Railroad Story

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing the Disney books you should have in your collection.


Railroad Story

Walt Disney’s Railroad Story is a treasure for any Disney enthusiast young or old.  This coffee table book of 432 pages written by Michael Broggie is an illustrative work that takes the reader through the life of Walt Disney in a way that features his early beginnings and how his love for railroads led to a passion that he incorporated into his parks worldwide.

The book is divided into several sections, called “scenes”, but before all of that, this reader was captivated with a forward written by Lillian B. Disney, wife of Walt Disney, and spellbound by two of Walt’s Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball & Ollie Johnston, with incredible introductions.

A book of this length can’t be written about properly in one blog post, so what I’m going to do is take each of the scenes in order and offer up my favorite parts from each scene. Let’s journey down each scene in our railroad story, starting at scene one.

Scene One: Humble Beginnings

This scene, comprised of seven chapters, looks at various aspects of Walt’s upbringing.  What I like about this whole book is the incredible photography seen throughout; some of these photos and drawings are ones that we haven’t seen in many a year, if ever, and many of them are likely only found now in the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.

Near the end of scene one is chapter six, which talks about the trip that Ward Kimball and Walt Disney made to the Chicago Railroad Fair.  Reading through that chapter, Michael Broggie paints a picture of Walt that many of us have imagined, but few have witnessed.  In it, he describes how sentimental that journey was for Walt.  Of course, Walt Disney had some raising in Chicago, so he knew it well; at one point in the story, Walt is leading Ward through various stations in the L, describing where this track went or where that track went. While Ward Kimball had no idea where they were, it finally dawned on him that Walt was reliving his childhood.

Our railroad story continues in scene two, where we learn how the stage is set.

Scene Two: Setting the Stage

In scene two, the stage is set for exploring the growing fascination with railroads, and Walt and Lilly purchase the land that would become the site of their home in Holmby Hills. This scene goes into greater detail on the building of Walt’s backyard small scale railroad, but what I really enjoyed reading was the chapter known as “The Birth of Lilly Belle”.  In this chapter, Broggie goes into detail on the locomotive that would run Walt’s backyard operation, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, and how they made the locomotive by hand in the machine shop at the Studio, under the direction of Michael Broggie’s dad, Roger.  Reading more about the deadline they were under, and the pressure to make it work, really made the pages turn in that chapter, and I felt like I was there with them making it happen all over again.

Scene Three: Happiest Place on Earth

Our railroad story continues in scene three.  In this section, the real meat of the story starts to come alive as we look at the Happiest Place on Earth, Disneyland, and the Santa Fe  & Disneyland R.R. that was built at the park.  In addition, we learn of how the park attendance outgrew the pace that the railroad could operate at, even with two running locomotives at a time, and the search is on for a 3rd locomotive for the railroad.

Scene Four: A Magic Kingdom

It is in scene four that our railroad story takes a sad turn.  As you all know, Walt Disney died before the Florida Project could be completed, and Walt Disney World (replacing the original name of Disney World) is completed with Walt’s brother Roy at the helm.  Though the show must go on without Walt, the legacy that he built and left behind continued with many of the same special features that were employed under the direction of Walt.  The new Magic Kingdom was built with a railroad around it like at Disneyland, but the trains were larger — and I learned that the reason for this is because the railroad had as much as a 2% grade in places, and larger trains would make that more manageable, as well as allow for more cars and more passengers as a result!

Epilogue: Leaving a Better World

The conclusion of our railroad story leaves us with perhaps the words that we all should strive to emulate.  Thank you for reading our post today, I leave you with the words of Walt Disney himself to close us out:

“If I leave this world a better place, then my time here will have been worthwhile.” ~ Walter Elias Disney

For more Disney book recommendations,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


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music memories

Live Music Memories on Main Street, U.S.A.

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Orange Loop. Today we are sharing some of the best live entertainment at the Disney Parks.


music memories

The Dapper Dans share some of their talent with us on Main Street, U.S.A.

