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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WDW Railroad

88 Days: WDW Railroad

WDW Railroad

The Walt Disney World Railroad station at Main Street, U.S.A. is the backdrop for Day 88!

Welcome to My Dreams of Disney!  As you know, we’ve been counting down our days in our #DisneyWorldCountdown, and today, we are at day 88!  For today, we’re taking a look at the Walt Disney World Railroad!  The WDW Railroad is an original Disney World attraction because it incorporates one of Walt Disney’s favorite activities — his love of trains!

One of my favorite things to do at the Magic Kingdom is to take some time and relax by riding around the Magic Kingdom on the railroad.  It provides some unique views, some interesting perspectives that you don’t get if you don’t ride, plus it’s fun to just sit back and imagine yourself back in that time period when steam powered locomotives were the way people travelled long distances, and to imagine some of the different terrains and scenes that they might encounter.

It all takes me back to one of the biggest reasons I like going to Disney parks — for the history lessons that are evident all over the parks, but especially at the Magic Kingdom.  It’s attractions like this that truly make going to a Disney park so much more than just going to get on a bunch of rides.  It’s the whole experience of it — the history, the backstory for each of the attractions, the incredible parades, the phenomenal fireworks shows, and so much more that truly makes a Disney vacation all that it is.  It’s having a real steam locomotive for the WDW Railroad, like the Roger E. Broggie pictured below, that take Disney above and beyond the rest of the theme park industry — and why I don’t think Disney parks will ever be surpassed.

WDW Railroad

The Roger E. Broggie is just one of the WDW Railroad steam locomotives.

Do you like the WDW Railroad?  Is it an attraction that you ride at least part of the way around each trip to Walt Disney World, or is it one that you skip and don’t bother exploring?  Please let me know in the comments below, and thanks, as always, for stopping by!  Now, go out and make it a great Disney Day!

Magical Blogorail – Original Magic Kingdom Attractions!

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Welcome to the first stop aboard Magical Blogorail Blue. Enjoy the ride as we discuss vintage Disney attractions, shows, and more!

For my piece of the Blogorail Pie, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite original Magic Kingdom attractions!  This is something that I even have a series about called Disney Attractions, and through my research, since I wasn’t at Walt Disney World when it opened in 1971, I have a list of the original attractions that were open on October 1, 1971 that are still open today.  They include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • “it’s a small world”
  • Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Walt Disney World Railroad

What makes all of these attractions totally incredible to me is that they allow all of us — young and old alike — to immerse ourselves in the Disney Magic and put away our real world lives while we use our imagination — the most powerful magic at Disney, in my opinion — to take ourselves back in time to a simpler time and place.

I know when I’m riding “it’s a small world” the first thing that I start doing is singing like a little kid the song, over and over and over and over again.  I wave at the starter; I wave at the kids watching from Pinocchio Village Haus; I laugh with Cindy and Sophie; I point out goofy characters and hidden Mickey’s and all the rest.  Oh, and I take hundreds and hundreds of photos of the same things that I saw the year before, and the year before that, and so on.  Why do I do all of this?  Because Walt Disney has taken me back to my childhood, when I didn’t have a care in the world, all through the power of imagination.

One of my favorite attractions at the Magic Kingdom is Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.  I love it because it gives such great views of the park; I love it because there is NEVER a wait to get on it; I love it because I feel like I’ve been thrown into the movie; I imagine myself sleeping in one of the rooms on the tree after the park has closed.  All of this is possible, once again, because of the Disney Magic of Imagination that takes me to another place and time.

The same is true of the Haunted Mansion, the Jungle Cruise, and the cream of the crop — the Walt Disney World Railroad.  All of these incredible attractions each has it’s own way of lighting up your imagination, of taking you out of the here and now and transporting you to the land of “the way it was then”.  All of these make heavy use of your imagination.  Imagination is so powerful, in my opinion, that it is the reason why Walt had this quote regarding Disneyland:

Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Walt understood the importance of imagination.  He knew that without it, the children of today would live dull lives, with no excitement.  He knew that as long as a child had the use of their imagination, the sky was the limit regardless of the financial situation of the child or his family.  Walt got it, and I think we that love to visit Disney Parks get it too.

Thank you for joining me today. Your next stop on the Magical Blogorail Loop is my friend Jenn from the Disney Babies Blog!

