Disneyland Railroad

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This article is about the railroad at Disneyland. For the railroad at Disneyland Paris, see Disneyland Railroad (Paris). For the railroad at Hong Kong Disneyland, see Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad.
Disneyland Railroad
Disneyland Railroad Poster.png
Attraction poster for the DRR.
Status Under Refurbishment
Opening date July 17, 1955
General statistics
Attraction type Railroad attraction
Manufacturer Baldwin Locomotive Works
Designer WED Enterprises
Duration 18:00
No. of Tracks Single
Track gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Track length 1.2 miles (1.9 km)
Sponsor Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (1955–1974)
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Closed captioning available

The Disneyland Railroad (reporting mark DRR), originally known as the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge heritage railroad and attraction in the Disneyland Resort's Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California in the United States.[1] Its route is 1.2 miles (1.9 km) in length and encircles the vast majority of the park, with stations in the Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown, and Tomorrowland sections.[2] The rail line, which was built by WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), is operated with two steam locomotives built by WED Enterprises and three historic steam locomotives originally built by Baldwin Locomotive Works.[3][4]

The Disneyland Railroad opened to the public for the first time on July 17, 1955, the same day that the Disneyland park first opened.[5][6] Since then the DRR has become one of the world's busiest steam-powered railroads, with an estimated 6.6 million passengers served each year.[7]

The DRR temporarily closed on January 11, 2016 to accommodate the construction of Star Wars Land and is scheduled to reopen in Summer 2017.[8][9]


Attraction concept origins[edit]

The Central Pacific No. 173 locomotive served as the basis for the 1:8-scale design of Walt Disney's Carolwood Pacific No. 173 Lilly Belle locomotive, which in turn was later used as the basis for the 5:8-scale design of the DRR's first two locomotives.
Disneyland Railroad
(open to public during 5K)
Mickey's Toontown
Monorail transfer
(via short walk inside park)
New Orleans Square
Horse-drawn streetcar transfer
(via short walk inside park; restricted access)
Main Street, U.S.A.
Bus transfer
(via short walk outside park)

Walt Disney, the creator of the concepts for Disneyland and the Disneyland Railroad, always had a strong fondness for trains.[10][11] As a young boy, he began to have the desire of becoming a train engineer like his uncle, Mike Martin, who would tell him stories about his experiences driving mainline trains on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.[12][13] As a teenager, he obtained a job as a news butcher on the Missouri Pacific Railway, selling various products to train passengers including newspapers, candy, and cigars.[14] Many years later, after co-founding The Walt Disney Company with his older brother Roy O. Disney, he developed an interest in playing polo, but after receiving several injuries including fractured vertebrae, his doctor made a recommendation that he pursue a calmer recreational activity.[15] Starting in late 1947, he began to develop an interest in model trains after purchasing several Lionel train sets.[16]

By 1948, Walt Disney's interest in model trains began to evolve into an interest in larger, ridable miniature trains after observing the trains and backyard railroad layouts of several hobbyists including Disney animator Ollie Johnston.[17] In 1949, after purchasing 5 acres (20,000 m2) of vacant land in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, he started construction on a new residence for himself and his family, and on the elaborate 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge ridable miniature Carolwood Pacific Railroad behind it.[18][19] The railroad featured a set of freight cars pulled by the Lilly Belle, a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive built by the Walt Disney Studios' machine shop team led by Roger E. Broggie.[20] The locomotive's design, chosen by Walt Disney after seeing a smaller locomotive model with the same design at the home of rail historian Gerald M. Best, was based directly off of copies of the blueprints for the Central Pacific No. 173, a steam locomotive rebuilt by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872.[20] The Lilly Belle first ran on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad on May 7, 1950.[21] Walt Disney's new backyard railroad attracted visitors interested in riding his miniature steam train and on weekends, when the railroad was operating, he allowed them to do so, even allowing some to become "guest engineers" and drive the train.[22] In Spring 1953, after a visitor drove the Lilly Belle too fast along a curve, causing it to derail and injure a five-year-old girl, Walt Disney, fearing the possibility of future accidents, closed down the Carolwood Pacific Railroad and placed the locomotive in storage.[23][24]

Less than a year prior to the incident that closed the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, Walt Disney consulted with Roger Broggie about the concept of including his ridable miniature train in a potential backlot tour of Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, north of Downtown Los Angeles.[25] Broggie, believing that there would be limited visitor capacity for the attraction, recommended to Disney that he make the train bigger in scale.[25] By 1953, the idea of a backlot tour was replaced by the idea of an amusement park across the street from the studio named Disneyland, and in one of its first design concepts at that proposed location, a miniature steam train ride was included, as well as a larger, narrow gauge steam railroad attraction.[25]

From concept to inauguration[edit]

In 1953, the Walt Disney Company solicited major railroads for corporate sponsorship of the Disneyland Railroad attraction. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway was the only company to respond signing a 5-year initial sponsorship on March 29, 1955.[26] AT&SF sponsorship offset construction and fabrication costs and it opened and operated as the "Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad" until 1974. One consequence of the sponsorship is from 1955 to 1974 the Santa Fe Rail Pass was able to be used in lieu of a Disneyland "D" coupon to ride the train.[citation needed] Unlike most of Disneyland and its arrangement with its sponsors, the Disneyland Railroad, as well as the Mark Twain Riverboat (and later the Monorail) was entirely owned and operated by Walt himself as owner, president and sole proprietor of Retlaw (Walter, spelled backwards.) incorporated privately for the operation. He mortgaged his Palm Springs property Smoke Tree Ranch to finance the construction of the Mark Twain. Railroad, riverboat (and later the Monorail) crew worked directly for Walt, and he personally autographed their paychecks.

