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!
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."