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Entries in Walt Disney (15)


Carolwood Pacific and Other Backyard Railroads

Large image 1900x2050.
Extra large image 3800x4100. 

Take a look at specific pieces of Walt Disney's backyard miniature live steam train. Enjoy amazing photos of similar railroads from decades ago and miniature railroads still in use today.

Above you see a graphic we've produced showing the basic layout of the Carolwood Pacific in Walt Disney's Holmby Hills backyard. No other graphic quite like this is known to exist. Below you see the layout of the home and railroad being compared to the current property. Note that the Disney home was no small house. But compare it to the current monster house and it looks tiny.

With these visuals you can more-easily get an idea of what the Carolwood was really like. If you look closely at the photos and the map above you'll see that the train rode the tracks in both directions. I don't know if Walt had his prefered direction or route when showing off this great toy. But you'll notice the train is going clockwise when crossing the driveway and counter-clockwise on the same track when crossing the trestle. The fact that the train went in front of the house was news to me. The tunnel was much longer than I would have expected. They say Lillian's flower beds were dug up in order to make that tunnel.  

Walt and Lillian purchased the Holmby Hills homesite in 1949. It was the last home in which either of them permanently lived. Although, at the time of Walt's death in 1966 the Disney couple was staying in the home of daughter and son-in-law Diane and Ron Miller who had recently moved to a larger home. They purchased the Miller house as a temporary place to stay as they remodeled their home on Carolwood.

Upon seeing the Carolwood location for the first time, Walt expressed that the large backyard "will do". Lillian later said that he had the idea of a miniature railroad on his mind when he chose the property. And remember, Disneyland didn't come about for another half-decade. Walt was not yet known for such "three-dimensional entertainment".

Lillian lived in the Carolwood home until her death in 1997. When the Disney family sold the house and property Diane was wise enough to relocate Walt's barn to Griffith Park where it can be visited today. New property owners tore down the Disney home and landscaping in order to build a larger, newer house (as seen in the 2nd photo). They reportedly kept the tunnel near the house and use it for storage. The new owners are supposedly "Disney fans" (which we know can mean anything). I'd love to meet them. 

The following photo is from the collection Michael Broggie, son of Disney Legend Roger Broggie pictured here with Walt. The 17"x11" printed photo was given to me years ago by Micheal Broggie through a friend. Thanks Michael Broggie!

Famous Neighbors

Holmby Hill was and is no stranger to celebrities. Some former Carolwood Drive residents include Frank Sinatra (320 Carolwood Dr.– across from Disney), Michael Jackson (100), Elvis Presley (144), Marilyn Manrow (141), Sonny & Cher (141), Burt Reynolds (141), George Harrison (265), Barbara Streisand (301– next to Disney to the east), Clark Gable (325), Gregory Peck (375– next to Disney to the west), and Rod Stewart (391).


Other "Backyard" Railroads

Here we can feast our eyes on some great pics from the Los Angeles Live Steamers.


Live Steamers of Today

Reporter for The Orange County Register and friend of the blog, Mark Eades, recently sent us one of his articles about The Steamers. Attached to the article was this fantastic video.


In another post by Mark we get an excellent look inside Walt's Carolwood Barn as it sits today. Thanks Mark Eades!

A Piece of Carolwood Pacific

A piece of the original track from Walt's backyard as seen in one of our previous posts called "Little Box of Treasures"


Related posts:

Walt Disney and the Santa Maria Railroad
Little Box of Treasures
The Wonders of Nature's Wonderland [ PART 2 ]
The Amazing Home of John Lasseter
Walt's Wife Talks About EPCOT Center
Lake Buena Vista: The Other Prototype City with a Peoplemover



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



Little Box of Treasures

While working with animatronics and props I would find myself emptying the pockets of my work clothes at the end of the day to find scraps of that day's work.  I decided to keep some of this stuff in a box so years later I could remember the variety of materials I once used.

Humor me as I share what might look like a pile of garbage.  For me, this garbage represents a whole lot of theme park ingenuity and memories of getting my hands dirty early, early in the morning...

Pieces of Brer Frog's pipe stem made of surgical tubing, covered in fabric tape and painted to look like bamboo.  Good ol' Brer Frog had the habit of smacking himself in the face with his previous, unforgiving, rigid pipe.  Speaking of smacks... Doesn't Brer Frog look a lot like the Sugar Smacks frog??

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea plants.  We would find these in the dirt after they filled in the lagoon.  I imagine there are still colorful plastic plants like this out there today.  Thank goodness they tore out that "too-expensive-to-keep-alive" ride.  << I'll explain my theory one day on how this is NOT so accurate.  Sometimes at night after they closed 20K I'd walk the catwalks in the caves only to pee my pants (figuratively) ever time.  So dark and damp and drippy- not to mention all the sea creatures sticking out of the dirty, half-drained water.

A genuine real piece of Walt Disney's backyard Carolwood Pacific train tracks! Given to me by a man who worked on site at Walt's Holmby Hill home in Los Angeles.  I like it because Walt himself played around with this stuff-- unlike a lot of park props.

Butyrate, skin, etc. from Pirate animatronics.

Coins from the Frontierland Shootin' Arcade.  Some coins were thrown out during a rehab we worked on.  Why is the Genie from Aladdin on them??  Don't ask me.  Fortunately the character artwork on the coins is not visible to guests, right?  It's Frontierland after all. 

A piece of George Washington's Hall of Presidents hands.  We'd pull a rough hand skin from the mold, "butter" it up (trim and add detail with a flat metal tip on the end of a torch), paint, and install.  Always enjoyed that.

We would remove hair and beards from Haunted Mansion ballroom ghosts once they lost their bright white shine.  Darker hair is much harder to see from the Doom Buggies.  I'll leave it to you to figure that one out.

Skin-like rubbery old paint would come off in large pieces.  Head skins too needed to be bright in color for the illusion to work.  The green rubber came from the old attic bride, I believe.

Madame Leota and Little Leota share similar projected effects.  Old portions of film would be thrown out when worn.  Above you see film from both Leotas.

In the Carousel of Progress 8mm film runs footage of a boxing match- projected from the basement below.  Remember the grandma exclaiming “Give’m a left you big lug!”

How in the world did a Mad Hatter nose end up in the box?  Don't ask me.  I believe the smelly thing was given to me for some reason.  Still stinks all these years later.

Spectro Magic lights.  Remember when Main Street Electrical Parade retired "forever" the first time and they sold light bulbs for $35??  Well these ain't those.  Am I the only one who never loved Spectro but always loved the Main Street Electrical Parade?


Related posts:

Carousel of Progress Like You’ve Never Seen It
The Haunted Mansion Like You've Never Seen It
Pirates of the Caribbean Like You've Never Seen It
Surviving Pieces of Journey Into Imagination
Audio Animatronics 101
What Disney Characters Love