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Ruminations: Number Five is Alive

Ruminations: Number Five is Alive

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The new number "Five"

You may recall that Walt Disney had more than a passing interest in railroads. Perhaps thanks to an early job as a candy butcher (translation for the non-railroad readers - a snack and souvenir salesman aboard passenger trains) on the Missouri Pacific and his uncle, Mike Martin who took up the career of a locomotive engineer on the Santa Fe out of Marceline, you can honestly say it one of his more passionate fascinations.

One of the folks working for Walt at the Studio shared that particular level of passion for railroading. You have seen it in films like "Dumbo" or "Lady and the Tramp" with steam locomotives recreated. It was so much of a passion for steam, that in 1938 Ward Kimball found a full size 1881 locomotive, the "Emma Nevada". He brought it home from the wilds of Nevada to the not-so wilds of San Gabriel. And he did so with the full approval (and participation) of his wife, Betty.

When the restoration project was finally completed, Ward invited a group of friends to the first official steam-up on October 20, 1945. In the dream of by every small boy to see a steam locomotive, Walt was honored and thrilled as Chief Engineer for the day, running the locomotive for the first time.

Walt returned the favor to Ward shortly before the opening of Disneyland. On a Penthouse Club preview of Disneyland on July 4 1955, one of the highlights was the opportunity for the guests to ride along the railroad around the Disneyland. Ward and Walt were the engineers for the two locomotives of the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad - Ward aboard the #1, the "C.K. Holiday" with the Freight Train, and Walt aboard the #2, the "E.P. Ripley" with the Passenger Train. It is said that the trains ran well past sunset that evening, carrying both happy engineers and passengers.

Walt and Ward had previously shared other railroad adventures along the way. It was Ward who introduced Walt to backyard railroading on a smaller scale. That led to the construction of the "Carolwood Pacific" around the Disney home in Holmby Hills, along with all of it's miniature railroad equipment including the steam locomotive, "Lilly Belle."

And in 1948, needing a break from the Studio, Walt took Ward off on a trip by train from Los Angeles to Chicago for the Railroad Fair. Once there, they had the opportunity to see and even operate some of the country's most historic railroad equipment. One story from the trip tells of the two of them even joining the cast of the fair's big pageant for several performances.

From there, it was off to Michigan for a visit to Henry Ford's Greenfield Village complex. Many ideas for what eventually became Disneyland had their genesis from that trip to the Midwest.

Seen in this image capture from "Dateline: Disneyland,"
Walt at the throttle of the #2 arriving at the Main Street Station,
on the afternoon of July 17, 1955.

Ward's participation in Disneyland didn't end with the Family Day preview. As the leader of the Firehouse Five Plus Two, he was there also on Opening Day and many times after that for performances by the band. He continued working at Disney on many projects including the 41 episodes of the "Mouse Factory" television series (which, of course, included a railroad episode). He also worked with Imagineering on many theme park projects, before he "officially" retired. Even in his final years, he was often seen looking in on various projects and places, lending support as only he could.

The Disneyland Railroad carried on after opening day and through all of the years since, with the addition of two more steam locomotives and three more sets of cars to carry passengers. Far from being just another attraction at the Park, it has become a vital part of the transportation system. Just ask any guest taking the train back to the Main Street Station after a long day of walking around the Park. Their tired feet will tell you just how important it can be! The railroad has carried many millions of guests safely, year in and year out - a record envied by many "real" railroads.

Steve DeGaetano, in his book "Welcome Aboard The Disneyland Railroad," tells the tale of how the railroad added a fifth locomotive in the mid 90's. The idea was to allow four steam locomotives to be in operation every day if needed to meet the demands of peak loads. However, that would not allow for required maintenance to be performed. So the search was on for a suitable candidate.

One locomotive was found and a trade consummated for the, by then retired, "Retlaw One" passenger train consist. These cars (the opening day canary yellow passenger train) suffered from a problem of slow loading and unloading thanks to small doors. Small windows and two-by-two seating on either side of an aisle reduced visibility for guests during their ride around the railroad. One side of the train had a view of mostly trees and bushes.

The locomotive that the cars were traded for turned out to be unsuited for the Disneyland Railroad and was sent east to Walt Disney World for use on the railroad at the Magic Kingdom. It didn't fit into the scheme of operations there either, but did receive a largely cosmetic restoration.

In recognition for his many contributions to Disney, it was decided to name the new locomotive being acquired for the Disneyland Railroad in honor of Ward Kimball. With the assistance of Mickey Mouse, Ward unveiled the new locomotive and the name at a dedication ceremony in Orlando in April of 1995. It was on public display at Epcot in front of the American Adventure for several months in early 1998.

