Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad in Black and White!

Whoo-hoo, the SF&DLRR! I think it's safe to say that most Disneyland fans love the trains; as a small child I just thought they were "kind of neat", but as the years went by, I learned more and more about them, and my appreciation for them continued to grow. They are truly wonderful! 

GDB friend Steve DeGaetano is a fan of old steam locomotives, and is an expert on the history of the SF&DLRR (maybe "SF&DRR" is more appropriate?). Why, he's even written some books (see HERE and HERE, I highly recommend them)! So you know he's the real deal. Recently, Steve contacted me and said that he had acquired some black and white negatives featuring the trains, and - he GAVE THEM TO ME! Yes, gave. For free! Amazing. And he generously offered to provide some insight into each photo. How could I pass that up? So here we go, let's enjoy the photos and commentary:

This is a fantastic shot of the Fred Gurley taken from the viewing platform that was positioned near where the locomotives would stop that used to be at what was then Frontierland Station. The engineer is just visible inside the cab, wearing his Lee hickory-striped overalls. The young lady in the car seems to have been lulled to sleep by the swaying of the car’s motion. One of my favorite things about this picture is that we have a very clear view of the air ringer on the bell. A small air cylinder on the side of the bell’s cradle is connected to a crank; the fireman merely presses a button in the cab, and the bell will ring in a rather monotonous, “ding-ding-ding” manner. When a bell is rung by hand, the fireman’s character can come through, resulting in a syncopated “ding-DING, ding-DING, ding-DING” rhythm. I’m not sure when the air ringers were removed; probably not long after these photos were taken.

A dark photo of No. 4, the Ernest S. Marsh rolling into the station, pulling the original freight train,  nicknamed Holiday Red. This one also appears to have been taken from near the observation platform.

Number 4 taking on water. I really like this is a nicely composed scene. The fireman, standing on the tender, controls the tank’s water flow using a  chain-activated valve in his right hand. The other chains are connected to counterweights to keep the spout upright when not in use. The density of the foliage in the background belies that this scene was shot in the middle of Anaheim, CA. While difficult to see, No. 4 also still has her air-ringer attached to the bell.

The Marsh slowly chugs away from Frontierland Station. The sooty exhaust stains on the tunnel stonework remind us that these are indeed real steam locomotives. An interesting detail can be found in the window behind the engineer—to open the windows, the entire window frame drops into a pocket in the cab wall! (The side windows on the pilot house of the Mark Twain function in a similar manner).

To close, we watch as the caboose silently rolls away, save for the “clickety-clack” of the wheels on the rail joints. We get a glimpse of the observation platform on the right. On the left, we can see the stone steam funnel that vents boiler “blow downs” away from the engine (The engines “blow down” on a regular basis, ejecting high-temperature water which turns almost instantly to steam at atmospheric pressure, and carrying away sediment and sludge than can be harmful to the boiler). A red lantern hangs from the caboose railing, glowing softly at night. The block signal at the edge of the tunnel opening has already turned to red as the train enters the block. Happily, in five minutes, another train will be by!

MANY THANKS to Steve DeGaetano for sharing these beautiful photos with us, and for his awesome commentary!


JB said...

Major and Steve, you need to boost the photos' color saturation up a wee bit; everything looks sorta washed out. :-p

The clarity in these B&W photos is superb! So much detail. In the last photo the caboose looks too tall to fit through the tunnel opening. We need to warn them before it's too late!

When our family visited the Park in 1975 (for 2 1/2 days), my brothers and I quickly learned to use the Railroad as a shortcut to get from one side of the Park to the other. Much easier than trying to thread our way through the dense mid-August crowd. We used the Skyway the same way.

Thank you, Steve, for gifting these negatives to Major P. And to Major for bringing them to us.

Stu29573 said...

I LOVE the trains! These are great! Thanks, Steve!
Your description of the air ringer reminds me that when we were riding the Columbia a few days ago, the cast member asked us to step away from the railing where he reached under and pressed a button to ring the ship's nell. Air ringer? I think more likely recording, but I could be wrong...

Bu said...

These are awesome photos! Thanks Steve! I especially like them in B and W: which doesn't confuse details as color does: just my .02. I've never rode or been in that caboose, but I would like to: please. Until then, I'm just happy to ride the train around and around. When I try to use the train as a shortcut: it seems to always seems to become a "long cut". In WDW: the train went 101, and we all had to exit. Not sure how/why/etc. probably "Zebra's on the track". That seems to be the answer for all 101 episodes. I'm wondering if Western Union was also a sponsor in those days: hence the sign. The Frontierland station is one of my favorite things in the park for some reason: just off there doing it's nothing: but has a great visual purpose. I am disappointed that this particular avenue of peace in the park will be corrupted soon. Such a nice pleasant area: with rare benches to sit on. Benches in a park should not be rare. I generally am not a "train guy"...but as I kid I was fascinated with model trains and had a set up in my garage. I really liked the engines that let off "fake smoke"...but where exactly did that fake smoke come from? I'm not sure it was fake: it sure smelled like real smoke- as did all those greasy parts. Thanks Steve again for the photos and thanks Major for the links to the books!

