Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Black Loop. Today we are sharing the Disney books you should have in your collection.
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
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!
Here is the map of our Blogorail Black | Ultimate Guide to Disney Books
- 1st Stop – Distalgic | A Peek behind the Curtain of a Disney History Book: A Historical Tour of Walt Disney World
- 2nd Stop – Disney in Your Day | Using An Educational Guide to Walt Disney World on Vacation
- 3rd Stop – My Dreams of Disney | Walt Disney’s Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination That Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom
- 4th Stop – Monorails and Magic | 10 Must Read Books for Fans of Walt Disney
- 5th Stop – Saving Up for Disney | 7 Books for Kids to Read Before a Disney Vacation