Thursday, November 29, 2018

Front Tier Land

Oh yeah, it's time for more vintage scans of Frontierland from our Mysterious Benefactor! 

This first one is an example that I had originally rejected because it was so extremely dark and grainy. But the subject matter - the hull of the Columbia under construction - is so cool that I decided to go back and spend some time using Photoshop to try to make it presentable. That's right, this is how it looks after considerable effort on my part! 

I've never seen a shot quite like this; the skeletal sailing ship is resting on the tracks of the Disneyland Railroad (there's the water tower to the right), with metal plating that would be below the waterline. Note the round cutouts where the propellers will sit! I have another photo in my personal collection that shows the Columbia under construction in Fowler's Harbor, so I'm not sure why it is on the tracks at this point. Presumably it was eventually craned back onto the river.

This was another one that was super dark and grainy (from October, 1958), looking down on a portion of a dirt pathway. The slide is labeled "Pack Mule Trail", and I suppose that makes sense - a Stagecoach or Conestoga Wagon probably wouldn't be making those hairpin turns. It wasn't clear to me where this was exactly, and where our photographer would be standing, since this is a giraffe's-eye view.

Zooming in on a 1960 aerial photo, you can see the same hairpin turns, circled in red. The photographer must have been standing atop the berm!

This third photo (from 1970) is probably the nicest, quality-wise. Quite a few guests are gathered around... something! It's a difficult to know what's going on; there seems to be some pink-shirted musicians (?) near the center of the picture. They're not the Gonzalez Trio, though.

Also in the center is a young woman facing our direction, and a small group of people are looking intently at whatever she is holding, but I think she might just be a guest with her family. Alternate theories are welcome.

I've never seen the queue for the Nature's Wonderland Mine Train with all of those colorful umbrellas before.

The next two feature the inner courtyard of Fort Wilderness on Tom Sawyer Island (these are both dated "1971"). This first one was very faded and mostly baby-blue - I think it looks better here! At one time I believe the Canteen actually served snacks and beverages, though I'm not sure how long that lasted.

A second shot turned out much nicer. Since Tom Sawyer Island closed at dusk, it looks like all of the guests have been rousted out (security guards bang on trash can lids with billy clubs to herd them toward the rafts). The Fort was closed years ago to protect people from getting splinters.

Thanks to the M.B.!


TokyoMagic! said...

To keep people from getting splinters.....ha, ha! Major, I know the snack bar/Canteen in Fort Wilderness was still open in the eighties, and I believe it remained open on into the nineties, as well. Now I'm wondering when it did close. How long has Fort Wilderness been closed now? I sure do wish they would restore it and open it back up to the public. At least the TSI forts at Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland are still open to the public.

I love that first pic of the Columbia's hull under construction. It looks so out of place sitting there on the train tracks. I want to see it running around the park on those train tracks, but then I guess getting it to squeeze through the tunnels would be a problem.

K. Martinez said...

These are some pretty amazing photos today. Especially the Columbia and "Pack Mule Trail" pics. Is that track from the "Rainbow Caverns Mine Train" at the extreme left of the pic?

Anyway, Mysterious Benefactor has been providing some really great photos lately. I'm sure glad you spent the time cleaning them up. Some of these angles and subjects I've never seen before in this way like the "Pack Mule Trail" pic.

A big thanks to M.B. and Major.

Budblade said...

That pic of the Columbia is super cool. I would not have thought that it actually had a steel inner frame. I thought the waterline and below would just have been plated with metal sheeting. It does seem more sturdy this way, however.
While it may be “on the tracks” it’s really on a road trailer, being pulled by the truck. I would think the part we see was contructed in a backstage area, and then was trucked to the river to be fitted out further. The tracks being the most convenient way to get such a large bulk through a congested area of the park, without having to move other things out of the way.
Every fort should have it’s own snakbar. I would imagine protecting it would be thirsty work on a hot California day.

Thanks for the work on getting these pictures restored. They are all pretty cool.

Chuck said...

Seems the Imagineers and Operations got their signals crossed. It's an easy enough mistake, though - they were told Columbia was built to run on a track, and, well, there you go. Could've happened to anyone.

Seriously, I'm guessing that was the easiest, shortest path to get the hull over the berm and to the drydock. Would have been fascinating to watch the whole process of transporting it from Long Beach to Fowler's Harbor. Can't believe there isn't any cellphone video of that out on YouTube.

I think that second photo is actually of the other switchback on the Pack Mule trail, located at about 7 o'clock below the red circle on the aerial photo. Note that the track that Ken points out at extreme left is running through a green area rather than open dirt, suggesting it can't be along the edge of the Living Desert. The photo was probably taken from the ridge located at about 7:30 along the lower left corner (?!) of the red circle.

I think those umbrellas in Picture 4 are outdoor seating for Casa de Fritos.

TM!, Fort Wilderness closed in 2003, so, using my extensive mathematical skills, that makes it about three years ago. Seems longer than that, though. Funny how time plays tricks on your memory.

Steve DeGaetano said...

That photo of the Columbia is definitely impressive! For the ultimate Disney trivia question, here's the license plate number of the truck hauling the ship, for anyone interested: W 87 807.

My article on the Columba might shed some light on the ship's design:

One last thing...I don't think military forts have "courtyards." Parade grounds, maybe, but not courtyards. Or flower beds. =)

Chuck said...