When it comes to Disney, for me and my family we have always enjoyed and thought that the music from the parks can lead to an even greater enjoyment of all that we see.  Today I’m sharing with you some of my favorite music memories from Main Street, U.S.A. and even beyond!  The picture you see at the beginning is of the Dapper Dans as they performed for us on Main Street, U.S.A.  After they had finished, they were kind enough to share a picture with my daughter Sophie and niece Anna Jane, as you see here.

music memories

The Dapper Dans with Sophie & Anna Jane!

As you progress up Main Street, take a look at the piano situated over by Casey’s Corner.  The piano has a player, and they will appear at various times throughout the day, so check your times guide for the day you are there.  It’s a great way to sit down, relax, and let the music take you back in time to another age.  Simply put, it’s just one of the music memories you’ll experience on this journey.

music memories

If you haven’t heard the Main Street Philharmonic perform, then make sure you save some time for a listen.  Their music is really good, and among the best of any band you’ll hear anywhere!

Music Memories

Then, over in Fantasyland, one of my memories was when the Fantasyland Woodwinds Society (I think I have the name correct) performed Happy Birthday for Sophie and this other lady who’s birthday it was also.  Here’s a picture from that day.

music memories

Of course, not all music memories are created by the live entertainment. Some are the product of the incredible parades, including this one that was one of my all time favorites, but is now located at Disneyland:

What music do you like to see performed at Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for stopping by today!

For more must see live entertainment at Disney,
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‘Walt Disney’s Disneyland’ Book Review

Walt Disney was a master of promotion. His Disneyland television show was basically a weekly commercial advertising his upcoming theme park. And in that theme park, he continued this self-promotion with the release, each year, of souvenir booklets, pamphlets, and hardcover books, all designed to keep guests dreaming about Disneyland long after the visit was over!

This post is a review of one such publication:

This 70-page book has no ISBN number and no publisher but does reference Walt Disney Productions. It was printed in the U.S.A. possibly in February of 1971. However, the copyright date is 1969.

This book was first published in 1964 and was re-released every year afterwards. For how long, I don’t know. Slight changes to this publication likely would have been made as new attractions were added to the park and others removed.

The book is filled with beautiful two-page spreads of popular attractions. The Jungle Cruise, above,  is a personal favorite!

One of the best reasons for purchasing such an old book is because of the history it contains. Attractions like The Skyway, now gone (but rumored to be returning to Walt Disney World), are fun to see again!

Young and Old Enjoy Disneyland

A panoramic shot like this one shows both the Columbia and the Mark Twain. Would you like to be sitting on one of those benches right now?

Beautiful!

The book covers many of the classic attractions with colorful pictures and informative text.

The book actually starts with a brief history of the construction of Disneyland. It then covers each of the cardinal lands in turn: Fantasyland; Adventureland; Frontierland; Tomorrowland; and of course, Main Street U.S.A.

Next it covers the first and second decades of the park in their own sections. New Orleans Square and the updated Tomorrowland are also featured. The book ends with a ‘what is to come’ page featuring the soon-to-be opened Walt Disney World.

COOL FACTOR: 4.5/5

For the casual Disney fan, this book would be a fun read. For the diehard fan, it is an essential read of the history of Disneyland!

I would have given it a higher rating if not for the fact that it is merely a reprint of earlier, essentially the same, publications. But even so, I highly recommend it!

I picked it up at a thrift store for just $5.00 CAN.

Magical Blogorail: Disney Ride Secrets – Big Thunder Mountain

Every ride has a ‘sweet spot’ where everyone wants to sit. Especially roller coasters! Where should you sit on Big Thunder Mountain? And what other secrets does this attraction hold?

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing some of the secrets you’ll find while enjoying Disney attractions.


So what isn’t a secret about this iconic Walt Disney World attraction? The official site says: “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is a speedy rollercoaster-type attraction designed with your entire family in mind. However, some parts of this attraction are bumpy and, in some instances, take place in the dark.”

Obviously, this isn’t the fastest or wildest ride in the Magic Kingdom. But what it lacks in thrills it more than makes up for in fun and theming. However, if you want the biggest possible thrill on the Big Thunder Mountain railway, here is how to get it:

TIP: Don’t Sit Up Front

When I rode this attraction for the first time, I assumed that the best place to ride would be directly behind the ‘engine’. But when I asked the loading Cast Member if we could ride up front, he told me that if I wanted to really feel the drops, I needed to ride in the back. He directed us there and… he was right!