K. Martinez said...

I love the Disneyland trains. They really bring one closer to the spirit of Walt Disney. They are the heart and soul of Disneyland for me.

I'm also a major fan of b/w photos as they bring out details in architecture and machinery.

Thanks for pointing out all the details, Steve. I have Several of your books and treasure them for the details and history of the Disneyland Railroad and its locomotives and consists. Wonderful books!

I'm a major train/railroad fan as I have a lot of books on railroad history both in the U.S. and worldwide and many Lionel trains. My dad loved trains and was a railroad modeler. That definitely influenced my love for trains both real life and toy train hobby wise.

Thanks for sharing these images and details with us, Steve. Very enjoyable.

JG said...

“… the spirit of Walt Disney…” Indeed. Ken, you have summed it up right there.

I suppose I had the typical kid fascination with the trains, but not more. The information and commentary from the GDB train buffs has sharpened my awareness and I remain in awe of the erudition of this corner of the Junior Gorillas. The trains are amazing and the fact that Walt wanted them so much that he built the rest of the Park to have something for them to drive around is more amazing still.

The Frontierland station is my favorite building in the whole Park. Steve posted some links long ago to the pattern book with the original design which was enhanced by imagineers. A highlight of my Park visits was being able to cross the track and study the station up close during the shutdown imposed by Wookiee World construction. Unlikely to have that chance again. I hope the current destruction spares this little gem.

Hearty thanks to Steve DG for the pics and descriptions. Black and White is the best medium for these photos, they could be 100 years old.

Thanks Major, special stuff today.


Steve DeGaetano said...

Thanks everyone! Somehow, I got these for a virtual steal, and couldn't think of anyone who deserved to have them more than the Major. I don't own a scanner, and they would never see the light of day sitting in an old photo album in my "train room." Better that they should be shared here.

I, too, was astonished at the clarity. 1972 seemed a little late to be shooting in B&W, but the photographer seemed to know what he (or she) was doing!

Bu, Lionel pioneered "smoking" steam locomotives back in the late 1940s; now you can buy scented smoke fluid in coal scent, wood burner scent, and even "oil burner" scent, so your nose wasn't lying to you.

Stu, the Columbia has a real ship's bell, but it was always rung by hand. Maybe you did hear a recording?

JB, my sister and I used the trains as a short cut too! At least, that's what I told her...

Thanks K. Martinez!

Steve DeGaetano said...

Thanks JG! Cool that you got to see the station "close-up."

Bu, I don't think Western Union was an *actual* sponsor; It was used to "set the mood," much like Wells Fargo was used on the Combine (neat video on that car by Michael Campbell here): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yi5BxBMcF7k

I've not heard about any financial arrangements, but you'd think there would be something involved with using these companies' names.

Nanook said...

Exactly as Ken said: “… the spirit of Walt Disney…”.

And as JG said: "The trains are amazing and the fact that Walt wanted them so much that he built the rest of the Park to have something for them to drive around is more amazing still".

And as Walt said: "I just want it to look like nothing else in the world. And it should be surrounded by a train".

Thanks, Steve, for sharing these great images and providing your insightful commentary-!

Major Pepperidge said...

JB, my atomic colorator is on the fritz! I need more plutonium to make it work, and they don’t sell plutonium at 7-11 anymore. It really does look like the trains barely fit through the tunnel, I guess I can’t fight on top of one of them like James Bond tends to do in every movie. I wonder how many people use the train to get from, say, Frontierland to Tomorrowland? It really is a useful (and fun) way to get from here to there!

Stu29573, wow, they push a button to ring the bell on the Columbia? Lame! On a recent trip to the park, a guest rang the Columbia’s bell as we were all exiting, and I had him arrested immediately. Well, I would have if I could have!

Bu, I always assume that B&W photos taken in the 1970s were probably done by a photography student or an enthusiast. My best friend took MANY B&W photos when he took a photography class in junior college, I kind of wish I’d taken that same class so that I’d be a bit more informed about how it all works. They’d develop their own images of course. If somebody ever suggests riding the train at Disneyland, I’ve never heard a complaint. Folks always want to ride the trains! I’m not happy with what’s going on over by the Haunted Mansion - I saw a video that claimed that Disney HAD to do something due to ADA rules, but I’m not sure I believe it. And if they had to do something, it probably didn’t need to be as Draconian as what they are actually doing - destroying Magnolia Park, no bueno. Good question about the fake smoke, it must be witchcraft.

