Thursday, July 04, 2013

Knott's Ghost Town, October 1967

Happy 4th of July, 'mericans! Today we're going to walk through Knott's Berry Farm's Ghost Town.

Over on School Road, we are not troubled much by other visitors. Where is everybody? I guess that in those days, October was truly the off-season. As always, the eucalyptus trees add a lovely backdrop. Hey, what's that in the distance?

Ordinarily you would probably see one of the big locomotives at the end of the street (and you still can just see one), but the interesting detail is the genuine San Francisco cable car. I had no idea that these went through this part of the park.

Still on School Road, we are near the Ghost Town Gunshop and the Grist Mill. Somehow these buildings manage to look neat and tidy even in their ghost-towny state.

And lastly, a final, somewhat murky scene of a nearly-desreted square near the Blacksmith's shop and the General Merchandise store. I see a sign on the tree to our right, any idea what it says?


K. Martinez said...

Happy 4th of July!

I love the first photo with the lamppost in the foreground. It's perfect. There's something about Knott's Berry Farm and eucalyptus trees together in the same scene. That's quite a stack of hair (beehive?) on the woman entering from the left. Extra nice set of Knott's photos today.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Chuck said...

Did you know that the 4th of July is observed on the same day in England as it is in the US?

Great photos today, Major. I especially like the cable car in an unexpected location. I don't think that's a locomotive in the background, however - it looks like one of the D&RGW passenger cars.

I never rode or even saw the cable cars at Knott's, even though I visited in the early 70's. Does anyone know how they powered them? In San Francisco, they move by locking on to a cable moving at a constant rate just under the street surface. Did they have a similar system at Knott's or did they just add infernal combustion motors and drive trains?

Chuck said...

Okay, take two on this post. My first attempt disappeared into the ether...which is okay, because I did some research and answered my own question.

Love these Knott's pictures, Major! I particularly enjoyed seeing the Cable Car in an unfamiliar location. Rather than a locomotive, the rolling stock behind in appears to be one of the DGR&W passenger cars.

I was curious as to how they powered these things at Knott's. In San Francisco, their motive power comes from clamping on to a constant-speed cable that runs just under the street level, but it appears that at Knott's they had battery-powered electric motors installed (see for more info...and I see that you had the same question as I did in 2011).

I have read elsewhere that the cable cars serviced the east parking lot. Were all of the track segments interconnected? That would make sense to allow Knott's to use one maintenance facility for all of its rail equipment, assuming that the cable cars were re-gauged to a 3 ft wheelbase from the original 3 ft 6 in gauge they would have had in San Francisco.

I found a circa 1956 picture of the cable cars being refurbished at Knott's ( Does anyone recognize this particular corner of the park?

Nancy said...

love summer holidays....Happy 4th of July! :-)

ghost towns are always cool, and this one is really nice IMO. I like the trolley car, to. the colors are so warm, just like the Old West would have been. were there ride-type attractions here or just the shops?

at the park here in Pgh where I grew up having our school picnics, West View Park (closed in 1977 :( ...) they had a walk-thru called Boot Hill which was a favorite of many.

thanks for the nice pictures today!! :-)

Chuck said...

Here's a video from the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA, describing the cable cars they inherited from Knott's:

The video describes the cable car they have that ran at the park as being 3 ft 6 in gauge (the same as the LA Street Railway). I'm not sure if that would have been how they ran them at Knott's or if the museum restored it back to the original gauge. If it stayed 3 ft 6 in at Knott's, that would have required dual-gauge track for them to run them on the same right of way as the 3 ft gauge D&RGW & RGS steam and motor coach equipment that manages to get robbed each and every time it runs.

Multi-gauge track isn't an impossibility (the museum has triple-gauge track in places to handle the various standards that their collection was built to) but it is more expensive to maintain and seems cost-prohibitive for a theme park installation of the 1950s. Perhaps they had it in the maintenance yard area only.

If you live in or are visiting Southern California and haven't visited the Orange Empire Railway Museum, I highly suggest a visit if you have any interest at all in trains. They have an extensive collection of streetcars, particularly from the LA Street Railway "Yellow Car" and Western Electric "Red Car" fleets. Disney folks visited the museum as a reference for both the prop streetcar used in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" as well as for the Red Cars recently installed at DCA.

Additionally, they have Disney Animator Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats Railroad his collection of full-size narrow-gauge equipment that he used to operate in his backyard. A good collection of GFRR photos can be found on the museum's website (, including pictures of the Kimballs operating the extremely short line.

Note the Grizzly Flats Station, built to the design of the station used in "So Dear to My Heart" and using the original windows, door, and roof from the movie set, given to Ward by Walt. GDB and DL regulars will recognize it as the prototype design for the Frontierland/New Orleans Square station, built after Walt initially asked Ward if he would be willing to give the station back.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, that woman isn't fooling me, she is smuggling a bottle of booze in her hair. I don't know about you, but I am looking forward to some BBQ tonight, and maybe a few sparklers.

Chuck, this is so weird about your comment disappearing. It showed up in my email (I have blogger send comments to my gmail account), so I saw what you wrote, anyway! Yes, it is the 4th of July in England too, only they probably call it Pudding Day.

