Middleton Museum of Toy Trains & Americana
|Library & Archives|
OERM's unique Middleton Collection is perhaps most famous for its Toy Trains, but it really does have a little bit of everything! The collection presents the joys of a lifetime of collecting by Evan Middleton, who ran the Toy Train shop at Knott's Berry Farm in the 1960s. Housed in two Denver & Rio Grande baggage cars that Evan purchased in 1967, the Middleton Collection is a long-standing institution at OERM.
Evan was the founder of the Western chapter of the Train Collector's Association (TCA) in 1954, as well as charter member #1 of the Toy Train Operating Society (TTOS) in 1966. He was well known in the Toy Train collector's field, and was doubtless responsible for introducing the hobby to many others. The collection has quite a variety of artifacts, some railroad related, others not. It's been constantly added to since its inception, and will no doubt continue to evolve in the years ahead. One of the more recently added displays are a magnificent collection of scratch-built O gauge trolley models donated by Bill and Betty Everett.
History of the cars that house the collection
Car 745 was built in 1929 as Baggage Car number 600 for the Denver & Salt Lake Railroad. It became Denver & Rio Grande Western 600 in 1947, and received its current number in 1948. It was retired in 1967 and purchased at auction (along with sister car 743) by Evan Middleton in 1967. Both the 743 and 745 were repainted by Museum volunteers in 1985.
Car 743 car was built in 1910 as Buffet-Library car No. 604 for the Western Pacific Railroad. It was transferred to the Denver & Rio Grande (D&RG) when the two railroads were under common ownership circa 1914-15, and renumbered D&RG 983. The car was rebuilt into its present baggage configuration in 1920 and renumbered D&RG 733. It was renumbered 743 in 1924. The car was retired in 1967.
Cars 743 and 745 were moved to Perris on their own wheels. Owing to the lack of a continuous rail connection between the Museum and the Santa Fe Railway tracks in Perris, they sat in downtown Perris for almost a year until Museum volunteers built the trackage that bridged the gap. The two cars were among the first to be moved over the new connection.
Prior to 1968, all cars which were delivered by rail to Perris had to be "snap-tracked" over the gap in the railroad. This time-consuming task involved leap-frogging the car or cars on pieces of temporary trackage which were continually moved one in front of the other until the gap was bridged.
Evan Middleton with the newly arrived cars, 1968. OERM Collection, click to enlarge