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All Aboard the History of the Walt Disney Railroads

All Aboard the History of the Walt Disney Railroads

Chug-a, Chug-a, Choo-Choo! Disney Addicts will be taking a magical ride aboard the Walt Disney Railroads today as we travel through the history of this popular attraction located at the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida and in Disneyland in California.  Now, I’m sure all of you Disney Addicts are well aware that the Walt Disney World Railroad is currently not in operation due to the Tron construction.  With the attraction scheduled to be closed possibly for the majority of 2020, we needed our railroad fix.





To some, the train may seem weirdly out of place, but to Walt Disney, it was a staple that he wanted to be incorporated into the design of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.  Ever since Disney was young he had a fascination with trains that continued on into his adulthood, just ask his wife!  Once married, Walt Disney asked if he could have a train running through his yard.  From then on, Walt spent a majority of his downtime construction trains in his backyard, naming it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.

One of the very first designs of Disneyland included a version of the Walt Disney Railroads operating around the parks.  The Disneyland Railroad came to fruition with the help of Roger Broggie, who helped with the construction of Walt’s miniature railroad.





The Disneyland Railroad was one of the opening-day attractions on July 17, 1955, with two steam engines in operation. The first engine, Engine No. 1, named C.K. Holliday, was named for Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, founder of the Atchison & Topeka Railroad.  The Atchison & Topeka Railroad would later be renamed The Santa Fe Railroad. The locomotive was built by WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering) in Burbank, California, from a design inspired by Walt Disney’s model train engine, the Lilly Belle which was the centerpiece of his backyard railroad.  The second engine, No. 2, named E.P. Ripley, was named for Edward Payson Ripley, who was the first president of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, and was also built by WED Enterprises.

In 1958, the Disneyland Railroad expanded with a third engine Engine No. 3, named Fred Gurley, after Fred G. Gurley, who was president of the Santa Fe Railway from 1944-1957. Fun Fact: Engine No. 3 is the oldest steam engine operating on the Disneyland Railroad, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Penn., in 1894. It was first put into service in August 1895 and began its new carrier at Disneyland on March 28, 1958.





In 1959, a fourth engine was added, Engine No. 4, named Ernest S. Marsh, named for Ernest S. Marsh President of Santa Fe Railroad in 1959.  The engine was built in 1925 by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, Penn.  The final fifth engine wasn’t added until nearly 50 years later.  The fifth engine, Engine No. 5, named Ward Kimball, named after a Disney Animator and one of Walt Disney’s “Nine Old Men”.  Fun fact: Engine No. 5 is unique among its fellow steam engines, as it was named not for an icon of the railroad, but for an icon of the Walt Disney Company. Kimball was named a Disney Legend in 1989. Ward was also a railroad enthusiast, whose passion for the hobby inspired Walt’s own love of trains and railroading. The Ward Kimball was put into service on the Disneyland Railroad on June 25, 2005, and dedicated on February 15, 2006, as part of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Disneyland.

Over at Walt Disney World, once plans for the addition of the railroad were discussed Disney Imagineers began searching for locomotives and passenger cars to use for the railroad.  Imagineers were able to purchase Four Steam trains from Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucatan (United Railways of Yucatan) and restored in time for the park’s opening on October 1, 1971, but it does not erase the history of these amazing trains.  Each train, manufactured by the Baldwin Automotive Works of Philadelphia between 1915-1928 for the United Railways of Yucatan, spent years transporting jute and sugar through the Yucatan Peninsula.  Fun fact: The steam-powered trains can hold up to 1,837 gallons of water and 667 gallons of fuel oil! After the restoration was complete the trains were each named after a Disney icon: Walter E. Disney, Lilly Belle, Roy O. Disney and Roger E. Broggie who is considered to be the first Disney Imagineer.

Today the loop of the Disney World Railroad around Magic Kingdom Park encompasses around 1.5 miles and stops at three different stations: Main Street, U.S.A., Frontierland, and Fantasyland.

Now that you know the history of this popular attraction we hope you enjoy the Walt Disney Railroads more than you did before.

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Jessica Jones

Writer at Disney Addicts
Jessica was born in Texas but moved to New Hampshire when she was 9. Due to her increasing hatred towards the cold, she has been secretly turning her husband into a Disney lover in hopes to move to Florida. Hopefully her cover wasn't just compromised! Oh, she also loves painting, crafting, and all that stuff.
Jessica Jones


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