WED Enterprises originally custom-built all of its railroad equipment in house, through creative financing paying his other companies for the work. In addition to the unpowered rolling stock, WED Enterprises constructed the original two locomotives in the Disneyland roundhouse (then located West of Hollidayland) under the supervision of Roger Broggie, the first Imagineer, on temporary reassignment from his duties as a machinist and engineer at the Disney Studios Camera Shops. Using the 1:8-scale miniature Carolwood Pacific No. 173 Lilly Belle steam locomotive as a pattern, which Walt commissioned Broggie to fabricate for his backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a 5:8-scale design was developed to build the No. 1 and No. 2 locomotives. When the locomotives were paired with the DRR's 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge track, the railroad had proportions nearly identical to a conventional 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge railroad.[27] The fire tube boilers are fired by spraying and igniting fuel oil (see below) onto a carbon based ceramic fire-brick plate burner. The No. 1 locomotive was given a spark-arresting diamond smokestack typical of wood-burning locomotives and a large cowcatcher, representing a workhorse used to construct railroads. The flagship No. 2 locomotive was given a straight smokestack and a small cowcatcher common to East Coast coal-burning locomotives, representing highball speed of express passenger service on smooth straight rails. The two original DRR trains cost over US$240,000 to build, with the two locomotives costing over US$40,000 each.[28][29]

The Santa Fe Railway offered the use of full-scale crossing signals, but Disney declined as they would be out of scale with the trains, so the railway instead provided scaled-down signals built at their San Bernardino shops as a gift to Disneyland. They operate with automotive windshield wiper motors.

Two trains operated on opening day. Locomotive No. 2, serviced only Main Street station; it hauled a passenger train consisting of yellow coaches, No. 101 (the combine, partial baggage/express and coach seating), coaches No. 102–105, and the Grand Canyon observation coach No. 106 with larger arched windows, an observation platform and drumhead at the rear. Locomotive No. 1 serviced the Frontierland depot, hauling a freight train consisting of cattle cars, gondolas numbered 201–205 and a caboose No. 208. The two trains could each operate on the railroad simultaneously and independently in the same clockwise direction. Rail sidings at Main Street Station and Frontierland Depot allowed them to pass the one disembarking/embarking passengers.

July 17, 1955, beginning the historic ABC broadcast with Art Linkletter and Ronald Reagan on the platform as Walt throttled down No. 2 pulling Retlaw-1 into Main Street Station, Art introduced him along with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight and Fred G. Gurley (in his capacity as president of the Santa Fe) and their families riding in the open door of the combine No.101 as they began to preside over the opening-day ceremonies.

As the park had grown, and ridership increased, more trains were needed. When more trains were eventually added the operation was changed: the trains no longer passed each other, and a Fantasyland station was built at Storybook Land. When the tracks were realigned to accommodate It's a Small World, the Fantasyland station was closed and the Tomorrowland station was built. The passing track at Main Street Station has been disconnected and now is only used to display a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Kalamazoo handcar. The tracks at Frontierland Depot were moved several times and the passing track was removed completely; the original station was moved across the tracks and the New Orleans Square/Frontierland station replaced it. Walt Disney dictated that two trains were to operate at all times, and it is not uncommon for three or four trains to run simultaneously on busy days. Walt's railroading hobby qualified him with extensive experience operating steam locomotives and guests frequently saw him making rounds of the park acting as engineer in a locomotive cab.

The narration inside the cars at various points around the park once featured voice actor Jack Wagner, Thurl Ravenscroft, and most recently, Earl Hindman.

The Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama[edit]

Artist Delmer J. Yoakum (left) painting the Grand Canyon diorama in 1955.

The 1958 addition of the Grand Canyon diorama painted by artist Delmer J. Yoakum necessitated a change in the rolling stock as well; instead of facing forward, the new flatcars' benches now faced right so that the passengers could better enjoy the scenes. The diorama, which includes taxidermic animals (the only ones in the park) in lifelike poses, is the longest in the world. Painted on a single piece of seamless canvas and representing the view from the canyon's south rim, the rear of the diorama measures 306 feet (93 m) long, 34 feet (10 m) high and is covered with 300 gallons (1,100 L) of paint in 14 colors.[30] Animals that are included in the diorama include mule deer, mountain lion, desert bighorn sheep, golden eagle, wild turkeys, striped skunk and porcupine. A 96-year-old Hopi chief, Chief Nevangnewa, blessed the trains on the diorama's opening day. The cost was US$367,000, and it took 80,000 labor hours to construct. The main theme of Ferde Grofé's "On The Trail," the third movement from his Grand Canyon Suite, is piped in through the train's sound system as it enters the diorama.

