The Disneyland Railroad (DRR) is a narrow-gauge railroad located at Disneyland in Anaheim, California USA that was inaugurated on that theme park's opening day, July 17, 1955. The live steam railway was constructed at a cost of US $240,000 and each of the original four locomotives cost in excess of $40,000 either to build or restore. It remains one of Disneyland's most popular attractions as riders can use it as transportation to other areas of the park or to simply ride the trains on the so-called "grand circle tour." Unlike the Disneyland Monorail System, which requires riders to disembark at the Tomorrowland station, passengers on the DRR can remain on the trains for as long as they wish. The railroad is, in fact, the first thing visitors see upon entering Disneyland via the main entrance.
After closing for refurbishment in late 2004, the railroad reopened the following march March after undergoing a three-month restoration to bring the roadbed back to gauge in time for the Happiest Homecoming on Earth. It was the longest prolonged closure of the railroad in park history.
The Disneyland Railroad was temporarily closed from January 10, 2016, until July 29, 2017 (soft-opening on July 28, 2017), in order to accommodate the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, northwest of Frontierland.
Laid to three-foot gauge, the most common narrow-gauge measurement used in North America, the train's track runs in a continuous loop around the park, which has subsequently expanded past the tracks in some places. The line features grade crossing signals, automatic block signals, and a roundhouse for locomotive storage.
Under the original track plan, two trains (one freight and one passenger) could operate on the railroad simultaneously, running in the same direction. A passing track was incorporated at Main Street station where one train had to wait to allow the other to pass. Later, for safety reasons, and to allow the use of more than two trains, the line was changed so that trains followed behind each other, no longer able to pass one another. The passing track was disconnected and now is only used to display a handcar. Walt Disney dictated that a minimum of two trains were to operate at all times, and it is not uncommon for three or four trains to run simultaneously on busy days.
A detail dating from the park's opening can be seen from the railroad. As the train passes behind the "It's a Small World" attraction in Fantasyland, it crosses a service road leading back to the roundhouse that is protected by two miniature wigwag crossing signals. The Santa Fe Railway offered the use of full-scale crossing signals, but Disney declined as they would be out of scale with the trains. These scaled-down replicas were designed and built by the San Bernardino, shops of the Santa Fe as a gift to Disneyland. They operate with automotive windshield wiper motors.
Passenger seating originally consisted of forward-facing bench seats in several railcars. The 1958 addition of the Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama necessitated a change in the rolling stock; instead of facing forward, the benches of the new flatcars were changed to face right so that the diorama could be better enjoyed by the passengers. This was also done to speed up loading.
Today the seating consists mostly of open-air, freight-styled coaches with bench seating still facing right for ease of loading and unloading at the depots and for easier viewing of the diorama. Five open-air, clerestory-roofed observation cars with forward-facing seats dating from the park's opening were removed from service shortly after the diorama's opening in 1958 but were returned to service in 2004 after undergoing a three-year restoration. One trainset, the Excursion III, still faces forward. The Lilly Belle presidential coach is occasionally added to the rear of a train, and an enclosed caboose is coupled to the original freight train.
From concept to inauguration
The Disneyland Railroad was inspired by Walt Disney's love for trains and his live steam backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a love he shared with Disney animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston. Until 1974, it was sponsored by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, during which time it operated as the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.
The train originally consisted solely of custom-built, five-eighths-scale equipment. The Walt Disney Company constructed the original two locomotives in its own workshops under the supervision of Roger E. Broggie. Patterned after the Lilly Belle, a miniature steam locomotive Broggie had made for Walt's backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, these were also models of classic "Wild West"-style American 4-4-0s, but built to a larger five-eighths scale. No. 1 was given a big wood-burning "diamond" stack and a large pointed pilot (cowcatcher) while No. 2 was given a straight "cap" stack and smaller pilot common to East Coast coal-burning locomotives.
Initially, the Disneyland Railroad was to use a smaller scale of locomotives. Walt's good friend, Southern Pacific engineer Billy Jones, refused to sell him his locomotive, the Number 2, a 1905 product of the Coit Locomotive Works built for the Venice Miniature Railway. Jones ran one of the trains on Opening Day. The Number 2, known more affectionately as the Two-Spot, still runs at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos, CA, on the non-profit Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad.
