Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Special Guest Mega-Post

Today we have a contribution from GDB pal JG (you know him from the comments!), who visited the park a few months ago, and took photos until his phone was much heavier from all of the extra pixels. The massive Star Wars Land construction has removed some options from a typical visit, but it has also added a few cool opportunities, of which many of us have not been able to take advantage. (I'm not sure if I've place JG's commentary exactly where he intended, but you should be able to follow along). And now, let's hear from JG (with my own additions in blue)!

As most of you know already, the DLRR has been shut down for over a year as part of the Star Wars Land construction, which required realignment of the railroad and the Rivers of America to make room for more Ewoks.

To provide some interest for visitors in this quiet period, Disney set up a static display of one of  the DLRR engines, the old Kalamazoo hand-car and several other exhibits about the DLRR.

I had a chance to visit the Park recently and this once-in-a-lifetime exhibit was one reason to brave the ever-larger crowds.  Since the GDB crowd seems to be keen on the railroads, I took these pictures partly with the blog in mind.  Hope everyone enjoys them.

I was most interested in the old station building, which I remembered from it's original position on the guest side of the track, it has been marooned on the far side ever since the opening of NOS.  This will probably be the last chance in my lifetime to see the old building up close.

A temporary deck was built across the tracks to provide safe access and a number of interpretive boards were put up under the baggage area of the station.  The first told of Walt's passion for trains. Another described some of the specialty cars that have been part of the DLRR over the years, including the Lily Belle, the Combine Car and the  Kalamazoo Hand-Car.  I don't remember the hand-car from childhood, but GDB commenters sure do, so I took several pics. More boards discussed the various railroads at the other Disney parks and displayed attraction posters from over the years.

These boards remind me of Michael Broggie's book, "Walt Disney's Railroad Story"... I wonder if he was involved in creating them?

Someday they're gonna give me a ride on the Lilly Belle as a V.I.P! Yes, I will be wearing a top hat and monocle.

I thought it was interesting that they devoted so much space to the combine, which can now be seen in Griffith Park.

There are the four WDW locomotives; compare and contrast them to their Disneyland cousins! I have never seen that "Santa Fe and Disneyland RR" sign or poster before.

The artwork in the upper left is familiar to me, but I was surprised to see that it is credited to Fred Joerger; I believe that he was famous for his models and sculpting, but I had no idea that he also did concept art.

Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland get a mention.

Hooray for posters! Thanks to the book, "Poster Art of the Disney Parks", I knew that the same basic design had been reused a number of times. But they left out the Disneyland Bicentennial version!

I'd like to think that lots of people actually read these signs and learned something about the history of railroads in the U.S.A.

The pointing hand shows the way to the telegraph office. Clickety click! I'm not sure what you would call that ornamental device that resembles a wheel, but it reminds me a bit of the Santa Fe Railroad logo, which was sometimes depicted at an angle.

Like this:

There was a nice model of a steam train boiler cut-away so we could see the internal works and some very lucky Cast Members whose jobs were to explain it all to the visitors.  

What a cool thing to include! I wonder if this was custom-made for this exhibit.

It's so strange to see guests walking right in front of the station!

I don't recognize the train that was set aside as the main event  but I'm confident someone will.  The shot of the cab interior is fascinating, but the valves and levers are Greek to me. Hopefully Steve DeGaetano will explain.

These photos show the Ernest S. Marsh, but I wonder if different locomotives were on display on different days?

One of the best parts of the whole affair was being able to take photos up and down the line from the center line of the track.  This part of NOS has always been fun, with the laundry flapping on the lines on the back stage buildings and the water tower, etc.  The only thing missing was the old Santa Fe logo to make my memory day complete.

What a treat to really be able to get a close look at this old locomotive, with its beautiful paint and gold leaf details. 

Where's the steering wheel? How am I supposed to play my 8-track tapes?

Here's a friendly staff member who can answer all your questions, including dumb questions about 8-track tape players.

