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Orange Bird Photo Hunt


« WDW Fan Boys Podcast [Part 4] | Main | Animation Studies »

Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad

A very rare look at the day Walt Disney and his wife Lillian paid tribute to "old 21" of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad. Also along for the ride: My great-grandparents!

Photo caption in book: "Just before departure of the train autograph hounds had a ball."

A close friend to Walt Disney, Allan Hancock, retired his favorite steam engine (and one of the last steam engines in the West) in February of 1962. Hancock was owner of the Rancho La Brea Oil Company and heir to properties including the La Brea Tar Pits. A group of people were invited to ride Engine 21 one last time. Invited guests, including my great-granparents and great-great-aunt and great-great-uncle, rode in the passenger cars. Walt Disney rode up front with Hancock as Hancock conducted.

"Just as charming and animated as any or all of the lovely characters portrayed in Disney films, Mrs. Walt Disney was caught by a news photographer gaily chatting over the adventures of the day with her husband, and her host and hostess."

I find this tidbit about Lillian fascinating. She is said to have been "animated." Walt is described earlier in the book as "the motion picture and Disneyland tycoon" and "an old time railroad buff."

I grew up until age 16 in Santa Maria, California-- a town north of Los Angeles. During a recent visit with my grandparents I learned that my grandfather's parents had visited with Walt Disney a handfull of times. They had a common friend in Allan Hancock. I lived my whole life going to Disneyland and this Walt-related fun fact was never mentioned to me?? Either way, a big thanks to my grandpa for giving me this fantastic rare book commemorating this unique event.

It happened that my other grandparents both worked for Hancock-- one at the Railroad and the other at Hancock's Rosemary Chicken Farms.

Circled below are my great-granparents and "old 21". Below that, their tickets are checked during the final ride.

According to the book, Walt was interviewed by KCOY (radio?) who had a "mobile transmitter on the scene." 

"Walt Disney had some serious thoughts about this occasion. He vowed that Disneyland would 'never give up steam' as locomotive power. He was told that retirement of 'Old 21' did not mean the scrap heap. Capt. Hancock made it known that the locomotive will be preserved to posterity as a museum piece on public display in the Santa Maria railroad yard adjoining the city recreation center."


All photos and quotes from the book "Final Run of Old 21."


Related posts:

Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Little Box of Treasures
Fess Dies Today at 85
Vintage Disneyland Home Movies- Meeting Walt Disney Himself


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Reader Comments (9)

What a wonderful little story...and such a great bit of family history!

June 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

With names like Ward, Thema, and Doris, it has to be old!

June 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWDWFanBoy Brett

I know! Classic old names.

June 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterMitch

Thanks for sharing - very cool!

June 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

This was wonderful! I've lived in the Santa Ynez Valley & Los Alamos for years now and had no idea of this history so close by. How fantastic! Thank you for sharing!

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDevyn

Hi Mitch. I also grew up in Santa Maria. My family lived there from 1957 until August of 1965, and I loved seeing the trains of the SMVRR as a child, ages 2 until 10. I can barely recall seeing a steam engine on that railroad. I did not know of this historic occasion and Walt's connection to it until about 15 years ago. By the way, KCOY was a radio station in Santa Maria at 1440 on the AM dial, now KUHL. In 1965, we moved to Anaheim! And Disneyland was my first job out of high school in 1974. Jim Hilliker-Monterey

May 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim Hilliker

Hi Mitch, I hope this message reached you. I have been searching for many years for some of these pictures. I also have some, My grandfather was a part of this day here. He worked for Santa Maria Railroad for many years and retired from there. He was a part of Steam engine 21's team. His name was Nick Avila. Thank you for posting this, by chance do you have anyother photos ? There used to be alot of these pictures up inside of McDonalds on Fesler st. in Santa Maria, once they remodeled McDonalds no one seems to know where those pictures went to.

November 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Ballze

That's very interesting

November 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterXxx_cool_xxX

21 has nearly completed her restoration by the Astoria Railroad Preservation Association in Oregon, here's their website:

They expect 21 to be fully operational by Next year.

July 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSatchel Hogan

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