Assisted by Engineer Mickey Mouse, Ward Kimball
unveils the name of the locomotive in the dedication ceremony
Photo by Michael Broggie.
Disney elements (c)Disney

The search for a locomotive that would be better suited to the Disneyland Railroad led to an amusement park with a long history: Cedar Point, in Sandusky, Ohio. Their railroad, the "Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad" carries guests on a two-mile, 15-minute excursion, also using steam locomotives. They had a 1902 locomotive (named "Maud L." after the wife of the Louisiana sugar plantation owner who ordered its construction) that was very similar to the Disneyland Railroad #3, the "Fred Gurley". The trade was completed in 1999 and the "Maud L." headed west. Restoration began in Anaheim in the Disneyland Roundhouse with a new boiler chief among the improvements.

Once again, Ward Kimball was called upon to contribute to the project. He suggested designs for the paint and lettering to be applied to reproduce traditional railroad fashions.

The tender and cab side lettering for the #5.

Ward also designed a drawing of Jiminy Cricket (one of many characters Ward designed in his Disney days) to be applied to one side of the vintage headlight to be used on the finished locomotive. Sadly, Ward passed away on July 8, 2002. (His collection of vintage railroad equipment is now part of the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California in it's own "Grizzly Flats" Enginehouse.) His legacy lives on at the Disney Theme Parks and through the many movies and television shows he contributed to. The new locomotive is only the latest chapter in a wonderful tale.

The restoration was soon placed on hold as the need for all four trains in service was reconsidered. Rumors placed the costs as being well over budget and the locomotive sat stored in the rear of the Roundhouse.

Until... the summer of 2004, and a new Disneyland president, Matt Ouimet. Plans changed for the railroad, and a fifth locomotive was once again needed. A local boiler firm was contacted and a plan formulated to complete the restoration of the locomotive to operation. Just in time for Disneyland's 50th anniversary, too!

Observant readers of this space may recall a column from last year that told the tale of locomotive having left Anaheim one night for parts unknown. That turned out to be scenic Carson, California and the home of the Boschan Boiler and Restorations. Once it arrived, it became a true challenge to meet the deadline and have the locomotive ready for service. And that the crew of professionals did!

The #5 and her restoration crew pose for their portrait
Paul Boschan (in the orange shirt) is seen in the cab of the locomotive.

Carolwood Pacific Historical Society President Michael Broggie
stopped by the Boschan shop to view the work in progress.

Getting closer to being ready to run, all the time!

Adjustments to the pilot truck being made by
Mike Venizia and Brent Minor.

Piping for the locomotive appliances is installed on the fireman's
side of the boiler by Tom Silva at the shop in Carson.

Once work was completed at the Boschan shop, the locomotive was sent by truck down the southern California freeways to Anaheim. A few folks spotted it along the way knowing the ultimate destination, and it was the highlight of several Internet message boards for several days.

Loaded aboard the flatbed truck for the journey to Anaheim,
under the cover of darkness

The Disneyland lettering on the tender is covered for the trip.

Once it arrived in Anaheim, it was placed in front of the
Roundhouse and a ramp constructed for unloading.

#5 heads for the new home rails, slowly winched off the trailer.

Safe at last, inside the new home, in the Roundhouse.

Special thanks to Rita Allan and Mike Venizia for these views!In the weeks that followed delivery, finishing touches and safety appliances were added to complete the locomotive. Late night testing on the railroad worked out a few bugs, as any locomotive restoration project is bound to have. Several trips included two complete passenger train consists and the #5 performed very well according to some cast members who both heard and watched as she passed by.

Recently, the locomotive was formally accepted as being a completed project by Disney. If all goes according plan, she should begin regular service carrying guests along the Disneyland Railroad this coming week.

Both Walt and Ward would have been proud of everyone on the Boschan and Disney crews who made this possible. It is very fitting that this locomotive enters service so close to that day almost fifty years ago when they made those first trips around the Park. Here's to hoping that guests will still be enjoying a ride along the Disneyland Railroad when the 100th anniversary comes along!

Keep those Disneyland first visit memories coming along! And to those of you who have shared them, great stuff from everyone! It is going to be another tough choice to pick out the winners.

And on the Message Board front, it looks like EZBoard is in the final stages of restoring their back-up data. The process should be completed early next week. Join the discussions on many interesting subjects on the Jim Hill Media boards. It doesn't hurt and the folks who post there are a great bunch.

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