There's the Kalamazoo Handcar, on the world's shortest railroad spur. If you only need to go 18 inches, you are in luck!

My tour of the exhibit ended with the Delta Ramblers playing on the station platform.  Then off to the Haunted Mansion.

All of this has now been dismantled in the run-up to the re-opening of the River and starting the train again.

And finally, JG included this final photo, along with a very nice note: I am enclosing one last photo from the end of the day.  I stopped at the Hearthstone Lounge in the Grand Californian for a nightcap.  Since I can't buy you a real drink, I'm sending you a virtual one.  Up to you whether you include this last one (or any of them, for that matter) on a family blog, but it's a toast to you and all our friends that make GDB so interesting.  It would be a grand party to have us all together at the Hearthstone.

Aw, thanks JG!

Until I read JG's text, I was not aware that this display of Disney railroad stuff has since been removed. It was definitely an experience that has never been available before (as far as I know), and I am grateful that JG was able to see it and share his photos with us. MANY THANKS to him!


Nanook said...


What can I say-??!! What a nice treat you provided for all of us. I'm uncertain just what got into the folks at DL, but what a grand effort to share all this DLRR goodness with its guests.

Thanks so much for taking these fine images and sharing them with the GDB-faithful. (Major - it almost goes without saying: Thank you, too-!)

Nanook said...


I suppose that "ornamental device resembling a wheel" is a corbel or modified porch bracket.

Scott Lane said...

So nice for JG to have taken the time to document this for us. Thanks for sharing, guys!

TokyoMagic! said...

What a wonderful report and a perfect follow-up to yesterday's post.

I had the chance to go over to the train station in the earlier part of last year, and saw one of the train engines (I'm not sure which one!) and the Kalamazoo Handcar, but they did not have any of those information boards set up at the station back then. That's nice (and surprising) that they did that!

Thanks for sharing these with us, JG and Major!

macpiper said...

Don't know exactly when it was created, but...I saw this same boiler display at the Fullerton Railway Days in May of 2012. The display was put on by the Disney folks. They also trucked in the Lilly Belle and the combo car rolling stock (#101) that day. I have pictures

Pegleg Pete said...

What a great post! Thanks for sharing, JG. And thanks, Major, for posting.

Chuck said...

JG, this is a wonderful collection of photos! I really wish I could have been there to see this in person (and measure the passenger depot and freight house). I have never been any closer to them than the left side of a passing coach.

Thanks so much for sharing, and I'll be happy to join you at the Hearthstone. I'll buy the first round.

Major, not sure what those doohickeys under the eaves are called, but they always reminded me of the AT&SF logo, too. I had assumed that was intentional, but looking at photos a moment ago apparently they are architectural details borrowed from the depot set from So Dear to My Heart that ended up at Ward Kimball's and is now at the Orange Empire Railway Museum.

And until Steve checks in, I'll take a stab at explaining all that stuff on the boiler backhead in the cab.

The green knobs control the flow of "good" water, while the red ones regulate the "bad" water. By carefully tracking the mix on the fluctuometer (the dial on the top right), the crew can keep the engine's system in "lawful neutral" for effective operations.

The long, angled rod below the fluctuometer is called the "crowbar." It's used to drives crows away from the cab windows. Birdstrikes at running speeds can prove disastrous.

The dial next to the fluctuometer is the mickemeter, used to gauge how much fun the passengers are having. This is probably the single most important instrument in the cab, as it measures not just passengers' enjoyment on that particular train but the total joy factor in the entire Park.

Directional sensors (aimed to the right side of the train) are mounted on each coach set, scanning relative happiness as they make their Grand Circle Tour of Walt Disney's magic Kingdom. Mickemeter readings are beamed from a radio concealed in the locomotive's sand dome to an antenna on top of the Matterhorn. From there, they are transmitted via fiber-optic cable to a bank of blinking and whirring mainframe computers located in a concrete-reinforced central control center located 150 feet below the Tomorrowland Terrace. Complex algorithms and space-age technology are used to generate a three-dimensional holographic display on a two-dimensional cathode-ray tube monitor and digital computer print-outs.