Three more locomotives were later acquired from outside sources since this was cheaper than building new ones and since many narrow-gauge lines were closing down and selling their equipment. The locomotives are all products of the famed Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA. All three were given extensive renovations before entering service, including new boilers. Number 3 and the "new" number 5 are Forney locomotives, a type of tank locomotive. As an 1894 product of Baldwin, number 3 is the oldest locomotive in service at any Disney property and is also the most difficult to fire.
Walt Disney, along with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight and Fred G. Gurley (in his capacity of president of the Santa Fe) presided over the opening-day ceremonies. Since Disney made frequent rounds of the park from opening day forward and since his railroading hobby gave him extensive experience in the operation of steam locomotives, it was not uncommon to see him in the cab of one of the locomotives in the capacity of the engineer.
The Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama
The 1958 edition of the "Grand Canyon" diorama (what was once a long tunnel through a backstage service area) necessitated a change in the rolling stock as well; instead of facing forward, the new flatcars' benches now faced right so that the passengers could better enjoy the scenes. The diorama, which includes the park's only taxidermic animals in lifelike poses, is the longest in the world. Painted on a single piece of seamless canvas and representing the view from the canyon's south rim, the rear of the diorama measures 306 feet (93 m) long, 34 feet (10 m) high, and is covered with 300 gallons (1,100 L) of paint.
The cost was US$367,000 and took more than 80,000 labor hours to construct. The main theme of Ferde Grofe's On The Trail is piped in through the train's sound system as it enters the diorama. In 1966, the diorama was expanded with a prehistoric theme to become the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama, with Audio-Animatronic dinosaurs from Walt Disney's Ford Magic Skyway attraction at the 1964 New York World's Fair. A 96-year-old Hopi chief, Chief Nevangnewa, blessed the trains on the diorama's opening day.
Alterations and modernization
The 1969 installation and opening of The Haunted Mansion required minor realignment of the mainline since part of the new attraction extended beneath the roadbed.
The railroad also went down for an extended period of time during the construction of Splash Mountain in the late 1980s.
Passengers could use a Santa Fe Rail Pass in lieu of an E-ticket, up until the railroad ended its sponsorship in 1974. Between 1971 and 1974, Disneyland was the only place the passes were still valid, as the Santa Fe had divested itself of its passenger services upon the formation of Amtrak.
The Santa Fe ended its sponsorship in 1974 when it demanded the park replace the steam locomotives with diesel representative of their newest motive power. Disneyland refused, on the grounds that it would disrespect Walt Disney's legacy. The Santa Fe expected references of their sponsorship to remain in place and be removed at the park's convenience, but all Santa Fe signage disappeared overnight. The Disneyland Railroad has been sponsorless since then.
The DLRR was in near-continuous operation since the park's 1955 opening until December 2004 when the system was shut down for reballasting, regauging and in-cab signaling as part of Disneyland's fiftieth-anniversary celebration (block signals remained at the stations for show; the railroad's Florida counterpart still utilizes block signals). The attraction reopened on March 17, 2005. At the time, it was the railroad's most prolonged closure in park history.
In 1999, Disney purchased the inoperable Maud L locomotive from the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, and sent it to a Southern California shop in 2004 to restore it and transform it into a Disneyland Railroad locomotive. This 1902 Baldwin locomotive is now Disneyland Railroad locomotive number 5 and is the first added since 1959. Originally named for Maud Lepine, daughter of one of the original owners and a name kept throughout the unit's service life, it is now named after Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men and an avid railroad preservationist.
The Disneyland Railroad was closed from January 2016 until July 2017, due to the construction of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, northwest of Frontierland. The railroad and adjacent Rivers of America were rerouted during this time. The railroad began testing on the new realignment on June 23, 2017 and reopened to the public on July 28, 2017. The Railroad's new route includes a new section along the Rivers of America called Columbia Gorge, which features rock formations, trestles, and waterfalls, as well as the attraction's first left-hand turn in its 62-year history. The Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas also received new special effects. The attraction features a new narration spiel by Bob Joles. The railroad experienced multiple issues during its first week after reopening, as a crush of guests overwhelmed the trains. Not helping was the fact that the Excursion III set was not being run to facilitate better viewing of the enhanced dioramas, and that the locomotives were having issues with the 2% grade in the Columbia Gorge section, especially the Forney locomotives, not to mention the #2 being rendered out of service due to a prolonged overhaul.
In the weeks leading up to the reopening of Disneyland following the COVID-19 pandemic, trains spotted being tested. The railroad reopened with the park on April 30, 2021; due to staffing shortages, however (reportedly, most engineers and firemen chose to retire during the pandemic), the trains ceased operating at 2:30 PM. By July 2021, the trains were back to operating until the park closes.