In 1966, the diorama was expanded with a prehistoric theme to become the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama, with Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs from the beginning of Walt Disney's Ford Magic Skyway, a 1964 New York World's Fair attraction, where the diorama was viewed from a Ford Mustang convertible as a prelude to the invention of the wheel. Portions of the attraction were transferred to Disneyland in the Autumn of 1965. Despite the fact that the actual dinosaurs lived millions of years apart, a Tyrannosaurus Rex battles a Stegosaurus in mortal combat beside flowing lava while musical themes from Mysterious Island (1961) are heard.

At the same time as the track expansion on the east side of the park, the track on the western side of the park was extended to make room for the New Orleans Square expansion, including buildings for the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean. The northern alignment of the track was moved farther north from just behind Casey Jr. Circus Train to allow for an expansion of the Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland and inclusion in the facade of "It's a Small World", another attraction relocated from the '64,'65 New York World's Fair. That area is now home to Big Thunder Ranch, the unused Festival Arena, and the Fantasyland Theater.

Since its opening July 17, 1955 until 1974 Santa Fe sponsored the SF&DRR attraction. Due to the Amtrak nationalization of passenger train business in 1971, Santa Fe no longer operated passenger service and could not justify the expense of DRR sponsorship. This, along with Santa Fe's desire to upgrade the park's diminutive steam locomotives with representative powerful modern diesel electric engines, led to failure of negotiations to extend the sponsorship contract, and the Santa Fe name was removed, though the locomotive's names remained. Santa Fe expected their marque to remain until casually replaced, but all references were replaced with the new Disneyland Railroad emblem by park opening the very next day, including the riveted panel from the Monorail, which was salvaged from the trash, and is on display at Walt's Barn.

Alterations and modernization[edit]

The construction of New Orleans Square in the mid-'60s required the tracks to be expanded outwards in the southwest quarter of the park. The open-air stretches of track on both sides of Frontierland Station became enclosed by a tunnel over Pirates of the Caribbean to the east and a tunnel through the berm behind the Haunted Mansion facade. Additionally, the trains originally ran behind Casey Jr. Circus Train, but the track was rerouted in order to make more space inside the park. The DRR was in near-continuous operation since the park's 1955 opening day until December 2004 when the system was shut down for reballasting, regauging and new block signals as part of Disneyland's fiftieth anniversary celebration. The attraction reopened on March 17, 2005. While often claimed to be the longest closure of the railroad in Park history, the line was actually down for over a year during the construction of Splash Mountain in the late 1980s. It was not until 2007, however, when all 5 locomotives were converted to burn biodiesel it runs on now.

Disney Imagineering once considered replacing most of Adventureland with an Indiana Jones-themed section, leaving only Jungle Cruise from the original section. One website describes how plans would have seen "the Disneyland Railroad that circumscribed the park would have chugged across a groaning wooden bridge through the complex on its round-trip circuit around the park."[31]

On January 11, 2016, the Disneyland Railroad, along with the attractions and shows along the Rivers of America, closed temporarily for the construction of Star Wars Land.[32] These attractions are expected to reopen on May 26, 2017 along with the other attractions opening that year.

Ride experience[edit]

A nighttime view of the Main Street, U.S.A. Station at the time of the park's sixtieth anniversary. The building is in the Queen Anne style with mansard roofs, widow's walks, dormers, and a clock tower.

The Disneyland Railroad originally only stopped at Main Street, U.S.A. and Frontierland. The Frontierland Station was renovated when that section of the park became New Orleans Square in 1966. It was renamed to be the New Orleans Square Station at a later date. The DRR was later expanded to stop at Fantasyland (which became Mickey's Toontown Depot) and Tomorrowland.

Main Street Station is designed to coordinate architecturally with the rest of Main Street, and is the first Disneyland structure visitors see upon entering the park. A sign on the roof shows an elevation of 138 feet (42 m) above sea level (though this figure is only approximate) and a population number that roughly corresponds with the number of visitors to the park over the past nearly six decades. As of March 2013 the number stood at 650 million.[33] An ornately decorated Kalamazoo handcar is on permanent display in front of the station on the former passing turnout once utilized by Retlaw 2, the Frontierland freight train, when each train stopped for passengers only at its own station. It is rumored that the handcar was donated to Walt Disney himself around 1955 by railroad historian and Disney friend Jerry Best. However, there is no evidence of this even in the Disney Archives. On display inside the station are various photos and print articles pertaining to DRR history, vintage penny scale and Orchestron player and a replica of Walt's 1:8-scale live-steam garden railroad locomotive Lilly Belle; the original locomotive, tender, and the caboose with detailed interior hand-crafted entirely by Walt was in the display case for many years on loan from the Disney family, which are now featured at the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The journey from Main Street station travels northwest along Disneyland's border, just outside the park's main berm from the Jungle Cruise. Guests get a glimpse of an antelope on the berm and for many years a cougar yowled at the trains before the train passes through Pirates of the Caribbean themed as Mardi Gras Carnival staging area.