And I agree, that looks like the rolling stock at the end of one of the Knott's trains (guess they didn't have a caboose?). To tell the truth, I never really got how the cable cars worked even in San Fran. I had a general idea, but the "clamping on" part is what fascinates me. Love the picture of the refurb, I definitely do not recognize that area.

Nancy, there was the full-sized train, stagecoaches, the Log Ride, and the Calico Mine Train, and nearby there was the miniature car ride. I might be forgetting something at the moment.

Chuck again, thanks for the link to the video. I am very puzzled by the appearance of the cable car, it almost HAS to be on the RR track, the cable car track only parallels the train track much further up the path. We'll need the help of somebody much more knowledgeable than me. I would love to go to the Orange Empire Railway Museum, thought it would be at least an 90 minute drive on a good day (I don't even want to think about a bad day!). Maybe I'll just have to grit my teeth and do it! I have always wished that I could have seen Ward Kimball's trains and toy collection, this is the closest I'll ever get.

outsidetheberm said...

Okay, Major, that is one strange shot you have there of the Cable Car. The railroad and the Cable Cars were on two separate track systems. Their maintenance yards were far from each other, as well. The Cable Car shop would have been behind Old MacDonald's Farm, while the railroad's maintenance building (during the sixties) would have been toward the southwest section of the park. Perhaps this is a temporary display. Pretty darn neat!

And the sign on the tree would be a species designation. Most of the larger trees and shrubs on the farm had identifiers for curious tourists. Each would carry a short description along with the species' Latin name, as well. This looks to be a Blue Gum - and the first line on the sign probably indicates as much.

Great shots today! Have a happy fourth - and brave the traffic to the Orange Empire Museum someday. It's worth the drive!

Major Pepperidge said...

outsidetheberm, thanks for your input! It almost looks as if the cable car is up on a flat car... what do you think? Doesn't it look like it is higher off the ground than it would be if it was just sitting on tracks (or whatever)? I have no idea why things would be set up this way if it is true!

Thanks also for the info about the signage. Walter Knott had the idea of labeling his plants before Walt Disney did!

Irene said...

What a fascinating post and comments today. The link to the Orange County Archives Flicker page took me down quite a rabbit trail. Great photos and explanations on some of them. I'm always fascinated by old photos of the way things used to be. Over on Facebook I "like" a page called Knotts Preserved and they recently posted photos and a history of the old Reflection Lake (RIP and boo to huge roller coasters!). Nice to hear the cable cars found a good home in Perris. I also have not been out there but hear such good things about it - I must go someday. I wish they had some kind of transport system from the Parking lot to the East of Knotts over to the entrance now days - quite a walk for an older person :)

outsidetheberm said...

Major, I thought the same thing. The cable car does seem to be 'riding high'. It might be on a platform of some type.

Following up on the Eucalyptus tree, I checked some of our slides here and found some of the trees variously labeled as 'Manna' and 'White Gum'. Perhaps your sign says the same.

Irene - Bud Hurlbut once proposed a transport system to that side of Beach Blvd. Unfortunately it was never built. Chris Merritt may have mentioned it on his great Knott's Preserved facebook page. If you do some digging you just might find it!

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Cool shots major. I like how Bouffant Betty is casually huffing a butt while strolling along. Good times.

SundayNight said...

Major and all, you must visit the Orange Empire Railway Museum. It’s worth the drive. I suggest you go on one of the special event days because they usually have more trains running on those days. I’ve taken a ride on a Red Car, Yellow Car and even in a caboose pulled my a steam locomotive. It was a blast and a real time travel experience to be riding the same cars that people in the 30s, 40s and 50s used daily. Bring your camera and have fun.

Anonymous said...

Major, the SF cable cars grip the moving cable under the street. The mechanism has a soft steel or iron "grip" in two pieces, on a lever that reaches below the street level into a trench where the always-moving cable can be "gripped", just like your hand grabbing a clothesline.

This pulls the car along at the pace of the cable. Makes for very jerky starts and stops.

There is a metal plate (rather two plates) over the trench in the street with a continuous slot so the grip can reach into it. Cars gripping the cable should go the same speed downhill as uphill, the speed of the cable. But if the grip slips...

The cable car emergency brake is a metal blade that can be jammed into this slot by means of another lever. The emergency blade is tapered to be thinner that the slot width at one end and much wider at the other. the harder the brake blade is pulled, the harder it is jammed into the slot until the car stops.

Cars stopped in this way have to be cut loose with a torch since they are literally welded in place by the friction of the car inertia. But it is a fail-safe method of stopping a heavy car on a steep hill.

The car operator is called the "gripman" since his only means of starting and stopping the car involves working the cable grip and plying the friction brakes (separate from the emergency brake).

The metal grip pads wear out frequently and require replacement, much like brake pads in your car.

These are very noisy and uncomfortable contraptions to ride.

I remember seeing the Knotts cable car, but don't recall riding it. Seems like it was in the Parking Lot only. We must have just walked in.


Dave said...

Great pics Major! And has many have said, make the trip to Perris. My late father took me there several times as a kid (I turn 50 in October), it was great then and I'm sure even better now. Keep posting the vintage KBF photos, I know one these days my Uncle Leon will show up!