, CA. In the vicinity of the turntable, but on standard gauge track, are the ex-UP 2-8-2 steam locomotive, moved here from display in Oro Grande a couple of years ago, along with the ex-UP E8 and ex-Santa Fe FP45 diesel-electric locomotives acquired by OERM in recent years (along with the rest of the diesel collection that has been here for some time).

Following the tour, Chris and I take a ride along the "main line", in a short train pulled by Ventura County RR #2, OERM's operating steam locomotive. After backing-up to the South end of the track, this train then goes in to Perris, passing over the 9th Street crossing, but stopping short of 6th Street. When we return to OERM, Chris and I visit the museum's bookstore, and then the refreshment stand, before boarding the bus for our 3pm departure for the station at Riverside and our return train.

Approaching Riverside, and remembering the traffic problems earlier, the bus driver decides to take surface streets across town. She remarks about how difficult this is, since so many streets in Riverside have different names at different points along their lengths, so one can't just pick up a well-known street name across town, as one can in much of greater Los Angeles. We're back at Riverside Downtown in plenty of time for the 3:57 pm departure of Metrolink train 415. While we’re waiting for the train, Ted Campbell remarked that he and his wife had missed us on the AAPRCO Convention train to Winnipeg a few weeks earlier. I responded that I had missed us there, too, but without company bonuses we weren't going to be going on trips like that.

The conductor on this train is the same woman who was conductor on the outbound trip of our excursion to Riverside (and the Mission Inn), back in February 2000. Departure is a couple of minutes late for our trip along the original UP (LA&SL) access to Los Angeles, through Pedley, Ontario, downtown Pomona, Industry, Montebello, past the site where PRS does its rolling stock preservation and restoration just North of the UP yard in LA, and into LAUS 10 minutes early on our expected 5:25 pm arrival, in spite of our ten minute stop at a signal alongside the San Gabriel River, awaiting an eastbound UP freight (since this line is single-track with passing sidings, even though heavily-used). It gets dark somewhere about the time we start moving again from that signal stop. On arrival in LA, I see that today's Coast Starlight from Seattle is currently expected only 10 minutes behind time, this evening.

Our freeway and local street drive home is uneventful, and we're home by a little after 6pm.