Main Street Station is designed to coordinate architecturally with the rest of Main Street and is the first Disneyland structure visitors see upon entering the park. A sign on the roof shows an elevation of 138 feet (42m) above sea level and a population number that roughly corresponds with the number of visitors to the park over the past six decades. As of January 2005, the number stood at 500 million. A handcar is on permanent display on a siding in front of the station that once allowed two trains to run the loop while passing each other at the two original stations. It was donated to Walt Disney himself around 1964 by its maker, Kalamazoo Manufacturing. A replica of the Lilly Belle (the locomotive, not the coach) is on display inside the station as are various print articles pertaining to the DRR; the real Lilly Belle was on display in the station until it was moved to the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
The onetime Frontierland station stop now serves New Orleans Square, though it was still named Frontierland until 1996; the station announcements at Main Street and Tomorrowland Stations still refer to it as Frontierland (the Main Street announcement referred to it as New Orleans Square until the railroad's 2017 reopening, when a station announcement from circa 1993-1994 was installed, seemingly by mistake). Its station is a platform whose canopy is of a similar style to that of the Main Street Station. A building on the opposite side of the tracks (inspired by Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats depot) once served as the station platform; it was removed from service in 1962 when the tracks were realigned to accommodate the Haunted Mansion, and now serves primarily as an ornamental detail and a break room for train crews. The telegraph sound effect that can be heard emanating from the building is the actual morse code that repeats the first two lines of Walt Disney's 1955 opening day speech.
Fantasyland's original train station opened in 1956, directly adjacent to Storybook Land and the Midget Autopia. It was eliminated in 1966 when the railroad was rerouted for it's a small world. Another station was opened in 1985 for Videopolis. The station was rethemed to a somewhat "cartoonish" design in 1992 to correspond with the theming of Mickey's Toontown, which opened in January 1993. Initially, park maps still referred to it as Fantasyland Station, and indeed, the station technically serves Fantasyland more than it does Toontown.
Tomorrowland's station features a Googie-style architectural design and was originally light blue (the exit signs are still white and blue), but was repainted copper, brown and orange in 1998 to correspond with the new Tomorrowland color scheme. The station has recently undergone renovations with new metal railings and pavement. For unknown reasons, the station was left with its 1998 colors and its new elements were the same color. This section of Tomorrowland was not re-painted in time for the fiftieth-anniversary celebration and is one of the last holdouts of the 1998 color scheme.
All the Disneyland locomotives burn No. 2 diesel fuel, which is less polluting (though more expensive) than the coal, wood, or heavy "Bunker C" oil normally used on steam locomotives.
The Disneyland Railroad currently has five narrow-gauge steam locomotives (the original four are named after former Santa Fe CEOs):
- 1: C. K. Holliday, a 4-4-0 built in the Walt Disney Studio in 1954; went into service at Disneyland on Opening Day, 1955. Named for Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, founder of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1859. The locomotive's whistle is a Lunkenheimer 3 inch single-chime. Operable.
- 2: E.P. Ripley, a 4-4-0 built in the Walt Disney Studio in 1954; went into service at Disneyland on Opening Day, 1955. Named for Edward Payson Ripley, an early president of the ATSF after its 1895 reorganization. The locomotive's whistle is a Lunkenheimer 3 inch 3-chime. Under overhaul.
- 3: Fred Gurley, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1894, went into service at Disneyland on March 28, 1958. The locomotive, named for the then-current chairman of the ATSF, is the oldest single piece of railroad equipment in use at any Disney theme park. The 2-4-4T tank locomotive, used in Louisiana to transport sugar cane, was purchased in working condition for US$1300; nevertheless, more than $35,000 was spent on its restoration. A commemorative brass plaque celebrating the Gurley's centennial was mounted in the cab in 1994. The locomotive's whistle is the same as No. 2's. During 2018, the locomotive wore several whistles while its normal whistle was overhauled, including the Lunkenheimer 3 inch single-chime in which No. 5 wore from 2005 to 2014. In June 2018, No. 3 also wears a Buckeye 3 inch 3-chime that was used on the Marie E. locomotive during the DRR's 2017 reopening. In late 2019, it was given a deeper tone Buckeye 4 inch 3-chime.