Steve, not sure I completely agree with your last statement... ;-)

I have always loved your article on the Columbia. Thanks again for the link.

Stefano said...

Chuck, "located at about 7 o'clock" looks right for that second photo. There is a stream running at the bottom of this picture which started at the waterfall seen early on the Pack Mule/Mine Train route. The photographer may have been on a mule or on the stagecoach.

Wonderful pix today, Major and MB; and some poignance in the rustic "Historic Rivers of America" sign, since we know how current management feels about park history.

Nanook said...

Another group (or is that ‘brace’ or perhaps ‘maelstrom’-?) of great images today. I believe those crowds of folks we see standing around are there shaming the fella with the blue sweater for not tucking-in his shirt-!

@ Steve DeGaetano-
Let’s not split hairs, here - everyone knows that area of Fort Wilderness is the ‘open-air’ porte-cochère-!

Thanks, Major.

Tom said...

Ditto on the position of the mule trail photo. By 1960 this turn would be swallowed up by bear creek and jumping fish. Now its just part of Big Thunder Trail.

Thanks for some really amazing photos!

JC Shannon said...

Wow! So much to see here, I really like all these photos. Too bad most of it is gone. He's mysterious, he's a benefactor, he's everywhere! He is The MB. The woman in the white sweater in the crowd has no hands and an enormous head, space alien? You decide. I had no idea Columbia had a metal hull, but I guess it makes sense. I forgot how cool the fort looked on the inside. Thanks to Major and MB for these great pics.

Anonymous said...

An amazing photo of the Columbia. Thanks so much for that.

Also good to see the inside of the old fort without a crowd. Especially loving the log trashcan.

I seem to remember the canteen offerings were pretty limited. For some reason, milk duds or some candy like that comes to mind.

I think the young lady facing the crowd is one of the entertainers since her shirt is the same rose color as the musicians behind her. The giant armless woman is prefiguring "Mars Attacks". Hopefully the band will play some Wayne Newton and everyone will be safe.

The aerial photo is wild. Look at the farm land coming right up to DLRR and the circus tent in the lower left. I was looking at some old renderings yesterday and it appeared that in some NOS/HM schemes, the Plantation House was to be retained and NOS developed behind it, with the river and bridge connection as it is seen here.

Great stuff, Major and big thanks to you and MB.


Melissa said...

The handholding couple walking past the crowd is retrodorable. And I want to ride on the "Ark Twain;" I bet they've got twain of every animal.

Major Pepperidge said...

Sorry for my late responses everybody… it has been one of those days.

TokyoMagic!, I didn’t know that the Canteen operated for that long. It seems so dumb that somebody decided that the Fort was expendable as far as guest experiences go. Could they really not find some other place for Fantasmic people to prepare? I really did have a small hope that after the river and island reopened months ago that the Fort would be a surprise extra. No such luck.

K. Martinez, wow, I didn’t see the train tracks at all. The good news about photos from the MB is that there are still hundreds to go.

Budblade, I did not mean to suggest that the Columbia somehow was running on the tracks. You can see the truck in the foreground! But the whole thing is at rest over the tracks, at any rate. No train would be going through while that thing was there.

Chuck, I think you might be right about the photo being the other hairpin turns - as I said to Ken, I didn’t see those tracks to the extreme left. I had an opportunity to see some rare clips of Disneyland construction once (not available to the public), and I would not be surprised is there IS movie footage of the Columbia being craned over to the river.

Steve DeGaetano, I’m not sure I would refer to that open area as a parade grounds. “Courtyard” is almost certainly incorrect, but… I couldn’t come up with a better word. I’ll have to check out your Columbia article tomorrow!

Chuck, even the military appreciates some colorful flowers.

Stefano, it seems hard to believe that a mile of Stagecoach would afford such an elevated perspective, but hey, I have been wrong plenty of times before. Several times today, it seems!

Nanook, today’s group of photos is a “bloat”! As for that kid’s untucked shirt, well… my shirts are almost always untucked.

Tom, I wonder why they put in TWO hairpin-type turns on the mule-pack trail? Seems a bit redundant to say the least.

Jonathan, other than the Columbia itself, there is precious little from these photos that still remains. The lady with the white sweater reminds me of my mom when I was a kid. She used plenty of hairspray and had a big hairdo. I believe that the Columbia is still largely of wood, which explains why it requires extensive maintenance so often.

JG, gosh, I can’t tell if that woman’s shirt is rose/pink, or just sort of tan. Maybe she’s passing around a hat for spare change! There’s only a small group of people looking at her, while everyone else is looking at the musicians. It really is crazy to see how undeveloped the land was near Disneyland. The photo is from 1960 (supposedly), you’d think that by now either Walt would have bought it, or some enterprising businessperson would have. Of course now it all is Disney property.

Melissa, the Ark Twain is probably at Bibleland.

MRaymond said...

I'm late to the parade again and I love the aerial photograph, I've never seen that one before . But I think it's prior to 1960. I have a few others dated 1960 and they show cascade peak, realigned train tracks through the desert and no stagecoach path. When was the MTTNW plused?

Nanook said...

@ MRaymond-

The Western Mine Train Thru Nature's Wonderland had its grand opening on June 12, 1960. (soft opening - May 28th-?)