Sunday, October 12, 2014

Frontierland, July 1967

It's a triple-header today! "What do you mean by that, Major Pepperidge? Have you been drinking again?". (No I haven't). It means that you get three photos for the price of one… but it's a cheat, because none of them are super amazing. 

With "Pirates of the Caribbean" having opened in March of '67, the summer months of that year must have been koo-koo bananapants. Look at how crowded the Mark Twain is! It looks like a Tokyo subway car. 

By golly, even the Columbia is heavily infested. The sails on this vessel are almost never seen unfurled, is that due to the fact that it was laborious, or did the management feel that the sails blocked too much from view? Perhaps it was a little bit of both.

What's not laborious is the canoes. Because I just sit there like a lump and make everyone else do all the work. It makes me feel like a king! And not one of those lame kings ("Mattress King") either, a cool one (Elvis). 

It would be remiss of me to not mention lovely Cascade Peak, which looks so nice here.


Nanook said...


For me, when I think of 'Kings', it's always Paul, the King of Big Screens-! After all - if he says so himself: " I am the King-!" And who am I to argue-?

Perhaps a 'tasteful' crown atop Cascade Peak would be just the finishing touch it seems to be lacking. (Awright - perhaps a large sash).

Thanks, Major - and avoid those crowds-!

K. Martinez said...

If Cascade Peak were still around today, it would be diminished by the overgrown trees along the Rivers of America.

Connie Moreno said...

Very nice shots and I don't think I ever paid much attention to the sails of the Columbia. Now I'm gonna keep my eyes peeled for them every time I visit Disneyland.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I heard that guy's commercials for years. Wonder if he's still around? Cascade Peak does need a crown - a big gold crown. And the peak itself should be purple and pink.

K. Martinez, it was sort of getting that way toward the end anyway. "Mr. X" told me he used to call Operations and complain about some of the trees that were blocking the view!

Connie, my bet is that you aren't going to see much in the way of sails on the Columbia!

Chuck said...

I remember reading somewhere (maybe comments on GDB?) that the Columbia's sails were originally rigged so that they would automatically shift with the wind as the ship changed direction.

A perusal of the pictures of the Columbia over the years on Davelandweb shows a variety of ways the sails were furled or unfurled. The majority - even in the early days - show the sails fully furled, although sometimes the topgallants (the topmost sails), jibs (the triangular sails at the bow), and spanker (the triangular sail at the stern) are fully unfurled and catching the wind. The partially-furled layout in your photo is one of the more visually spectacular I've seen.

The most-unfurled photo I found is this 1973 picture from Daveland: Note how the wind is blowing into the sails from the front; if the Columbia actually relied on windpower for propulsion, there is no way she'd be moving forward from this point. Also note that the course sails are still partially furled; my guess is that this was to avoid blocking guests' view of Cascade Peak and the other sights along the Rivers of America.

The most recent pictures show a hint of wrapped canvas on the topgallant and topsail yards (the horizontal spars the sails hang from) and nothing at all on the course sail spars (,

I have several theories as to why the sails are gone today. Flapping sails wear out more quickly than furled ones, which lead to higher maintenance costs. Operating rigging takes some fairly specialized training, and that may have contributed to today's sail-less condition. Current CalOSHA and Disneyland safety rules probably would preclude cast members from climbing the rigging to furl or unfurl the sails without some anachronistic safety gear. That said, I'm going to guess that the most likely reasons for ditching the sails altogether is that they get in the way of the performers in the "Peter Pan" segment of "Fantasmic!"

Chuck said...

I found the source of the information that the Columbia originally had self-tacking sails - this outstanding, multi-part article by author, blogger (and occasional GDB commenter) Steve DeGaetano: He also confirms that the sails were eliminated due to rigging conflicts with "Fantasmic!"

His detailed article on the Columbia - both the original ship as well as the Disneyland replica - is definitely worth a read, as are both of his books about the Disneyland Railroad - "Welcome Aboard the Disneyland Railroad" (currently out of print, but I'm hoping...) and "From Plantation to Theme Park: The Story of Disneyland Railroad Engine No. 5, the Ward Kimball" (which I am proud to own a personally-autographed copy of).

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, self-tacking sails, I've never heard of such a thing! Or if I have, I've forgotten about it, since when do I need to retain information about sailing?! ;-)

I'm amazed that they went to the trouble to put such a system on the Columbia, since it basically runs on rails and it motorized. I guess Walt was a stickler for details and wanted it to look right. I'd love to see footage of the sails actually changing as the boat moved!

I am sure that the main reason you don't see the sails unfurled is money (same with the old Pirate Ship). They will decay in the SoCal sun and smog, and it is a lot of work to deal with them every day. Why pay employees to do something that most guests probably never gave a second thought to?

I do wonder if, during the times when the sails were unfurled, if they actually hindered the progress of the ship? That's a lot of sail area, and a good wind can really be powerful.

Thanks for doing all of the research! You did better than me by about a million times. I have that "Welcome Aboard (etc)" book… Steve DeGaetano has said that he would like to print a revised edition, and asked my permission to use some of my photos.

Chuck said...

I was wondering the same thing about the sails slowing down the ship. I was also wondering if it made the ship list, but Steve's article explains that the ship was ballasted from the start to counteract that possibility.

That's great news about the pending revised edition of "Welcome Aboard," and I think it's a great tribute to your archival collection that he wants to publish some of your pictures! The only places I've been published are a few local, internal military news publications, my personal Facebook page, and here at GDB.