What was it that caused fourteen young members of the SC/ERA, the Southern California Division Of The Electric Railroaders’ Association, to step forward in the early 1950s and focus on the preservation of electric rail interurbans and streetcars for the purpose of eventually creating an operating museum? In a sentence, “their world was slipping away”. The SC/ERA was formed in 1950 to give organizational form to rail fans who were primarily interested in red cars and yellow cars of the local transit operations.
Buses were replacing Red Car and Yellow Car lines. Before long red cars were stacked four high at National Metal and Steel’s scrap yard on Terminal Island along with rows of yellow cars. The last of the “Last Runs” were playing out. It was time for the equipment preservation conscious members of SC/ERA to form a separate organization with the purpose of establishing an operating trolley museum. Fourteen members of SC/ERA gathered in the home of Ronald Longworth on the evening of March 23rd, 1956 to discuss such an organization. At that meeting they chose the name Orange Empire Traction Company, adapting the name of an early Pacific Electric excursion through the inland empire of San Bernardino, Redlands and Riverside. At the first meeting, Pat Underwood was elected president, Jim Walker was selected as secretary and Dick Burns became treasurer.
On June 10th, 1956, at the home of Jim Walker in Lynwood, the group adopted articles of incorporation. Three members who were at least 21 years old and thereby eligible to sign a legal document signed the document. Those members were Richard H. Burns, Norman K. Johnson and Patrick L. Underwood. The signatures were notarized by Jim’s father, Jim Walker, Sr.
A little over a month later, on July 20th, 1956, the State of California granted a charter of incorporation as a non-profit educational organization to the Orange Empire Traction Company. It was granted corporation number 324213. The museum was officially in business.