New Orleans Square Station platform shelter is stylistically similar to Main Street Station. The Depot building on the west side of the tracks (inspired by the Grizzly Flats Railroad Depot) originally served as the station platform; in 1962 it was removed from service and moved across the realigned tracks, in preparation for the New Orleans Square expansion, which now serves primarily as an ornamental detail and break room for train crews. The Land Line Telegraphy extension of Morse code sound effect heard emanating from the depot Telegraph Office, historically used by telegraphers on operating railroads, repeats endlessly the first two lines of Walt Disney's 1955 opening day speech "To all who come to this happy place: Welcome. Disneyland is your land. Here age relives fond memories of the past, and here youth may savor the challenge and promise of the future."

The journey from New Orleans Square, the train passes into a tunnel through the berm between the Haunted Mansion's facade and show building. Shortly thereafter passengers catch a glimpse of Splash Mountain's "Zip-a-Dee Lady" riverboat finale scene before crossing over Critter Country Lane on a trestle. The track then follows the outer edge of the Rivers of America, where guests glimpse minor wildlife scenes, a friendly Indian chief on a horse, and a view of a settler's log cabin across the river on Tom Sawyer's Island. Originally, the Burning Settler's Cabin was shown being under attack by Indians, with roof, door and windows ablaze, accompanied by Indian war chants, war-whoops and hollers coming from the distance with an arrow in the back of the settler fallen in front of his cabin; these elements were modified in the 1970s to represent a victim of evil river pirates complete with unconvincing fire of blown cellophane and silk ala Pirates of the Caribbean (attraction), the exploded alcohol still of an inebriated moonshiner (now with real fire again) in the 1980s, an eagle's nest threatened by the careless settler's blaze in the early 1990s, all of which proved politically incorrect and was eventually extinguished at the end of 1999. During the Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island makeover, asbestos was removed and the cabin refurbished to represent a sustainable homestead. The train then passes behind Festival of Fools picnic grounds, through a tunnel in the berm (actually the heavy equipment bridge to the interior,) and into Toontown Depot.

In 1956, a year after Disneyland's opening, Fantasyland Depot was constructed where the photo kiosk is today. Nearly ten years later in 1965 the canvas tent station was closed, dismantled and the track realigned northward from directly behind Casey Jr. Circus Train to its present location to accommodate construction of It's a small world, incorporating the railroad line into its facade.[34] In 1985 Videopolis Station was built, then rethemed to a cartoonish design to correspond with the new Mickey's Toontown opened in January 1993. Upon leaving the depot, the trains pass through the facade of It's a Small World and roll past backstage areas, such as parts of the parade route and mechanical stations.

The trains then pass Autopia before entering Tomorrowland Station, a Googie-styled depot built in 1958, themed with a Victorian era bronze color scheme of steampunk anachronistic technology aesthetic envisioned by the 1998 New Tomorrowland project, and painted over with whites, silvers, and blues. A trivision billboard outside the station promotes the Railroad as a time travel device, with stops in 1900 (Main Street, U.S.A.), 1860 (Frontierland), and c. 200,000,000 B.C. (Primeval World).

Leaving the Tomorrowland station, viewers get a quick glimpse of the Innoventions building and enter the Grand Canyon diorama building via faux tunnel, followed by the Primeval World diorama featuring dinosaurs created for Ford's Magic Skyway pavilion of the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. After a brief stretch along the berm, the train re-enters the Main Street station.

A very special aspect unique to the Disneyland Railroad is the "tender ride". The tender ride is an enjoyable opportunity available to guests who inquire and are willing to wait. Walt insisted guests be able to experience and appreciate fully the sights, sounds, smells and aura involving the operation of a genuine steam locomotive. So a narrow seat was designed for guests to sit upon the tenders just behind the locomotive cabs within intimate shouting distance of the engineers operating locomotives No. 1 and No. 2. Guests may request a round trip tender ride from a Main Street stationmaster to experience a tender ride. Certain safety conditions may delay guests from embarking on tender rides: hot weather over 90 °F (32 °C) which can make the journey uncomfortable, locomotive refueling at Tomorrowland Station, crew change, taking on water, or a boiler blowdown at New Orleans/Frontierland Station. Only when all safety requirements are satisfied and once the proper locomotive pulls into the station, the conductor escorts one or two guests beyond a platform gate and up into the tender seat to be secured by seatbelts. Main Street Station is the only platform long enough to reach the locomotive, so guests must complete the grand circle tour and disembark at Main Street Station. The engineers are very accommodating to any questions guests may have and are very knowledgeable regarding the operation, history and significance of the locomotives they operate. In 2013, Locomotive No. 4 also received seating on its tender.

Rolling stock[edit]


Inside the cab of Locomotive No. 1, the C.K. Holliday.

The Disneyland Railroad currently has five steam locomotives (the first four are named after former AT&SF Railway presidents).