K. Martinez, as I said before, I always liked the DLRR, but as I got older my appreciation for them grew and grew. The more I learned, the more I liked them! And who doesn’t love getting to see the Grand Canyon diorama, and the dinosaurs? I had a neighbor in Huntington Beach who had a fancy model train setup in his garage, but he was weird and didn’t really want the neighborhood kids to look at it - I guess he thought we’d lose our minds and destroy it?

JG, I was a dumb kid and probably didn’t really even think about the trains at Disneyland, beyond the fact that I liked the ride. Several books, including those mentioned from Steve, are a wonderful way to learn about the trains and their fascinating history. I remember your photos from the time the RR was shut down, what a great opportunity. I feel pretty confident that the station at New Orleans Square will be restored (eventually) - but you never know.

Steve DeGaetano, I’m grateful that you thought of me, and am of course very happy that I could scan the negatives and at least send high-res jpegs to you. I’m imagining your “train room”, with models, lanterns, signs, and other accoutrements! Maybe it’s not that crazy - I remember one girl I dated knew I collected Disneyland stuff, and she was astonished to find that there was almost no hint of that at my place. Now I need to know if they really do push a button to ring the bell on the Columbia. Seems so silly.

Steve DeGaetano, I was going to say the same thing about Wells Fargo’s name, it automatically evokes “the Old West”. You’d think that there would almost *have* to be some sort of financial arrangement, but maybe Wells Fargo would also just be happy to have their name displayed at Disneyland for free.

Nanook, even the earliest, little concepts for a “Mickey Mouse Park” had a train, and the idea just kept growing and growing. I’m very glad that Walt decided to build his park on that much-larger parcel of land in Anaheim, as fun as it would be to have a cute little park near the Studio in Burbank.

Steve DeGaetano said...

Major, I will try to send you some photos of the train room! It's pretty much exactly as you imagine it.


I’m not aware of any legal agreements for Disneyland using WELLS FARGO or WESTERN UNION . It’s quite possible there was a few friendly phone calls made …. But most likely the two companies didn’t mind the use …..for exposure and Disneyland needed them for … authenticity. This kind of mutual agreement is very common in Europe with toy and model manufacturers. There is no real need for licensing as the companies WANT their cars … planes … trains … being made as miniatures for the exposure and the early familiarity with the brands. What people who played with model trains didn’t know the names of real railroad companies or even manufactures of real locomotives and passenger cars … as a kid I knew BUDD made streamlined passenger cars before a similar company made beer! When I was little I stunned a neighbor when I asked if his HO scale streetcars were Birney or Brill … I was a nerd kid. And those of us who played with Matchbox cars learned about all sorts of American and especially European brand automobiles and trucks … I remember asking my dad while we drove to HANDYMAN and BUILDERS EMPORIUM on a Saturday when I was in 4th grade how come all the trucks were FORD , CHEVY , DATSUN …. Etc … Abs nobody has BEDFORDS .. MERCEDES … and UNIMOG trucks like the matchbox trucks all are ??

One thing that really pushed Disneyland to a higher level of quality was The Disneyland Railroad. I think because the fact so many studio people and eventual imagineers were “train guys” including Walt himself …. They made it authentic and realistic and that was important. They maybe scaled down … and maybe the period or historical color schemes may be blended or exaggerated ( celebrated) but they look and appear like a real railroad. The from the coach lamps to track signals to the realistic and accurate construction of the trestle through Bear Country . The look and design is treated with dignity, respect and authenticity.

I think a problem today is often imagineering created to many unrealistic things or poorly researched or its architectural composition is too wonky or over exaggerated …. Like the odd - almost cartoon like trestle infront of “Galaxy edge falls”

Steve DeGaetano said...

Exactly, Mike. The angled "bents" near the center section are very jarring to anyone who has seen a typical railroad trestle. I understand the reasons, but the trestle could have been built accurately and still allowed watercraft to pass underneath.

DBenson said...


Some of these shots bring to mind the ending of "North by Northwest", where a couple clinching in a sleeper car is followed by a suggestive exterior view of the train entering a tunnel. Imagine a narrated home movie ...

"It was the end of a long day at Disneyland, but we still had the energy for Mabel's favorite ride."
(shot of train chugging into tunnel)

Woo Woo.


