Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The E.P. Ripley, 1955

Today I am sharing a scan from a vintage black and white negative, featuring the E.P. Ripley - locomotive #2 on the Disneyland & Santa Fe Railroad. I am actually not 100% positive that this is from 1955 (as I said in the title), but am pretty sure that it is very early. Another negative from the same batch reinforces my guess, though you'll have to wait for that one.

A trusty security guard makes sure nobody sneaks in that tempting gap in the berm. Why, if I just threw a nickel over to our left, the guard would be sure to chase after it (after all, you could buy a modest home for a nickel in 1955), and we would have our opportunity to run past, ninja-style.

Notice the bunting on the combine - was this left over from opening day? 

Zooming in a bit, I was curious to know where this picture might have been taken; was there anyplace in the park where a guest could actually see the real world? Beyond the train tracks, a house (or something) is visible.

After an online search, I found this nice aerial view (undated, but early - notice the Phantom Boats). It seems to make sense that our photographer was standing approximately where that pink dot is, looking in the direction of the arrow. So... it was taken by somebody who had backstage access. Pretty cool! The arrow points right at the little house that is part of a small orchard.


K. Martinez said...

Wow!! I love photos like this. To have seen Disneyland from year one would've been so cool. What a wonderful photo of the E.P. Ripley. Thanks, Major.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Great photo Major! The engine is in motion (evidenced by the flying flags on the "pilot"), and the bell is ringing, indicating that it is moving over a grade crossing. Notice the little umbrella set up for the guard's "comfort."

I agree the bunting is from Opening Day.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

Great vintage photos of the DLRR. The true workhorse of the park. I just read the DLRR (since opening in 1955)has logged total miles equal to 250 round trips to the moon. That's alot of "All aboard!"

Chuck said...

Major, I think your location ID is spot-on.

It's interesting to note how quickly some of the land use changed around the Park. If you look at this Yesterland photo from July 15th, 1955 (, you see that there is a small trapezoid of agricultural land between this backstage gate and Harbor Blvd. By the time the aerial you posted was taken, that had been cleared and turned into parking.

The photo with the bunting shows at least two rows of cars, and if we assume that the bunting was from Opening Day, then that land was cleared withing a few days of July 17th, 1955. In fact, there is a large vehicle-sized object aligned with the western edge of that trapezoid in the 15 July picture that may very well be an earth-mover captured in the act of turning it into the parking lot visible in your post today.

Great set of images today, Major. It's always interesting to see photos of the Park before the Ink & Paint Department had a chance to colorize it.

Chuck said...

Your aerial also shows the original location for the Disneyland Heliport. It's the big open expanse in the lower center left, bordered by the berm, two parking lots, and Harbor Blvd. The large "V" marked the walkways passengers were to take boarding and exiting the aircraft; you can just make out the tiny terminal building at the top of the "V." You can see it better in this photo:

The heliport was moved south in 1957 when the DL&SFRR tracks were realigned for the addition of the Grand Canyon Diorama (,, and again to a larger facility with an indoor waiting area north of the Disneyland Hotel on the opposite side of W. Cerritos around 1960 (,

The heliport was marked on the Sam McKim Disneyland maps from 1958 until the 1972 edition (

Service was provided from LAX by LA Airways from 1956 until 1968, when it was suspended after two fatal crashes on the Disneyland route (, Note that the photo of the third location above shows the helicopter involved in the second crash. LA Airways ceased operations in 1969 and went out of business in 1971. Golden West Airlines briefly restored helicopter flights to Disneyland in 1972 before discontinuing service five months later.

There's almost a minute of LA Airways helicopter footage over and around Disneyland from approx 5:45-6:42 in this video:

I spent a fair amount of time flying as a passenger in civilian S-61's, the same kind of helicopter involved in both crashes, and they are a rough and noisy ride. Despite the discomfort, I would have jumped at the opportunity to fly directly to Disneyland.

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, the E.P. Ripley photo is definitely cool, and I had fun trying to find an aerial photo that would show just where the photographer was standing. I love these early views.

Steve DeGaetano, thanks for pointing out those details! I figured that the train was no stopped for the picture, but didn’t really pay attention to the bell and flags. Congrats on exceeding $10,000 on the Kickstarter!

Alonzo, that is a hell of a lot of miles, for sure. Pretty amazing for steam engines, even if they were built in the 1950’s. Just goes to show that with enough TLC, they can last practically forever.

Chuck, that is interesting about the changes in the parking lot area; I have no idea what the date is on the aerial photos that I shared. The Tomorrowland Boats opened on July 30th, so it is from after that, anyway. It does look like that trapezoid (in the Yesterland photo) is in the process of having blacktop laid down. By the way, my photo would have been better in color!

Chuck #2, I figured that the “V” had to do with the Heliport, since I’ve seen pictures of helicopters in that general area. Thanks for all of the awesome links! Oh my gosh, I would have LOVED to have been able to fly above Disneyland; especially in the early days. I could have easily used up a roll of film just on that. The only helicopter I’ve ever been in was on a trip to Alaska, when we went up to the Mendenhall Glacier. It was super cool!

Chuck said...

By golly, you're right, Major - that's not green agricultural land just getting bulldozed, it's cleared land being paved. And not a moment too soon, either - that Park's opening any minute!

I wonder how many usable pictures were taken of Disneyland from the air by passengers? I think LA Airways had front-facing seats, so they'd at least have a window seat (the ones I rode had center-facing, bleacher-style folding seats), but as shaky as those birds are and as limited as most consumer cameras and film speeds were back then, I can imagine a lot of blurred pictures. I know I had problems shooting clear pictures with a 2012-era consumer-grade digital point-and-shoot camera.