The table below lists the details of the DRR's locomotives.[4][35]

Number Name Namesake Image Wheel arrangement Date built Builder Serial number Date entered service Notes
1 C.K. Holliday Cyrus K. Holliday DRR - C.K. Holliday.jpg 4-4-0 (American) 1955 WED Enterprises 12544 July 17, 1955 Designed to look like Disney's Lilly Belle locomotive, which had been modeled after the CPRR No. 173 locomotive.
2 E.P. Ripley Edward Payson Ripley DisneylandTrainLocomotive.jpg 4-4-0 (American) 1955 WED Enterprises 12555 July 17, 1955 Originally named W.M.B. Strong after the AT&SF Railway president from 1881 to 1889; however, after the grandson of Edward Payson Ripley, the AT&SF Railway president from 1896 to 1920, announced that he would be attending the park's opening, the locomotive was instead named E.P. Ripley. It was designed to look like the B&O No. 774 locomotive.
3 Fred Gurley Fred Gurley DRR - Fred Gurley.jpg 2-4-4T (Mason) August 1894 Baldwin Locomotive Works 14065 March 28, 1958 Oldest single piece of railroad equipment in use at any Disney theme park. It was first used in Louisiana to transport sugar cane. A commemorative plastic plaque celebrating the locomotive's centennial was mounted under its running board in 1994.
4 Ernest S. Marsh Ernest S. Marsh DRR 4 Ernest S.Marsh.jpg 2-4-0 (Porter) April 1925 Baldwin Locomotive Works 58367 July 25, 1959 Originally served the Raritan River Sand Company in New Jersey before it was purchased and used by the Pine Creek Railroad, a tourist railroad in central New Jersey. It was designed to look like the D&RG Montezuma locomotive.
5 Ward Kimball Ward Kimball Disneyland 200707 Number5 NewOrleansSquare.jpg 2-4-4T (Mason) September 1902 Baldwin Locomotive Works 20925 June 25, 2005 Originally built for the Laurel Valley Plantation of Louisiana. In 1999, Disneyland received it in trade from the Cedar Point amusement park's Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad as the inoperative Maud L., which was restored and put into service for the park's fiftieth anniversary celebration in 2005.

To complement the two original locomotives, the park added two more locomotives and consists, totaling four locomotives and trains; and more recently, a fifth locomotive was acquired. Since many 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge lines were closing down and selling their equipment these locomotives were acquired from outside sources, which was both less costly and less labor-intensive than fabricating new ones from scratch. All three were given extensive renovations before entering service, including new boilers. No. 3 and the No. 5 were originally "Forney" tank locomotives which were often used on suburban or branch line trains, as they could make their return journeys "in reverse" with the tender fuel tank facing forward, without the need for a turntable or "wye" track configuration. However, the locomotives are operated more conventionally at the park.

As of 2007, each Disneyland Railroad locomotive has been converted to burn B98 biodiesel which burns cleaner than traditional coal, wood, or heavy "Bunker C" oil normally used on oil burning steam locomotives.[36] Disneyland then began recycling its own cooking oil into biodiesel, further reducing fuel costs. The locomotives are fueled by biodiesel blended primarily from used cooking oils drained from Disneyland kitchen fryers then filtered and blended with enough soy based fuel to supply operation, giving credence to guests being able to smell french fries in the tunnels.[7][37]

In 2006 the No. 2 E.P. Ripley was displayed at the former annual Fullerton Railroad Days in Fullerton, California. It was the first time a DRR locomotive was displayed at an off-site public event.[38] The next year, the No. 1 C.K. Holliday was displayed at the Fullerton Railroad Days.[39] The No. 3 Fred Gurley was displayed there in 2008.[40] In May 4 and 5, 2013, the No.4 Ernest S. Marsh was displayed at Fullerton five years later after the Gurley.[41] It would then returned to Fullerton again on May 3 and 4, 2014.[42]

From April 30-May 1, 2016, the newly restored C.K. Holliday was on display at the Fullerton Train Days, thus making its first public appearance in about 3 years.

Passenger cars[edit]

SF&DRR coach dimensions were patterned after these 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge OR&L cars preserved at Travel Town.[43]

There were only two train sets on opening day—the yellow passenger coaches of the Retlaw 1 train, which only stopped at Main Street Station, and the red cattle cars, gondolas and caboose of the Retlaw 2 train, which only stopped at the Frontierland Depot. The trains were entirely fabricated new alongside of the superstructure of the Mark Twain Riverboat by studio carpenters inside Burbank, California soundstages of Disney Studios, and were then trucked to Disneyland. Even the wheels and trucks were cast new with raised "Disneyland 1955" lettering. In 1954 Crown, makers of school buses, fabricated the diminutive forward-facing seats and window hardware installed on the passenger train. Windows could be lifted and positioned at 4 intermediate stops between fully open and closed. There were six yellow passenger coaches with green letter boards, red wheels and clerestory (No. 101–106).

Combination coach No. 101, affectionately known as "the Combine" is a combination baggage/express and coach seating which was patterned after the Oahu Railway Combine, No. 36 (pictured) on display near the studio at Travel Town Museum — the railway post office/Wells Fargo Express/Baggage compartment held trunks of wood and leather, mail sacks, a strong box and a few kegs of blasting powder (merely props). The rest of the train consist were officially named, each coach bearing painted green titles on their sides reflecting the Santa Fe sponsor: No. 102 Navajo Chief, No. 103 Rocky Mountains, No. 104 Land of Pueblos, No. 105 Painted Desert and the last car No. 106 Grand Canyon observation coach which featured larger twin windows and a grand observation platform with a candy-stripped canopy skirt over the illuminated "Santa Fe & Disneyland Limited" drumhead sign on the end. Disembark/embark via narrow doors at the open vestibule platforms at each car's end was prone to delay.

