Whether you have a passing fancy for trains or you're an avid railroad fan, Southern California has several places where you can relive its railroad history.
Here are 10 of the best places suggested by Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Assn. and the Southern California chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society:
Lomita Railroad Museum, Lomita Junction, Woodward Avenue and 250th Street, Lomita, (213) 326-6255. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Cost: 50 cents per person. Replica of turn-of-the-century Victorian passenger station has railroad memorabilia. Climb aboard the 1902 Southern Pacific steam engine called the Mogul and 1910-vintage Union Pacific caboose. A 1913 boxcar and 1923 Alaskan oil tank car are across the street. Managed by City of Lomita.
Orange Empire Railway Museum, 2201 South A St., Perris, (714) 657-2605. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and Christmas. Streetcars operate weekends and major holidays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost: free except on special-event days; nominal charge to ride cars. On display are 150 railway cars and streetcars, including steam and diesel locomotives, passenger coaches, freight cars and electric streetcarsfrom early wooden models to modern streamliners. Ongoing equipment restoration. Gift shop, picnic area and mini-museum of collectibles.
Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site, U.S. 6 in Laws, a small town north of Bishop, near the Owens River, (619) 873-5950. Open daily, weather permitting, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Fewer buildings are open during winter months.) Cost: donation. An 1883 station has railroad memorabilia and many artifacts in a Western-community setting. Restored stationmaster's house with turn-of-the- century items, a climb-aboard locomotive and a railroad-track course (not in use) on site. Operated by Bishop Museum and Historical Society.
La Mesa Depot Museum, 4695 Railroad Ave., La Mesa, at intersection of Spring Street and La Mesa Boulevard, (619) 447-7107. Open noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Museum cost is free. La Mesa's oldest building, restored by Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Assn. Has a steam engine; streetcar; baggage car; two diesel-electric cars; two freight cars, and a passenger car, the Robert E. Peary, used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during one of his presidential campaigns. Gift shop, railroad displays and photographs.
Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, 1101 W. McKinley Ave., Pomona, (714) 623-3111. Open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. the following Sundays: March 9, April 6, May 18, June 8, July 6, Aug. 10, Sept. 7, Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 7. Also open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during this year's fair, Sept. 11-28. Cost: free, except for fair admission during the fair's run. Locomotive and railroad car display preserved by Southern California chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society. Display includes Arcadia's Santa Fe station, built in 1895, seven steam locomotives, a horse express car, Pacific Electric car, a caboose and dozens of other railroad items. Union Station, 800 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, (213) 624-0171. Open 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Cost: free. Last large passenger station built in the United States. Declared a historic cultural monument in 1972. To ride on the rails, Amtrak offers several short trips. Round trip to historical Downtown Fullerton, for example, is $9.50, with seven trains scheduled daily.
Travel Town, Griffith Park, (213) 662-5874. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Cost: Museum and park are free; train rides are $1.50 for adults, $1.25 for ages 4 to 12, and $1 for seniors 62 and older. Outdoor museum of 17 locomotives suffers from deterioration and vandalism, yet Travel Town is still a favorite of railroad buffs. Rides offered on miniature steam train that travels around park's perimeter are available Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Proposals to refurbish the exhibit are under consideration.
Pacific Southwest Railway Museum, 916 Sheridan Road, Campo, half a mile off California 94, (619) 478-9937. Open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Cost: free. Its 30 pieces of railway equipment include six steam engines, four diesel-electric engines, passenger and freight cars and cabooses. Ongoing equipment restoration. A 15-mile train ride is $7 for adults and $3.50 for children 5 to 12. The train runs at 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m.