Friday, February 13, 2015

Frontierland Station & the E.P. Ripley, 1956

Much like Darth Vader, today's vintage slides (circa 1956) were definitely on the dark side. But that's OK, because they are still awesome! (Just like Darth).

I love this first one, with a neat detail of Frontierland's old, original train station. I can't tell if those people are actually doing some sort of transaction at that window (presenting their "E" tickets), or if they are just looking through. My guess is the latter. Unlike Main Street Station, Frontierland Station was relatively tiny; even those last folks in line will probably hop on board the next train. 

The widths of the individual letters on that "Frontierland" sign seem a bit wonky, but that gives it a lot of charm. And speaking of charm, there is one of the beautiful yellow passenger cars to our right! It's just waiting at the platform for us.

I thought that the E.P. Ripley (not the "Fred Gurley" as I originally - stupidly - said… thanks Chuck!) generally was supposed to stop at the Main Street Station, while the C.K. Holliday (the "freight train") would stop at Frontierland. Maybe this was after they abandoned that practice, although you can still see the parallel tracks here. That raw lumber hasn't had much time to darken, giving this area the appearance of a newly-built prairie town. And that locomotive! Lovely.


Nanook said...


The guests were not likely trafficking in 'E' Tickets back in '56, but either way, these pics are really swell.

Thanks, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Cold and dreary skies, bad kerning on the Frontierland sign, unaged lumber and brand new shining locomotives. I'd say these are perfect for friday the 13th. Very rare views, thanks for posting.

Steve DeGaetano said...

I believe you actually did buy your ticket at the station window. Main Street has similar windows, unused today.

Major--don't forget there was only one water tower on the line, at Frontierland. If the Ripley didn't take a drink once in a while, she would have gone "boom!"

Steve DeGaetano said...

Actually, the water tank support structure, with a dangling spout counterweight, is visible to the left of the Ripley.

Chuck said...

In 1956, the trains were still making the full non-stop loop from either Main Street or Frontierland, only making essential stops for water (as Steve mentioned) or tied-up damsels on the tracks (which I'm sure he meant to mention but slipped his mind).

Also consider that the passing tracks were only used when the other train was stopped at a station to load passengers or take on water. Since No 1 and its freight train aren't stopped in the station, there's no need to use the siding.

Depending on when the photo was taken, you could have used either a "C" coupon or a "D" to ride the SF&DRR; "D" coupons were introduced in August of '56. You also could have bought a special SF&DRR ticket at either depot; these were discontinued in March/April of '58 when the Tomorrowland station opened, the Fred Gurley and the Excursion Train debuted, and the operating scheme changed to each train stopping at each station.

I have a vague memory of interacting with a person in the ticket booth at the Main Street depot as a lad in the '70's. I can't remember if we bought a ticket or if the person took a ticket; maybe I'm confusing it with something else.

Thanks for some fun photos this morning, Major!

Anonymous said...

What year was the station moved to the far side of the tracks?

Steve DeGaetano said...

The station was first moved in March, 1956, about 20 feet westward. The platform covers were added at this time. The move across the tracks took place in 1962.

Originally, the station was position very near the present-day entrance to the Blue Bayou!

The picture of the Ripley tells me it's VERY cold out; the engine's roof hatch is shut, and the front window is closed.

Chuck said...

So the first photo must have been taken in March of '56 or earlier, then.

K. Martinez said...

Here's one of my favorite YouTube videos from Disney History Institute. It contains footage of the early Main Street passenger train and Frontierland freight train. It also contains great footage of both trains bypassing each other at that respective stations.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Exactly. I think we can safely say this is the winter of 1956.

That un-aged wood was typical of the station. Notice the barbed wire strung from it! Interestingly, the cattle cars of the train were boarded using cattle ramps like you'd find in stock pens--the cars didn't have steps!

It was a certainly a different time back then.

Tom said...

The things I learn here, like the fact that the original station used to be just about where Blue Bayou is... had to go look at a few aerial shots to see for myself, and yes indeed it did! It's amazing how much they shifted the train tracks, bending out that curve and giving a bit more room not only to Adventureland but to Frontierland.

I always figured they just moved the original station back a few feet. Nope!

Steve DeGaetano said...

It also gained 5 feet in elevation!

Chuck said...

The station's original location are one explanation why sales figures for both the Blue Bayou and Club 33 are practically nonexistent prior to the depot's move to its current site.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, you are right…. that's what happens when I am in a mad rush to write a whole bunch of posts in one night! Accuracy goes right out the window.

Alonzo, I wonder if that lettering is based on some historical train sign font? Some letters are so narrow, others oddly wide, making for a funky look.

Steve DeGaetano, it's true, they used those special train tickets for years; and I didn't even think about the train stopping for water! D'oh.

Chuck, I think I am going to have to scan and post some of my vintage Disneyland train tickets; they've been seen on Vintage Disneyland Tickets, but hey, I can post them too! I wonder how the tracks were switched when one train had to pass another… was it automatic? Did somebody have to push a button? Or was there actually a person who had to pull a giant lever like in old movies?

Anon, smarter people than me have answered your question!

Steve DeGaetano, you mention the platform covers, which I don't see here… does that mean that these are pre-March '56? Interesting detail about the window and hatch being closed.

Chuck, ha ha, you picked up on the same thing!

K. Martinez, I have seen that video, it is great!

Steve DeGaetano, the whole cattle car idea is so funny; I get what Walt was thinking, but I am glad I don't have to stand when riding the train today. Especially when it occasionally jolts to a stop.

Tom, it IS surprising that they had to move the station so far after the park had only been open a year. How many other parks would have gone to the trouble? "Ah, it's good enough! Leave it be!".

Steve DeGaetano, was the gain in elevation done for a reason? Did the train have to pass over something (an access tunnel, perhaps)?

Chuck, yes, I guess that would explain it!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Yes Major, this is most likely Winter 1956.

About "jolting to a stop:" Ward Kimball expressed that same concern to Walt directly. "What happens when the engineer slams on the brakes and people pile up at one end of the car?" Walt's response? "Oh, they won't do that. We'll be very careful." Walt's childlike innocence really comes through here.

Not sure why the change in elevation. I think that's just the natural topography.

Oh, and one last thing: I know you know this, but the engine is the E.P. Ripley, not the Fred Gurley. The mad rush struck twice!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Oops! Never mind...I see you made the correction!

Nanook said...

@ Alonzo P. Hawk-

Buried within this bushel basket-full of additional SF&DRR info, (thanks to all), you buried The Word of the Day: kerning. Thanks.

Steve DeGaetano said...

The picture of the Ripley also exposes another Disneyland myth that's been around for a while--that the trains of the Disneyland Railroad ride "on top of" the Berm. They really only do this in a couple of places; mostly, they ride "inside" the Berm--as can clearly be seen here.

Major Pepperidge said...

Steve DeGaetano, I am sure I read that story before… maybe in your book? And yes, my dumb error was corrected; usually I am so careful, I hate it when I do things like that.

Nanook, even if the kerning was great, the sign would look "off"… the letter widths are too varied.. it gives it that "This sign was painted by the local barber" quality.

Steve DeGaetano, I am assuming that most people don't think about it when they are on the train because the seats face inward (toward the park). But it is a good point!