Scientists and engineers with slide rules and long white lab coats carefully analyze the incoming data and make assessments on how to maintain the minimum level of guest satisfaction. Their recommendations are then forwarded to corporate management, where they are immediately ignored.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

JG, thanks for taking the time to document something most of us will miss (first hand). Living out of state I refuse to visit the park while the train is down during the Imperial invasion of the former Big Thunder Ranch.

I love the "June gloom" of all the photos as it makes me homesick.
You can almost feel the heat from the boiler, oh no that's just the Arizona heat. 119 on tuesday.

Cheers and thanks for the drink too.

K. Martinez said...

JG, what a fantastic post with so much to look at. Wonderful documentation and some great unusual angles we don't get to see often. Thanks for sharing with us as I also wasn't able to get to see this. Thank you too, Major.

DrGoat said...

I'll add my thanks also, JG. To take a pic from the middle of the tracks must have been very cool. I do appreciate the virtual drink. Had to give it up a long time ago, but it looks inviting.

Patrick Devlin said...

what a treat, JG! Thanks so much. I visited the display a couple of times but never took enough photos, and now I can refer to yours!

The controls on the backhead of a steam loco look intimidating but there are really just four important things to be done: regulate the fire, maintain the water level in the boiler, throttle, and brakes. OH, and the rope for the whistle; can't forget that! The trick is that the valves are rarely labelled, so it looks a bit labyrinthine at times.

Thanks JG and the Major: it's gonna be a good day now...

Steve DeGaetano said...

The cut-open boiler is actually the E.P. Ripley's original, 1955 boiler, removed in 2002. Forward-thinking Roundhouse CMs knew this would be a great teaching tool for new train CMs.

Chuck did a good job of describing the controls on the backhead, but he used a lot of Australian terms--they have such weird words for everything Down Under, don't they?

Mickey is seated on the Main Steam pressure gauge. The fireman doesn’t like to see the pressure fluctuate too much, because that causes a lot of stress on the boiler.

The smaller gauge next to the pressure gauge and next to the Mic’s left foot is the air brake pressure gauge—the readings of which are lost in the glare.

The two curving white pipes at the rear are the steam lines to the injectors. The injectors use steam in a sort of venturi-like way to “inject” water into the boiler. This has to be done frequently as the water turns to steam and is eventually exhausted. You can see the steam and water valves on the Fireman’s-side injector on the left, where the white pipe terminates.

(Interesting fun-fact for your next cocktail party: The injector was invented in 1858 by a Frenchman named Henri Giffard, who thought the device might be better suited to powering balloons. Those Frenchies)

The two overlapping gray pipes in front each go to a water sight glass—one for the engineer to look at, the other for the fireman. The glasses are the gray rectangular devices on either side of the oval washout plug right in the center of the red-painted backhead.

The steel throttle lever is right below the steam pressure gauge, angled out towards the engineer’s front cab door. Right below it is the brass brake lever.

The two green valves on the engineer’s side are a redundant way to check the water level (sometimes the water glasses could get plugged with sediment, resulting in a false reading). They are literally plumbed right into the boiler. Without enough water in the boiler, things tend to go Boom in a hurry. You can open those valves, and ideally water will come out. If you get nothing but steam from the bottom valve, that’s a good sign that you may need to purchase new underwear—if you can get that far.

The fireman’s brass firing valve is to the right of the fireman’s water glass. The fuel oil is gravity fed. This is just a simple valve that only controls oil flow to the burner.

There are a couple valves missing (actually, just in a different location than where they are in the drawings in my book) notably the atomizer and blower.

The atomizer is a steam jet that breaks the oil into a fine mist for better combustion—think lighting a can of hairspray on fire. The blower is a just of steam that rushes up the smokestack, creating a partial vacuum there that draws smoke with it, and also draws air though the fire, assisting in combustion.

The red pipe on the engineer side is a mystery to me. I will see if I can find out what it is.

