The Birthplace of Imagineering - Walt's Barn

Walt Disney was a railroad enthusiast. His love for trains was passed on by his uncle who had been a steam locomotive engineer. He also grew up in an era in which steam trains, and the promise of faraway travel they brought with them, appealed to many.

It was Walt’s passion for trains that in 1950 made him build a live steam backyard railroad in the garden of his home at 355, Carolwood Drive, Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA. He called it the ‘Carolwood Pacific Railroad’.

Disney's 2,615 feet of track included a 46 foot long trestle, loops, overpasses, gradients, an elevated dirt berm, and a 90 foot tunnel underneath his wife's flowerbed.

Amidst the circuit, Walt Disney had a barn built where he could store and maintain his rolling stock. The building served as a control room as well.

The building was designed after the barn that his family had in Marceline, Missouri (where Walt had the most wonderful time of his childhood).

Walt also used the Carolwood Pacific Railroad barn as a place to relax or to brainstorm about future projects. It was here that Walt Disney envisioned a theme park that was surrounded by a miniature train. Therefore, the barn is often seen as the 'birthplace of Imagineering'.

Today, scaled steam trains are circling the perimeter of every Disney theme park around the globe. The Disneyland Paris Railroad operates four trains, the W.F. Cody, C.K. Holliday, G. Washington and Eureka.

Engine n° 1, the 'W.F. Cody'.

The first locomotive pays tribute to William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody: one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West, and mostly famous for the shows he organized with cowboy themes.

Engine n° 2, the 'C.K. Holliday'.

The second locomotive was named after the founder of the Santa Fé Railroad. Colonel Cyrus Kurtz Holliday was the first president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, as well as one of the railroads directors for nearly forthy years.

Engine n°3, the 'G. Washington'.

The third locomotive of the Disneyland Paris Railroad bore the name of the first President of the United States.

Engine n°4, the 'Eureka'.

The fourth locomotive was added some months after the Disneyland Park opened due to the popularity of the Railroad. The name comes from the cry that the California supposedly made in 1849, when they discovered gold.

To research the designs of the Disneyland Paris trains, the Imagineers visited the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village museums in Michigan and the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

Arrival of the 'G. Washington' locomotive at the Euro Disney property (1991).

When the Holmby Hills home was sold, Walt's barn was to be demolished. Through the efforts of the Walt Disney Family Foundation and others, the barn was purchased and relocated to the grounds of the Los Angeles Live Steamers at Griffith Park in Los Angeles.

Walt's barn is now a museum filled with items relating to his personal railroad history, the history of Disneyland and many interesting miniature live steam and other models.

The barn is open to the public on the third Sunday of each month from 11 am to 3 pm. Parking and admission are free.

Photos:

Chris Jespen
Meandering Mouse
Mark Wordy
Armadillo

Shared Knowledge

Submitted by Victoria on August 25, 2013 - 17:10 #

A fantastic Article! Having recently visited Walt's Barn at Griffith Park, I would recommend any Disney enthusiast to visit there! It is full of great artefacts and the people working there are very knowledgeable. They told us that when the plans for the railroad were originally drawn up for Walt's garden that the train went straight through the tunnel. Walt decided he wanted to make it more interesting and asked to have a curve put in the tunnel so people entering could not immediately see the exit! Many believe this was the first attraction Walt Disney ever plussed!

Submitted by Anne on November 10, 2011 - 17:55 #

The Disneyland Paris trains were constructed by a company called “Hugh Phillips Engineering” (Wales - United Kingdom).

Submitted by Big Thunder on October 14, 2011 - 18:30 #

Great article! I believe the trains at Disneyland Paris are the most beautiful of any Disney park. But one other minor correction: though the trains at Hong Kong Disneyland do indeed circle the park (unlike Tokyo) they are not live steam; they are diesel powered steam outline engines.

Submitted by Cory on October 14, 2011 - 18:28 #

Trains do not circumnavigate the perimeter of Tokyo Disneyland. If it did, with multiple stations, it would actually fall under Japanese law as a real mass transit system with all the hang-ups that entails. They do have the Western River Railway with one station in Adventureland, however.

Comments

Submitted by Q on October 22, 2011 - 17:39 #

On our recent trip to Tokyo Disneyland, I got to ride the train for the first time. And even though it only has the one station in Adventureland, and doesn't go around the entire park, it was certainly one of the highlights of that wonderful day!

Submitted by Terri on October 14, 2011 - 18:31 #

My husband and I had the opportunity to visit Marceline, MO last summer. We stopped by the museum and the replica of Walt's barn. The woman giving the tour of the museum was a joy to listen to and since she knew Walt personally she had some great stories to share.

Submitted by Cory on October 14, 2011 - 18:26 #

I've been to Walt's Barn and would highly recommend it to everybody interested in Disney history. There's just tonnes of stuff there... Even Ward Kimball's Firehouse Five Plus Two fireman's hat! Visiting makes a great day out at Griffith Park, along with the various movie sights and the Griffith Observatory. Or if one is too worried about getting away from the Disneysphere while in LA, the Disney Studios and El Capitan Theater / Disney Soda Shop are both nearby.

Submitted by Sam on October 14, 2011 - 18:24 #

Great article. Thank you.

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