Why? On the main drop, the coaster train slows, and the front starts down the drop before the cars are released. So the first two cars don’t experience the full length of the drop. But the last car, still slightly behind the crest of the hill when the drop begins, gets the full effect!

So whereby with other coasters the front cars are the best, with Big Thunder Mountain, it’s the rear that gives the best ride!

But there is one more tip I can share to help you get the most out of this attraction. As mentioned earlier, Big Thunder Mountain is heavily themed, so you will want to see everything. But how can you do that whilst whizzing around the track? You can’t. Therefore…

TIP: Ride Other Attractions

The picture above was taken from the Liberty Belle Riverboat while plying the Rivers of America. This allows you a leisurely look at the majestic spires of the mountain.

You can also watch the ride vehicles go by and listen to the screams of the riders.

You can also see the mountain from the other side if you take a ride on the Walt Disney World Railroad:

You will have less time to see things from this perspective as the train moves a little faster than its lake-going counterpart. But most of the small details are on this side, so be sure to sit of the right side of the train cars for the best views and photo opportunities.

I’ll let you discover the rest of the secrets on your own when you ride Big Thunder Mountain for yourself!

For more Disney ride secrets,
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Springtime at Disney

Exploring the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing some of the magic you can expect at the 2017 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival.


Flower & Garden

Lightning McQueen stands watch over the Flower & Garden Festival (2011)

Over at Epcot at Walt Disney World, each year the creative geniuses turn out two major events that are a highlight for those that attend.  In the Fall is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, and in the Spring is the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.  Today marks the start of the 2017 edition of the Flower & Garden Festival, and the festival runs until May 29th.  If you are lucky or fortunate enough to be able to visit and enjoy the festival, that’s great, but the good thing is that many of the topiaries will be around Epcot even after the festival has concluded.  The picture at the top of this post was taken in June 2011, some weeks after that festival ended.

I’ve not actually been to Epcot during a Flower & Garden festival before, it’s one of those things that I’m looking forward to enjoying one year, but so far we haven’t been able to do so because of school schedules.  So at this point I’ve got pictures that were shared with me from my friend Alicia, and my imagination will take me the rest of the way.

I really love the topiaries, and look forward to seeing them one year.  What I’m most looking forward too, though, is being able to take my wife Cindy to Epcot on her birthday and experiencing it first hand.  Tomorrow is her birthday, so we would be right in line with seeing the start of the festival.  Here’s how I picture it in my mind’s eye.

It’s an absolutely incredible spring-like day.  The sky is a brilliant blue, with a few wispy clouds  dotting the landscape.  Cindy and I are staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, a resort that we’ve visited before but have never stayed at.  For Epcot, it’s a great resort because you can just walk to the park, enter through the International Gateway, and take in the festival. In fact, on this day, that’s just what we did.  We visited all of the pavilions that we enjoy, Canada, China, the American Adventure, Norway, Italy, Germany, France, Mexico.  In fact, we visited them all because today was a special day, a day when it was just Cindy and I, walking hand-in-hand, enjoying being at Walt Disney World, and sharing our love for each other with those we encounter.

Everyone has a smile on their face, because when you are at Disney, that’s what you do most of all — you smile.  You take everything in, and you don’t worry about anything because at Walt Disney World, everyone turns into a version of their childhood once again.  After we walk around the festival, we ride some of our favorite rides: Soarin’, Test Track, Spaceship Earth, and we remember fondly those attractions that aren’t around anymore, like Maelstrom.

The reality for me is this. Visiting Walt Disney World and Epcot during the Flower & Garden Festival would be great because it would mean that I am able to visit Disney with my wife once again, something we haven’t been able to do for a while now.  It would mean that things are much better than they were, and when we go to Walt Disney World next, it will truly feel like this is the first time we have been.  What are your thoughts about the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival? Please share them with us, and make sure you check out the rest of the posts from this loop.  Thanks for stopping by!

For more of what you can expect at Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival,
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