There are eight railcars of the Frontierland freight train, Retlaw-2 No. 201–207 cattle cars and gondolas in a mixed consist with caboose No. 208 always trailing behind. Initially there was no seating in the cattle cars or open gondolas; most of the passengers were to remain standing the entire trip. Only the caboose had seats; four of the seats were up in the cupola. At least the cattle cars provided shade. These cars eventually had "Holiday" style benches installed facing the right side of the train, inwards toward the park.

A third set of cars, train number 300 (known as Retlaw-3, or the Excursion Train), debuted in 1958 with the addition of the Grand Canyon diorama. They had forward-facing "Excursion" style walkover bench seating similar to the Main Street Railroad horse-drawn trolley.

In 1965 and 1966, new cars were added with train sets No. 400 (Retlaw-4, with a green-striped awning) and No. 500 (Retlaw-5, with a blue-striped awning), featuring "Holiday" seating which faced toward the right side of the train.

Nowadays the seating consists primarily of open-air "Holiday" styled coaches covered with brightly striped canvas. Two rows of center loading bench-seating facing inward to the park for quick disembark/embark at the depots and for easier viewing of the Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama—except the 1958 Excursion cars, which continue to seat face forward.

Shortly after the diorama's opening in 1958, the Retlaw-1 No. 100 train set of clerestory-roofed yellow passenger coaches with forward-facing seats, made famous on the park's opening day broadcast, were gradually retired from service because other trains would stack up behind it due to loading delays of disembarking/embarking guests via the narrow end vestibules and isles, as well as dissatisfaction of guests seated on the left attempting to view the Grand Canyon (and in 1965, the Primeval World) dioramas thru the trainset's small windows, until they were completed retired in 1974 and stacked behind the Roundhouse. Coaches No. 101–105 were traded to Bill Norred in the 1990s for a locomotive that was refurbished and named the Ward Kimbal. The first Ward Kimball was found too heavy for bridges on the Disneyland line and was sent to Walt Disney World, where it was unable to pull the heavier trains, then traded to Cedar Point for a more suitable locomotive, the Maud L which was refurbished as the second Ward Kimball (see Locomotives above.)

Combine, Walt's favorite "world's newest old train car", was the combination of passenger coach with baggage compartment in front, No. 101. Bill Norred's family who traded a locomotive for the No. 101–105 coaches then sold all but one to the Pacific Coast Railroad (tourist) which found the combine unsuitable for revenue service. After Bill died, his family knew it was a historically significant car and was concerned about its long-term survival and arranged to transfer ownership. The combine now belongs to the Carolwood Foundation, has been restored both operationally and cosmetically and is displayed next to Walt's Barn at public viewings hosted by the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, who has built an enclosure to display the combine with her well preserved original seats, decor and all of her original props. Although labeled with "Wells Fargo Express" and "U.S. Mail", it never was used as a railway post office, but it was equipped with a strong box. The car was Walt's favorite because it brought back pleasant memories of his youth on the Missouri Pacific as a candy, tobacco and news butch, where he would spend time reading H. G. Wells' The Time Machine, Audubon's Birds of America or Wild Life of America, and would occasionally climb over the tender to bring the fireman and engineer apples from his family orchard to be rewarded with lessons about steam locomotives.[44]

Interior of the DRR's Lilly Belle parlor car.

The Grand Canyon Observation Coach No. 106 remained at the Disneyland roundhouse, where the crew refitted her as a private parlor car in bright red shiny lacquer livery, gold leaf letter-boards and delicate pinstripe pillar decoration, with a lavish interior (pictured) of rich Tibetan Mahogany paneling, red plush velvet chairs and love seats, fancy carpet, an ornate beveled glass mirror, gold fringed red velvet drapes, a coat rack with Walt's smoking jacket and antique marble tables supporting three of Walt's favorite books and an intimate portrait of Walt with the car's namesake, his wife Lillian - then rechristened the Lilly Belle. No. 106 Lilly Belle is not a presidential coach, but its first official passenger was Japanese Emperor Hirohito. It is usually added at the end of a holiday train. On rainy days the car is uncoupled to remain in the carbarn to avoid guests spoiling the carpet with their wet shoes, as well as to avoid spoiling the paintwork. Members of Club 33 are permitted to ride unescorted aboard the Lilly Belle with their guests at any time, other guests must be escorted by a Disneyland cast member. During the Year of a Million Dreams promotion, random guests were chosen to experience a Grand Circle journey from Main Street aboard the Lilly Belle. Patient guests could inquire with the Main Street stationmaster about experiencing a journey aboard the Lilly Belle, there were up to 4 Lilly Belle excursions each operating day. In March 2014, the coach was restricted to Club 33 members, VIP tours, and celebrities. No reason was given.[45]


Railroad crew[edit]

Conductor riding the DRR.