- 4: Ernest S. Marsh, a 2-4-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925; went into service at Disneyland on July 25, 1959. Named for the Santa Fe's then-current president, the Marsh originally served the Raritan River Sand Company in New Jersey. During shipment from New Jersey to California, the locomotive was misrouted and ended up in a rail yard outside Pittsburgh. Disney placed a call to personal friend Marsh who personally oversaw the rerouting and rapid shipment of the locomotive to its final destination. The locomotive's whistle is a Powell 4 inch 3-chime. It was temporarily replaced by a Lunkenheimer 5 inch 3-chime from March to late June 2019. During the mid-2000s, the locomotive wore a Lunkenheimer 3 inch single-chime, albeit lower-pitched than the No. 1's. Operable.
- 5: Ward Kimball, a 0-4-4T Forney, serial number 20925, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1902 for the Laurel Valley Plantation of Louisiana and later received in trade from Cedar Point Amusement Park as the inoperative Maud L in 1999. Cedar Point added a lead truck during its service there, making it a 2-4-4T. Restoration was begun by Boschan Boiler and Restorations of Carson, California in 2004 and the unit went into permanent service on June 25, 2005, as part of the park's fiftieth-anniversary celebration. Named for the famous Disney animator, the Kimball makes a slight break from tradition as well. Since the DLRR's inauguration, no Disney characters have been depicted on the rolling stock or at the stations in order to enforce the image of the railroad as a genuine, working system. The new locomotive's headlight features a gold leaf silhouette of Jiminy Cricket, a Ward Kimball creation. The silhouette is based on a drawing of the character Kimball made shortly before his death. The locomotive's whistle was originally the same as No. 1's, but higher-pitched. In 2014, it was replaced by a Crosby 4 inch/Lonergan 3 inch 3-chime, the same whistle it wore during its Cedar Point days. Operable.
- Grand opening: July 17, 1955 (Opened with Disneyland Park)
- Designer: WED Enterprises
- Original name: Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad (1955-1976)
- Locomotives: 5
- Track length: 1.2 miles
- Show length: 18:00
- Required ticket: "D"
- Ride system: Narrow-gauge steam train
- To offset construction costs, the Walt Disney Company solicited a number of major railroads for corporate sponsorship of the attraction in 1953; the Santa Fe was the only company to respond.
- From 1955 until 1974 (when the railroad's sponsorship ended), the Santa Fe "rail pass" was honored in lieu of the required "D" coupon. The Rail Pass was discontinued in 1971 by the Santa Fe when all passenger operations were ceded to Amtrak, but existing passes were still honored until 1974.
- The narration heard inside the cars at various points throughout the trip around the park is currently provided by Bob Joles. Previously, the narration had been provided by Jack Wagner (1950s-1970s), Vic Perrin (1970s-1980s), Thurl Ravenscroft (1980s-2002), and Earl Boen (2002-2016). During the Disneyland State Fair events in the late 1980s, the onboard narration was provided by Ludwig Von Drake (Corey Burton), and during the Disney Afternoon Avenue event in 1991, was provided by Baloo (Ed Gilbert) and Kit Cloudkicker (R.J. Williams) on the segment between Frontierland and Videopolis.
- By Disneyland's own estimates, the trains make more than 13,000 trips around the park annually.
- There are also Disneyland Railroads at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
- Ever since the trains first started operating in 1955, they have covered enough track to circle the globe more than 150 times.
- From May 6 to 7, 2006, the E.P. Ripley was displayed at the annual Fullerton Railroad Days in Fullerton, California. This was the first time any of the locomotives has been displayed at a public event off-site. The Ripley was fully accessible to the public. In the following three years, C.K. Holiday, Fred Gurley, and Ernest S. Marsh were displayed at the event, respectively.
- As part of their overhauls in the 2000s, the Holiday, Ripley, and Gurley were repainted into liveries nearly identical to those worn by the engines when they first began operating in Disneyland, although they remain lettered "Disneyland Railroad" rather than the original "Santa Fe & Disneyland RR" (reflecting the Santa Fe's sponsorship at the time). The Marsh was not so repainted after its overhaul as it already looked like its original Santa Fe colors.
- In Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the train appears as a mode of transportation. It goes to Mean Street (Main Street), Ventureland (Adventureland), Bog Easy (New Orleans Square), and Ostown (Toontown).