Okay, that’s it for the backhead nickel tour. You can send your nickels to me courtesy of the Major. Hope he doesn't skim any off the top.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Oh and JG, thanks for these great images! It doesn't get any better than two consecutive days of DL trains!

Anonymous said...

A great report with a great ending for the day. Cheers! KS

Anonymous said...

One other comment that just occurred to me. I assume this display was very popular with guests. It was unique in that it didn't move or require animatronics or flight simulation. In fact, it was strictly educational. Imagine that! Perhaps there is 'room' for something like this in the future (call it 'Educationland' for lack of something better). Just thinking outside the box. KS

Nanook said...

@ Steve DeGaetano-

I feel so smart, now-! Thanks.

JG said...

Wow, thanks everyone for the kind comments. I'm happy to do a little something for the group.

Big thanks to the Major for hosting the pic and commentary, and to Chuck and Steve D for the information about locomotives. I recognized some of those Australian terms, even from a distance.

Steve, your descriptions are all I could hope for, your nickel is in the mail. Apparently, the locomotives are going to remain steam-powered and not converted to anti-matter hyperdrive.

Very cool that the boiler display was a real boiler. Great recycling and education piece. Disneyland has training needs that most employers never dream of.

The brackets on the old building were very unusual to see. @ Nanook, I would call this element a bracket, corbels have a similar function, but are usually a solid piece of stone or wood, not as delicately worked. There are several types of corbels on the SBC and also on the Snow White facade.

Was this was a standard detail from Santa Fe stations(thanks Chuck for that photo)? More evidence of the Imagineers attention to detail, or was this a case of imitating a movie set like the Golden Horseshoe? If it is a Santa Fe detail, I wonder if it's use was contractual, given Santa Fe's original sponsorship?

I've worked on and around several historic Southern Pacific stations over my career, the old drawings referred to numbered designs which were standardized for stations of various sizes, so it makes sense that Santa Fe would have a similar approach. These standard designs might be the precursors of the "rubber-stamp" fast food restaurants we see everywhere. Interesting thought that railroads might have been among the first continental business franchises.

The paint finish on the old station wood was really amazing, it felt more like baked enamel or a powder coat than typical paint on wood. Really "bullet-proof" in a weather-resistant sense, not ballistic. I'd love to figure out what this product is. I noticed the similar look and feel on several NOS buildings and also on Main Street. It was a real joy to walk up to this little gem of a building I have admired so long from across the track. The proportions, detailing and colors are just perfect.

Also a dream come true to stand in the right-of-way and look up and down. Just cool. While the display was well-attended, it was not at all crowded. While I agree with KS that some educational exhibits should return to Disneyland, most other visitors were headed to the Pirates or the Splash Mountain.

Well, I have to run off and recalibrate my fluctuometer. See you at the Hearthstone.


Steve DeGaetano said...

JG, Frontierland Station was based on the Grizzly Flats Station, which in turn was based on a real depot used by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, so there are no Santa Fe elements on it (which is probably a good thing; most of the standard SF station designs weren't all that interesting to look at).

The basic design for the station came out of a book that Ward Kimball owned called "Buildings and Structures of American Railroads." An original will cost you a small fortune, but fortunately, it's been scanned, and can be found here:

Go to page 267 to see the original inspiration for Frontierland Station!

David Zacher said...

Wow, that was so fun! Coming from a RR family I lament that on my last visit to DL with the wife we wandered over there at about 5 but they had just shut down! JG, your photos are very much appreciated.

Thanks, Major, for allowing a guest on your 'vintage' DL blog with new stuff. Since it already belongs in Yesterland you saw it here first!

d(very appreciative)z

JG said...

Wow, Steve D, many thanks for that information and the book. The little building has always been a favorite.

I've credited Disneyland for at least some subliminal influence on my career choice of architecture, early memories of good work stay with you forever.

@David Z, LOL, I hadn't thought of it like that, but it's definitely an ephemeral event.