Each train is manned by four Disney "cast members": two conductors, an engineer, and a fireman. The engineer is charged with operation of the locomotive and the fireman is responsible for maintaining the fire as well as water level in the boiler.

The conductors are responsible for the operation and safety of each station and the trains. Duties as station attendants involve passenger counts, answering questions and assisting passengers. While on the train the conductor runs the spiel box and makes safety announcements (narration is left up to a recorded voice). Trains cannot move without approval from the conductor. The conductors work in rotation.


Early in the morning the first crew arrives at the enginehouse to get the first train ready to depart. The maintenance crew will mark on the board which trains are to be used and the order in which they are to be removed from the enginehouse.

The first crew will prep and take out the first train listed. Safety and readiness checks are performed by the conductor as the engineers and firemen prepare the locomotive for a day of operation. The conductor, who is in charge of the train and its motion, inspects the track and arrangement of the switches in the yard outside of the roundhouse to ensure safe passage out of the enginehouse to the park.

Once the boiler has reached working pressure and the engineers are ready to go, they will signal using the forward motion whistle (two short whistles). After a reply from the conductor's buzzer (two short buzzes) recognizing the whistle signal, the train will proceed into the park.

In the morning, the roundhouse operating engineers will test the safety systems on the train. The main tests include intentionally popping the safety valves. The safety valves are set to release excess steam to avoid going above the boiler's maximum working pressure. After the first train is on the line, the second is not far behind. As this is going on, other conductors arrive at the stations in the park and prepare for the trains' arrival.

In service[edit]

When the park opens, the first train departs from Main Street Station. The second will be just behind. Typically, three trains are used daily, with a fourth sometimes coming out on busy days later in the morning.

Each lap around Disneyland should be completed in approximately 20 minutes. This timing is established and maintained by the first train. The second and third trains keep up with the first train as much as possible. The goal is to have the first train at Main Street Station on the hour and at :20 and :40 past. If a trains falls behind, it needs to catch up (or drop behind a lap) to get the first train to the top of the hour. This is necessary to meet the park's scheduled closing procedures.

Block signals[edit]

The DRR railroad featured trackside block signals along the line which resemble a typical traffic signal with two lights, red above green, which indicated to the engineers and conductor position of the trains on the system by proximity of the train ahead. Since 2004 in-cab signaling, colored lights in the cab near the engineer, inform the crew of the status of the track ahead. Before the in-cab block signal, there were ten block signals along the track. Now, four remain. One at each station.

The lights typically change in this order in both directions: Green <--> Yellow/Green <--> Red <--> Yellow/Red

In a three-train operation the conductors will not allow the train to proceed on a yellow/green signal. This keeps the trains spaced for more consistent service in the stations and prevents the train from having to stop in between stations. In a four-train operation conductors can move trains on the yellow/green signal. This is because there will almost always be a train in the second block ahead. Due to the lack of one more coach set, five-train operations aren't possible as the Retlaw I coaches were sold.

The Disneyland trackside signals, no longer the primary block indication, operate unlike most other railroads. On most railroads the signals change red as soon as the block is occupied, so once the locomotive trips the signal, the rest of the train will see that they are entering a red block. At Disneyland, this is instead represented by a flashing green, indicating zero approach to the crew while not upsetting the guests with an apparent safety violation.

Observant guests at New Orleans Station can know when the train is about to approach even before the announcement or bell by keeping an eye on the vintage semaphore as it starts to change from green/up to red/down.

Whistle signaling[edit]

Communication has always been the primary purpose of signaling whistles and horns. While the train is operated as a team, the conductor is ultimately responsible for its safety, and so is in command with the final say regarding train operation. On the DRR, engineers use the whistle to communicate intent. The conductors indicate the same patterns by pressing a button wired to a bell in the locomotive cab. At stations the conductor signals it is safe for the train to proceed by calling aloud "All aboard!" Although in later years, the conductor would stand on the rear of the observation car and tell the guests that the train is ready for departure. Engineers will acknowledge by signaling with two short whistles. The conductor then alights his running board and keys confirmation with two short button presses. The common whistles on the DRR are:

  • One Short – Attention
  • Two Shorts – Forward Movement
  • Three Shorts – Reverse Movement
  • One Long – Stop Immediately / Emergency stop
  • One Long, One Short – Approaching a Station
  • One Long, Two Shorts – Crew spotted along track (also used as a general greeting)
  • Five Shorts – Shave and a haircut
  • Two Longs, One Short, One Long – Public Crossing ahead
  • Two Longs, One Short – Meeting Point (junction)
  • Four Longs – Train in distress

The train bell is rung upon the train's arrival towards a station as well as on the approach to a crossing. As with the whistle, the bell being rung is an official and mandatory signaling sequence. This system is also used at the Walt Disney World Railroad. Strangely, the bell is not rung when departing a station, which is required by Federal Railroad Administration regulations. In addition to federal regulation, another form of greeting is signaled by exchange of whistles when the Mark Twain Riverboat is sighted from along the banks of the Rivers of America - "Shave and a Haircut" by the first, and "two bits" by reply, and occasionally responded in kind by the second and "two bits" reply.


