The City of Perris is about 80 miles north of San Diego. It’s in Riverside
County, which together with San Bernardino County makes up a region known as the Inland Empire. The city of Perris was named in honor of Fred T. Perris, chief construction engineer for the California Southern Railroad (CSRR). Throughout the late 1880s and early 1900s, the CSRR and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) maintained a loose partnership as the ATSF desired to establish a 2nd Transcontinental Rail Line starting in National City, California.
The winter of 1883-1884 proved to be one of the wettest on record for Southern California. Fallbrook experienced over 20 inches of rainfall, resulting in a total washout of the tracks through the Temecula canyon.
The California Southern Railroad suspended rail service to Temecula that year, and the effect on the company’s finances put them on the brink of bankruptcy. But the ATSF Railroad stepped in, providing enough capital to repair, until another washout of the tracks, the link between Fallbrook and Temecula.
The townsite of Perris was officially named a station location in 1887 on the Transcontinental Route of the Santa Fe Railroad.
The red brick train depot in Perris was completed by Fred Perris in 1892. Shortly thereafter, six passenger trains and two freight trains stopped at Perris daily and rapid growth of the geographic area. This rapid growth proved short-lived. By 1892, the railroad abandoned mainline service to San Diego by way of Perris. In 1911, Perris became an incorporated city. However, the Second Transcontinental Route of the Santa Fe Railroad into San Diego was never completed. Fred Perris held the Chief Construction Engineer position with Santa Fe for 35 years. The Perris tracks ran as a spur for many years. The final section of the California Southern line to be abandoned, from Elsinore Junction to Temecula, shut down in February 1935.
In 1863, at the age of 26, Fred Perris took a break from railroading to become a haberdasher and a political activist in Utah where he had a difficult run-in with Brigham Young.
Perris was one of the founders of the Liberal Party of Utah. He was also one of the founders of the Salt Lake Tribune, originally designed to be the voice of the Liberal Party but which has since evolved into the largest newspaper in the state.
Then in 1874 he abruptly resigned, sold the paper to a half dozen outsiders, and moved to San Bernardino where he spent the remaining forty years of his life working again for the ATSF.
Fred Perris died at 80 from a heart-related illness in 1916.
These days, the city and the railroad around Perris is well-known to many enthusiasts chiefly for its Railroad Museums, with exhibits of bygone eras in transportation, being assembled and maintained by the Orange Empire Traction Company, the Mt. Rubidoux Chapter of the Pacific Railroad Society, and other groups, including the Railway Historical Society of San Diego, all non-profit organizations.