Friday, May 08, 2015

Casey Junior, November 1955

I haven't posted anything from 1955 for quite a while, but I recently acquired a small batch of slides from November of Disneyland's first year (or half year). Knowing what I know today, it would be amazing to walk around the early park, still so rough around the edges, but full of so much promise.

This is a neat photo of one of the Casey Jr. Circus Trains, glowing in the late afternoon sunlight against an already-darkening sky. The trestle that Casey is crossing is still only roughed out in wood; it wouldn't be long until the timbers would be disguised to look like stone bridges. To our extreme right we can see a bit of the tent that housed the short-lived Mickey Mouse Club Circus. In the foreground, we can see the (empty) pond in which the Pirate Ship sat.

Man, that trestle doesn't look very sturdy! Creosote-dipped poles supported with cross-braced lumber; this would never pass inspection today. I don't see any steel, which surprises me. Even though it doesn't look very high from down here, it might have given riders a little twinge of vertigo.


Nanook said...


'So much promise', indeed-! Love that trestle - it seems so lonely. Some really fine images today.

Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

The trestle kinda reminds me of the one from the Carolwood Pacific in Walt's backyard, which was indeed designed to give riders a bit of a thrill.

It's probably a lot sturdier than it looks. Here's a couple of photos of a much larger, freestanding wooden trestle (in fact, it's the world's largest) over Goat Canyon east of San Diego carrying a much heavier train:

That such a relatively light, seemingly-fragile material can hold up such weight has something to do with the inherent strength of triangles, the supernatural powers of civil engineers, and MK ULTRA mind control experiments. I read all about it on the Interweb.

K. Martinez said...

The Casey Jr. Circus Train and Mickey Mouse Club Circus are definitely a thematic match.

The sturdiness looks fine to me, but it's the lack of toe room on the trestle if you had to exit the train at midpoint that makes it seem precarious. Eeeek! I assume Casey Jr. was and is "secured" to the track.

I would've loved to have been around to experience Disneyland in its infancy. Thanks for the "trip" back in time, Major.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

This attraction (as the whole park did) looks so sparce. It really did take a few years before the folliage had a chance to "fill in" the look of the park.

Some GDB'r must know did they take that original wooden trestle and just enclose it in the masonary one we have today or was it completely rebuilt.

Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

I wonder - Were there two CJR trainsets from the very beginning, or was a second trainset built as the park became more popular (and busy)?

Anonymous said...

Based on the first photo, there seems to be no "I Think I Can" chain lift hill. Was that not there at the beginning?

Anonymous said...

K Martinez - Yes, the trains are "secured" to the track. On all photos of the track, you'll see two inner rails (inverted steel angle), under which ride roller upstops.

Melissa said...

Of course I can never look at pictures like there without the perspective of 20/20 hindsight, so how can I ever be objective? But yeah, I see the optimism and potential, too! Maybe it's because the stuff that IS already there is so cute.

Melissa said...

One thing I'm pretty sure, of, though, is that Mr. Brownsuit's wife probably teased him about his wrinkled jacket whenever she looked at Picture #2! ;)

K. Martinez said...


In this July 18, 1955 photo there are two complete Casey Jr. Circus Trains parked in the station.

All: Here's the starting point to the L.A. Times wonderful B&W photos of Disneyland's opening day(s). Just click the "next" arrow to continue thru all 32 images.

K. Martinez said...


The "Think I Can" lift hill was there from the beginning. The image today is looking eastward away from it. Here's an image of the hill in a 1955 photo from the Daveland photo archive.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a change in Casey. Love these, Major. Thank you.

Pretty sure the present stone-appearing bridges are either concrete or steel with stone veneer, no wood.

@Chuck, engineers are generally very civil indeed, and anyone with mathematical skills is verging on supernatural powers, IMHO.

Actually, the distinction of civil engineering came about because the first engineering was military in nature, design of fortifications, walls, camps, moats, etc. "Civil" engineering became known as the branch that specialized in non-military or "civilian" projects such as temples (and later churches), aqueducts, bridges, dams, piers, etc.

A little engineering history today.


Patrick Devlin said...

Always entertaining, Major.

Thanks for the info on the hold-down rails,Anonymous; I always thought they were just guard rails to prevent derailments. You learn sumpin' every day.

With respect to the current state of the bridges: the original trestles are inside and the exterior is what Disney used all over the Park; that is, wood framing, steel mesh and stucco tooled to look like stone. Just like the Castle as seen here:

And as a bit of a fill-in about the Paint Pots from NWRR here's the article from Popular Mechanics that is a good read and also show the bridges at Storybook Land under construction:

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I really love these very early images. Wish I had more!

Chuck, you have to admit that the Goat Canyon trestle looks like it was built WAY better, with some solid engineering. That Casey Jr. trestle looks like something I would build! The 2 X 4’s look almost like scraps from the lumber yard. But I assume that the Disney folks knew what they were doing… it has survived this long without a mishap.

K. Martinez, I wonder if the train ever did break down on the trestle? It is possible that it could have been pushed (or pulled) by a few strong cast members, I guess.

Alonzo, you and I will both have to wait and see if somebody knows the answer to your question. My guess is that the original trestle was enclosed with the fake rock work, but I really don’t know.

Anonymous, I believe that there were two trains from the very beginning.

Anonymous #2, the “I Think I Can” hill was definitely there at the very beginning.

Anonymous #3, thanks for the info about the trains being secured to the track!

Melissa, it’s true, if they Imagineers had built terrible stuff afterwards, we wouldn’t be so optimistic. Poor Mr. Brownsuit can’t be blamed… those jackets just get wrinkly when you sit in them for too long (or on all kinds of weird conveyances at an amusement park).

K. Martinez, thanks for the documentation confirming the two trains! And for the daveland photo of the lift hill from ’55.

JG, I would like to believe that there is steel beneath the stone rock work… just think how decayed that 60 year-old wood would be by now! My dad had an engineering degree, as did some of his old college buddies… they would send each other emails with jokes about the way engineers did things!

Patrick Devlin, wow, thanks for the info about the trestles! Amazing that the old wood is still there. I wonder if it has ever been rebuilt, perhaps during the Fantasyland redo in 1983? Considering the problems they had with other wood framing (Cascade Peak), I would think that they would need to do *something* over the years. Thanks also for the link to the Popular Mechanics article, it’s a good one.