When a train is going out of service, all guests can ride back to Toontown where the conductors will then notify the guests that the train is being taken off the line.

At park closing however, the conductors announce the departure of the last train, also known as the "Sweeper Train". All guests can ride until the train arrives back at Main Street station. Once back at Main Street, the conductors walk the length of the train to ensure that there are no passengers remaining and any items accidentally left behind are unloaded to the station attendants and brought to lost and found. This procedure is the same for all the trains.

After the train is cleared for departure, the conductor will signal the engineers with the forward movement signal. Then the train departs for the switch past It's a small world. When the train is visible by backstage, the driver will blow 3 shorts (or longs). Once a train passes the switch it stops. One of the conductors will jump off the train and throw the switch to allow the train to back to the roundhouse.

At this point the engineer relies on the conductor to guide the train to back towards the Roundhouse. This continues until the train is backed completely into the roundhouse. Another conductor will throw the switch back to allow another train to leave if one or more remain; otherwise the switch is left where it is.


After closing, the trains get refueled with biodiesel and have their throttle locked so no one can move them. They also place wheel chocks on the drivers so they can't roll away. The trains will then get cleaned and get TLC. The night maintenance crew checks every bit of the locomotives and consists from the battery operating the sound system to the wheels, to the brakes, and to the look. No train will ever be left outside the facility because routine maintenance is performed nightly.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Surviving Steam Locomotives in California". Steamlocomotive.com. June 28, 2016. Archived from the original on June 28, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  2. ^ "#Disneyland60…..Today In Disneyland History…..August 3, 1960". Disney Gals. August 3, 2014. Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  3. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 131.
  4. ^ a b Broggie 2014, pp. 390–392.
  5. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 31.
  6. ^ Amendola 2015, p. 138.
  7. ^ a b "Disneyland trains running on oil from chicken and fries". Orange County Register. January 28, 2009. Archived from the original on January 19, 2017. Retrieved January 19, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Star Wars Disneyland Construction Begins In January 2016". /Film. September 25, 2015. Archived from the original on April 24, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  9. ^ "Disneyland Railroad and Rivers of America Attractions to Reopen Summer 2017 at Disneyland Park". Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. July 28, 2016. Archived from the original on November 2, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  10. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 17.
  11. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 355.
  12. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 35.
  13. ^ Amendola 2015, pp. 16–17.
  14. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 36.
  15. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 44.
  16. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 45.
  17. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 99.
  18. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 109.
  19. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 112.
  20. ^ a b Broggie 2014, pp. 123–127.
  21. ^ "Walt's Barn". The Carolwood Society. October 23, 2016. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  22. ^ Broggie 2014, pp. 167–171.
  23. ^ Broggie 2014, pp. 179–180.
  24. ^ Barrier 2007, p. 219.
  25. ^ a b c Broggie 2014, pp. 193–195.
  26. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 273.
  27. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 220.
  28. ^ Broggie 2014, pp. 226–227.
  29. ^ Trahan 2005, p. 30.
  30. ^ "Welcome to the Disneyland Railroad Grand Canyon Diorama Tribute". Grandcanyondiorama.com. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Disneyland's Indiana Jones and the Lost Expedition - What Could Have Been?". Theme Park Tourist. September 11, 2012. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  32. ^ "Disneyland Refurbishment Schedule". TouringPlans.com. November 10, 2016. Archived from the original on November 10, 2016. Retrieved January 12, 2017. 
  33. ^ Castro, Andy. "Springtime is in bloom at Disneyland with spring break crowds, color and changes.". Dateline Disneyland. MiceChat. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  34. ^ "Fantasyland Depot at Yesterland". Yesterland.com. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  35. ^ Amendola 2015, pp. 139–147.
  36. ^ "Running Disneyland's steam engines". Orange County Register. June 2, 2010. Archived from the original on November 2, 2013. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Disneyland's trains save money by switching to used french fry oil". AOL. February 2, 2009. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved January 18, 2017. 
  38. ^ "SCSRA Newsletter, Summer 2006" (PDF). Scsra.org. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  39. ^ "SCSRA Newsletter, Spring 2007" (PDF). Scsra.org. Retrieved September 20, 2013. 
  40. ^ http://www.scrpa.net/RRDAYS2008/RRDAYS.pdf
  41. ^ http://www.scsra.org/library/hotrail/hotrail-spr13.pdf
  42. ^ http://www.cityoffullerton.com/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=1799
  43. ^ Broggie 2014, p. 197.
  44. ^ "Mice Chat: Steve DeGaetano Walt's Favorite". Miceage.micechat.com. Retrieved January 26, 2012. 
  45. ^ "Dateline Disneyland - 17 March 2014". MiceAge. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 


Further reading[edit]

  • DeGaetano, Steve (2015), The Disneyland Railroad: A Complete History in Words and Pictures (2nd ed.), Theme Park Press, ISBN 978-1-941-50056-9 
  • DeGaetano, Steve (2015), The Ward Kimball: The Story of Disneyland Engine No. 5 (2nd ed.), Theme Park Press, ISBN 978-1-941-50058-3 

External links[edit]