- The railroad originally had only two trains: the Passenger Train and the Freight Train. The Passenger Train was pulled by the E.P. Ripley and stopped only at Main Street, while the Freight Train was pulled by the C.K. Holliday and only stopped at Frontierland. Passing tracks were located at the stations to facilitate continuous running. The Passenger Train was made up of coaches, while the Freight Train was made up of gondolas and stock cars with standing room only (seating was available in the caboose, even in the cupola); the Freight Train was converted into its modern Holiday form in 1958. In 1974, the Passenger Train was mothballed due to its small windows, which were not suitable for viewing the dioramas, as well as its long loading times. All of the coaches still survive: the combine is at Walt's Barn in Griffith Park, the coaches are at the Pacific Coast Railway in Santa Margarita, CA, still in service and their original paint schemes, and the observation car Grand Canyon is now a VIP car named Lillie Belle. The Freight Train, on the other hand, is still in operation, but with seats facing inward towards the park, red and white striped awnings, and wheelchair accessibility. The caboose is still on the train, and can still be ridden in. The cupola, however, was sealed off after an incident in 2001 involving a falling tree branch knocking the cupola off in Adventureland. Two additional gondolas for the Freight Train were built in 1958 and 1959, respectively.
- Besides the original trains, there are three other trainsets. The Excursion III cars were introduced with the Fred Gurley, Grand Canyon Diorama, and Fantasyland Depot in 1958, and are the only forward-facing passenger cars left in the park. The Excursion III cars served as the inspiration for all four trainsets on the Walt Disney World Railroad. The Holiday IV and Holiday V trainsets were introduced in 1964 and 1965, respectively. These cars face inwards and have blue and white and green and white striped awnings, respectively. The inward-facing seats make viewing the park easier and facilitate quicker loading and unloading.
- All passenger cars are in a set number series: the 10x series cars were the Passenger Train and were known as the Retlaw Ones (Retlaw is Walter in reverse). The 20x series cars are the Freight Train and are internally known as the Holiday II cars. The 30x cars are the Excursion III cars, and the 40x and 50x cars the Holiday IV and Holiday V cars, respectively.
- Each set also has a name: the Passenger Train was Retlaw I, the Freight Train is Holiday Red (formery Retlaw II), the Excursion III set is the Excursion Train, the Holiday IV cars form Holiday Green, and the Holiday V cars form Holiday Blue.
- While the train rides along the Rivers of America, looking behind the train (or to the left if riding on the Excursion III cars), one may see what looks like a boarded-up tunnel. This tunnel once led to the original roundhouse of the railroad, before the roundhouse was moved to the lower level of the monorail barn in the 1970s. The old roundhouse was used as storage space until it was demolished in 2016 to make room for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.
- The Holiday IV and V sets received new speakers in mid-2014. These speakers provide much clearer audio quality. The Freight Train received these same speakers sometime in 2015, and the Excursion III set received the speakers in 2017 prior to the railroad's reopening.
- When the railroad reopened in 2017, music was added to the train, that is played while the train is stopped in the station. The music is different from each land:
- Main Street USA: "Fortuosity"
- New Orleans Square: Dixieland music
- Mickey's Toontown: "Casey, Jr."
- Tomorrowland: "There's a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"
- "Grand Canyon Suite" and "Theme from The Mysterious Island" continue playing in the dioramas
- During the 1988 State Fair Days, music played throughout the train ride. This music came from World of Motion, It's a Small World, and the PeopleMover.
- Walt Disney World Railroad
- Disneyland Railroad (Paris)
- Hong Kong Disneyland Railroad
- Western River Railroad
- (1997) Duke, Donald. Santa Fe: The Railroad Gateway to the American West, Volume One Golden West Books, San Marino, California.
- (1979) Disneyland: The First Quarter Century. Walt Disney Productions, Burbank, California.
- (2000) Guide to Tourist Railroad and Museums. Kalmbach Publishing Co., Waukesha, Wisconsin. ISBN 0081-542X
- (2004) Trahan, Kendra D. Disneyland Detective: An INDEPENDENT Guide to Discovering Disney's Legend, Lore, and Magic! PermaGrin Publishing, Inc., Mission Viejo, California.
- (2004). DeGaetano, Steve M. Welcome Aboard the Disneyland Railroad! The Complete Disneyland Railroad Reference Guide Steam Passages Publications, Winnetka, California.
- The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society (CPHS) rededication of Engine #3, the Roger E. Broggie
- "Hidden Mickey's Secrets of the Magic Kingdom Railroad" webpage
- "History of: the Disneyland Railroad" webpage
- The "Magic Behind the Steam Trains Tour" webpage
- "The Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad" website
- DRR 5 is alive - The story behind locomotive number 5.
- For years, it was misreported that Earl Hindman was the narrator from 2002-2016.