Wow - a helicopter ride over Mendenhall Glacier! That is sooo COOL!! (Pun not least, not initially.) I'd trade every helicopter ride I've ever had to do that. Well, every one except the flight over the Lompoc area and the Vandenberg AFB launch complex...and even then I still might give that one up.

Unknown said...

What a great way to wake up! That's some serious Disneyland fun looking at those shots, Major. First, the E. P. Ripley is my favorite loco and it's looking very business-like in its dark railroady colors. Great observation, Steve, re the bell ringing. And I love the fresh dirt of the berm, newly piled up.

Big props, Chuck, for some terrific research. I love the aerial movie shots you found. One thing jumped out at me: the alignment of the tracks through the Frontierland Station. The trains at the station were parked on a siding, not the main line as at Main Street. I'm just enough (Waaay enough) of a Disney geek to find this sort of thing interesting.

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing the helicopter over Disneyland. I don't remember ever seeing a heliport.


Steve DeGaetano said...

Alonzo, I believe that statistic about covering the distance of 250 round trips to the moon is, well, "out of this world!" And a bit of an exaggeration.

The moon is 239,000 miles away; a round trip is 478,000 miles. 250 round trips is 119,500,000 miles!

If Dl ran three trains a day for 15 hours a day for 365 days a year for 60 years (a very liberal number, considering all the days the RR has been closed, days only running two trains, etc.), that only comes to 4,423,800 miles.

Still, it is an amazing record. If the real railroads got ten years of service out of an engine, that was considered quite successful!

Chuck said...

Patrick - I'd never thought about that before, but you're right - the station was on a siding at Frontierland and on the main at Main Street. Interesting. I wonder if that was done for aesthetic reasons to make the Main Street station frontage a bit shorter (it would have to be wider if it were on a siding to accommodate the curves of the turnouts and still keep the train straight along the platform for loading and unloading).

I'm going to guess that film was shot in 1961 or early 62. There's no HM or POTC construction yet and the S-62 didn't enter service until '61.

I've noticed at the current Frontierland/New Orleans Square station that the right-of-way is wide enough for a siding, but there isn't one there ( I know there's no operational need for sidings anymore, yet I find it interesting that there was space left for that if needed. I wonder why they did that when the track alignment was expanded and the depot moved across the tracks with the Haunted Mansion and POTC "hole" construction in 1962.

This sounds like a question for Steve DeGaetano...

Steve DeGaetano said...

Chuck, even after the station and water tower in Frontierland were moved across the tracks, the siding was still in place for a time.

Steve DeGaetano said...

And interestingly, Chuck, the train in the picture above is on the main, with the siding unoccupied! Just like at Main Street, and opposition what the movie shows. And from where I sit, it almost looks like the train would have to take the siding to take on water--but maybe that's just weird perspective.

Unknown said...

Amazing early photo of the E.P. Ripley today! Coincidentally, I just saw what I believe is the same combine at the opening of the new Trains of Disneyland exhibit at Walt's Barn in Griffith Park this past weekend:

Nancy said...

always cool to see Disneyland in it natural state, before all of the hotels and what not grew up around it. things were just so simple then :-)

Steve DeGaetano said...

Brad, that is indeed the very same car!

Chuck said...

So there WAS a siding with the current track layout! I'd always wondered. Thanks, Steve!

Major Pepperidge said...

Chuck, I think I have two or three aerial photos that (not yet published on GDB) that were likely taken aboard the helicopter, and they are reasonably clear. While I would expect a certain amount of vibration on big whirlybirds like those, you’d think that, at some point, the public would be displeased by too much shaking. I would have been tempted to yell at the pilot and tell him to go around the park again! And yes, the Mendenhall Glacier was a big highlight of an already wonderful trip!

Patrick Devlin, why is the E.P. Ripley your favorite? Just curious! I kind of like the diamond stack on the C.K. Holliday, but I like them both. I do love the original colors, which were attractive, but still felt somewhat “real”, as opposed to bright, theme park colors.

JG, I’m not sure I ever saw the helicopter… I might have been too young to pay attention to such things.

Steve DeGaetano, ha ha, way to do the math! I just accepted the numbers, but you clearly showed how ridiculous they are. Live and learn. Hey wait, what if you factor in leap years?? (kidding)

Chuck (and Patrick), all of this minutiae about the sidings is right up my alley! I love that kind of thing. You guys are way more observant than I. I am downloading a copy of that neat YouTube video to keep!

Steve DeGaetano, great photo! Thanks!

Steve DeGaetano again, it seems that there were more changes to the tracks than I ever knew.

Brad Abbott, I think it is very cool that the combine can be viewed at Griffith Park… it’s like seeing an old friend. One of these days I’m going to have to go out there when the barn is open to the public.

Nancy, it is always very cool to see Disneyland in its infancy.

Steve, hooray!

Chuck, learning stuff like that is one of the things I especially enjoy!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Major, your detective work, using other photos, is amazing.

Unknown said...

Ah heck, Major, I love all those locomotives, but the Holliday and the Ripley (having been designed from the get-go as scale models of full-size engines) have the better lines. The tenders look full length and the boilers are longer and sport a taper just forward of the cab. Oh, and I love that dark railroad green. Plus I got my first tender ride aboard her. She's my favorite but there's plenty of love to go around for all.