Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Not-Great Autopia

While I always enjoy a look at the various Autopias (Fantasyland, Junior, Midget, Tomorrowland), today's photos rate about a 3 on the Richter Scale. 

This first one was taken under gray skies, and the color is generally "blah", but at least it's an unusual angle. Somebody turned around to take a photo of dad driving a tiny car because he looks so silly. Looking carefully through the trees and other obstructions we can see (from right to left) the Moonliner, one of the curved domes of the "Rocket to the Moon" ride, and the "r" at the end of the "Space Bar" sign.

Next we have this view as seen from the steps up to the Tomorrowland Skyway terminal. It's not a terrible picture by any means, but it's kind of bland. Maybe because everything is far away. I do like that "Richfield" sign with the yellow space station, and I like the scraggly old berm protecting us from the outside world. Otherwise... MEH.


Nanook said...


"Unusual angle", to be sure. I do like the large, circular 'apace age' canopy structure of the Space Bar.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

I love the second image of Richfield Autopia. The lawn, the open space and the horizon. And there are TWO Richfield billboards! A Tomorrowland with a great bit beautiful tomorrow ahead of it. Thanks, Major.

stu29573 said...

The "R" at the end of "Space Bar???" Wow!!! He's the coolest of all the Space Bar letters!!! Well, we can go home now, life is complete!!!

Omnispace said...

I always liked the way the Autopia sat on the edge of the Tomorrowland promenade. Similar to the Jungle Cruise, it was a place to launch off into the Autopia wilderness. Hey, is that a Skyway tower trying to hide in plain sight?

Great pic of the Autopia track. Ingenious how much mileage they got out of going round and round the cloverleafs. I'll do that myself sometimes in the real world.

I always took the berm for granted till I read about their use on many of the filming back lots, such as the former Columbia Ranch. Shows how much Disneyland used the tricks of the movie industry.


Andrew said...

I like the CM on the bridge in the second pic, probably tending to a traffic jam. I also think it's cool how you can see those funky street lights stretching off into the distance. Some of them survived until the '99 redo, I think.

That last shot made me realize you misplayed that Richter Scale quip, Major; you should've called it the RICHFIELD SCALE! ;-)

DrGoat said...

That second pic is a interesting. Looks like those drivers are racing for the Piston Cup. Love those Richfield signs. Thanks for pointing out the second sign K.
In the first photo, it looks like either the photo was reversed or they put the steering wheels on the 'British' side of the car that year.
Thanks Major, hope everyone had a good weekend.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don’t think these are a total loss, but they both have flaws for sure. I’ve always loved that mid-century Space Bar, though!

K. Martinez, it’s true, there are two billboards; too bad the distant one is hard to decipher. I wonder if there is a better image of it out there? Maybe on Daveland, I’ll look later. Gotta make my first trip to Trader Joe’s in a month, and am going to get there early!

stu29573, listen you!

Omnispace, that is definitely a Skyway tower, it looks kind of skinny and insubstantial to support the cables and gondolas. But it was obviously up to the task. I wonder if anybody has calculated how many miles people have driven on the Autopia? I know I’ve read estimates on the amount of miles that the Disneyland Railroad has traveled. I had no idea that a berm was used at Columbia Ranch (and possibly other movie lots?), very interesting!

Andrew, I noticed the CM on that bridge, but don’t know why he is there. At first I thought maybe he was helping a stranded driver who’s car stalled, but it doesn’t look that way. And I was way too slow to even connect “Richfield” and “Richter”!

Melissa said...


JG said...

Photo 2 sure shows how the forest grew up over time.

That "back lot" was one heavily used zone, providing room to play for the autopia, monorail, and eventually the peoplemover.

Gives one hope that the future wouldn't be completely paved over.

Thanks Major, good way to start a short week.


Nanook said...

If you peruse the pages of The 55ers: The Pioneers Who Settled Disneyland, you'll discover wonderful stories of 'daredevil guests' taking full advantage of an Autopia, sans center rail - and the crazy "accidents" that resulted from that configuration. Fer instance: Disney intentionally designed the course a little over two car-widths wide, to allow the vehicles to pass each other. But often three cars would try to ride side by side by side. Sometimes you'd get three cars wedged between the curbs... "Some drivers considered the lookouts stationed along the track to be moving targets. Little motorists liked to try and cream us-!"

"Lou and Sue" said...

Are you certain that the "r" in the first picture isn't for the Space BarbeR shop???

Nanook, I gotta get that book . . . I love those funny stories from the CMs!

Thanks, Major!

Sunday Night said...

That Richfield billboard with the space station is something I always liked about the Autopia. As I remember it had little lights on the space station graphic that added that extra futuristic touch.

Major Pepperidge said...

Melissa, I didn’t know you spoke Klingon.

JG, when you look at how high the berm is at some spots, and how low some of the Tomorrowland landscape is (like where they scraped out the lake), that was some serious earthmoving. I wonder if they had to do anything to help make the berm stable? Maybe just adding plants helped to prevent little landslides and erosion.

Nanook, I have made it just a little way into The 55ers, and I think I read that section. It sure looks familiar, anyway. I suppose kids have no concept that hitting a person with a small (but still heavy) machine could actually seriously hurt them - the little brats!

Lou and Sue, I wish I had access to a space barber shop RIGHT NOW. I’m sure my grandpa would have some choice things to say about my long hair. Do space barber shops have barbershop quartets?

Sunday Night, that was back in the days before all spacecraft had white paint - probably to reflect radiation better? In the 50s and early 60s they would portray them as yellow, orange, and sometimes red, which was cool - maybe that was so that telescopes from Earth could see them more easily? Very neat that you remember that the space station on the sign had little lights, I love it!

Chuck said...

Space barber shops do have barbershop quartets. Their harmonies are out of this world - truly stellar performances.

Anonymous said...

Major, yes, some serious earthmoving to make Disneyland.

The civil engineering term "cut/fill balance" describes whether or not a site will "balance", that is, does the amount dug out (cut) to make "spoils", match the amount of added material (fill) to make the soil come out even (balance).

If you have more soil than you need, you "export", if less, "import". Often, a short site will pay for clean import (no toxic materials, thanks). Less often, a site will pay to export, because clean fill is generally desirable, and the costs are only in transport.

A balanced site is a good design, since it saves transport costs involved with import/export. Sometimes sites are designed to be "elastic" since estimating balance is difficult in design, so landscaping is designed to be flexible in grade so adjustments can be made in construction to achieve balance. Paving and building grades are difficult to make flexible, so there are limits to adjustments of these items.

I have no idea if Disneyland "balanced" or not, but there was a lot of earth moved, either way. I have sometimes wondered if the purpose of the berm was two-fold, the screening purpose we are told about, and a stockpile purpose to make site balance.

Initially, I think the site was in "export", since Snow Hill existed. This was probably the "spoils" of the Tomorrowland lake excavation and maybe some of the Rivers of America. As we see, eventually most of Snow Hill was replaced by the Matterhorn, the foundations of which generated even more spoils to be exported. This is evident in early (1955-59) aerial photos.

As far as stabilization, the excavation pictures generally show what looks to be a sandy loam soil (good for oranges), light, porous and well-draining, and this would probably need some kind of stabilization , possibly lime treatment (similar to adding cement) to stabilize for train traffic and to prevent slumping and loss of compaction due to water infiltration. In the dry climate, erosion control was probably a hydroseed of native groundcover and the decorative plantings, which took over quickly.


"Lou and Sue" said...

Major - use your Flowbee. :)