It’s funny because during the 1960’s thru the 1990’s Disney excelled at making theme park architecture and theming … it looked realistic and animated if needed . Themed designers would laugh at the untrained .. poorly researched .. and executed architecture or theme constructions at “ Disneyland copycats “ …. Now Disney creates its very own poorly designed and executed theming and architecture … the club 33 renovation and New Orleans square facade disasters … the “GALAXYS EDGE falls” trestle …. And the overly heavy cartoonifucation of EVERYTHING …. The Haunted Mansion changes underway will be more examples of “DREADFUL IMAGINEERING” The unique and unexpected is now the cliche and poorly executed.

Part of the real magic of Disneyland , Walt Disney World , EPCOT CENTER .. featured imaginary places … historical places they way we wish or believed they were … or better … or places we hope will be … but no matter the theme or period or place … they looked and felt like they were REAL …. Not replicated from thick carved and sculpted pool plaster . Sure Main Street is scaled down … New Orleans Square was clean and pristine … like it never ever really looked in reality … and Tomorrowland was a place we really really would like to live in one day in the future …. But all these places looked like they could have really existed or exist someday. Not a MATEL plastic painted castle or a miniature golf course Frontierland or a hokey carnival arcade game future …

Hey!! I made a post without ever mentioning THE WESTERN RIVER EXPEDITION or DISCOVERY BAY!!!

Dean Finder said...

There was something about Disney parks that made them exist at the point whee reality and non-reality collide. Details like careful ramshackle rooflines and chimneys in Frontierland and Fantasyland, Perfectly abbreviated iconic buildings in EPCOT, and the like made Disney parks "Disney."
I'm looking forward to seeing if they did it with the extension of France at EPCOT, but haven't seen much recently that would make me think it will be believable the way it was in the past.

"Lou and Sue" said...

Thanks for sharing these beautiful images, Steve. The train is not only a fun and relaxing ride, but also a terrific way to see so much of Disneyland, without all the walking.

Fun day at Disneyland - thank you, too, Major.

Major Pepperidge said...

Steve DeGaetano, I’d love to see it!

Mike Cozart, I agree, the use of Wells Fargo or Western Union would have probably been seen as mutually beneficial. And if there had been any reluctance, I’m sure a phone call from Walt would have smoothed things over - he could be persuasive! Now I’m wondering about things such as Matchbox cars, which often had the names of actual businesses on them. Did they have to ask permission or pay a fee? (And now I see that you also mention Matchbox cars - I only have a few of those, being especially fond of the old Volkswagen buses). Again, my guess is “no”, although these days it might be different. Seeing some of the Disneyland locomotives recently, I could not deny the beauty of those machines, clearly made with love and attention to detail. Do you think the trestle near Galaxy’s Edge had to be made extra bulky with consideration for modern earthquake regulations? I think it looks OK, but to be honest, I haven’t looked at it with a critical eye. Next time!

Steve DeGaetano, as far as I am aware, watercraft don’t pass beneath the trestle at Disneyland - unless perhaps they can go beneath it to head backstage?

DBenson, I can’t believe you spoiled the ending of a 65 year old movie! Now it is ruined! ;-).

Mike Cozart, I am full of dread regarding the changes to the Haunted Mansion queue, I want it to feel like it has been there for 100 years, but worry that it will feel like an amusement park, and NEW. “But look, it has pretty flowers!”. Well great, but also, ugh. While I am not a Star Wars fan (except in the most minor of ways), I do think that they did a very nice job with Galaxy’s Edge, though granted that is entirely fantasy and not meant to evoke a historical era on Earth. Ha ha, you can mention the Western River Expedition and Discovery Bay any time you want!

Dean Finder, they CAN still do good work, as seen in the Fantasyland buildings you mentioned (though those were done way back in 1983!!); they also do questionable work, like the “Fantasy Faire” where the old Carnation Plaza Gardens were. In my opinion it looks bad. I also wish I was more a fan of the new Adventureland Treehouse, but I’m a crotchety grump.

Lou and Sue, I’m glad you enjoyed these!

DBenson said...

Well, I didn't give away who the couple clinching were ...

Chuck said...

Days late, but I remember a controversy that cropped up some time in the last 20 years in the model railroading community where - contrary to the industry norm - the Union Pacific started requiring model and decal companies to acquire a license to reproduce the Union Pacific herald. It smacked of some tone-deaf junior executive and/or lawyer trying to squeeze a few more bucks out of an untapped resource and made the company look greedy, although I guess there was a legitimate concern about losing control of their trademarked emblem. There was a huge uproar in the model railroading community and quite a bit of blowback. I don’t recall how the situation resolved itself, but the goodwill and mutually-beneficial association described above by the use of the Western Union name at Disneyland was not in operation during the controversy.

DBenson, I did not expect to see James Mason and Martin Landau in that last scene.