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

1st Stop ~ My Dreams of Disney
2nd Stop ~ Disney Babies Blog
3rd Stop ~ Disney on Wheels
4th Stop ~ My Pixie Dust Diary
Final Stop ~ Disney Nouns

Disneyland or Walt Disney World?

In one of my favorite Disney trips, here I am with my wife Cindy and daughter Sophie, loving every minute!

The entrance to Disneyland Park!

Disneyland…

Walt Disney World Railroad

The Main Street, U.S.A. Walt Disney World Railroad station

Walt Disney World…

If you had to choose one or the other for your trip, which one would you pick?  To help you with your choice, I’ve got two posts — one that I think really illustrates the reasons why Disneyland is better than Walt Disney World, and one that I think really illustrates why Walt Disney World is better than Disneyland.

This link will take you to the Disneyland is better than Walt Disney World post (the post will open in a new tab/window).

This link will take you to the Walt Disney World is better than Disneyland post (the post will open in a new tab/window).

So, what is it going to be? Disneyland or Walt Disney World?  Help us out by voting in our poll at the bottom of this post, and thanks!  I’ll keep the poll open indefinitely, so have at it everyone!  I’ll periodically post on our Facebook page the numbers at the moment, and invite you to continue voting.


Our Favorite Disney Memories 2009

The Walt Disney World Railroad station at Main Street, U.S.A.

The Walt Disney World Railroad station at Main Street, U.S.A.

Our trip in 2009 was a tale of two trips.  Initially, we were going to take the trip to Walt Disney World in June for Sophie’s birthday.  We even had it all paid off.  However, then the economy changed, and state government in North Carolina was talking about possibly having layoffs, so Cindy and I decided that it was better to be safe than sorry, and we canceled the trip.  It was a really lousy feeling because Sophie knew we were going, and for her birthday, and to not be able to go just is a hard thing for a parent to have to do with their child.  As the summer wore on, the concerns of layoffs were lessened, and Cindy and I decided that a vacation was possible after all.  We looked at places like Hershey Park and other theme parks, but kept getting drawn back to all that we feel we get when we go to the World, so we made plans — this time, though, without telling Sophie.

We left for our trip on August 15th, and checked in to Disney on the 16th.  Sophie went to her weekly dance that week just like normal on the morning of the 15th, and while she and Cindy were gone, I loaded up the car for the trip.  Sophie got home, we said, go change your clothes, we’re going out for a while.  When we got in the car, I started playing some music that Sophie hadn’t heard for a long time, and we got this reaction when she figured out where we were going…

Because of our having to change our plans, we were determined not to miss anything.  As a result, I took a TON of pictures.  I think, at this point, I’m going to let my pictures do the talking.  Thanks for stopping by on our Favorite Disney Memories 2009 post, and look later this afternoon as we bring you our 2010 post as well!

Pluto hams it up for the camera as Sophie leans in for a big hug!

Pluto hams it up for the camera as Sophie leans in for a big hug!

Lilo is the perfect person for Sophie to hug in this photo!

Lilo is the perfect person for Sophie to hug in this photo!

Sophie has a look of half excitement, half terror as Stitch hams above her!

Sophie has a look of half excitement, half terror as Stitch hams above her!

Look at the love in Sophie's eyes for her buddy Mickey!

Look at the love in Sophie’s eyes for her buddy Mickey!

The wind was just enough to catch his balloons, but not enough for him to lose them! Is his name Carl, I wonder?

The wind was just enough to catch his balloons, but not enough for him to lose them! Is his name Carl, I wonder?

The Main Street Philharmonic performs for us!

The Main Street Philharmonic performs for us!

As much as I like Billy Joel, at Walt Disney World, this is the true Piano Man!

As much as I like Billy Joel, at Walt Disney World, this is the true Piano Man!

I miss Minnie's Country House.  It was so much fun to see her regular house at Disneyland!

I miss Minnie’s Country House. It was so much fun to see her regular house at Disneyland!

This shot of Japan in the World Showcase at night is one of my favorites!

This shot of China in the World Showcase at night is one of my favorites!

I've only seen the Studio Backlot Tour once, but I loved the way the performer "weathered the storm"!

I’ve only seen the Studio Backlot Tour once, but I loved the way the performer “weathered the storm”!

At Animal Kingdom Park, Sophie had her face painted.  I love this picture of her!

At Animal Kingdom Park, Sophie had her face painted. I love this picture of her!

Thank you again for stopping by!  Now, please leave your comments of your favorite Disney memories below, and thanks go out and make it a Disney Day everyone!