Just after the turn of the century, a young boy by the name of Walter Elias Disney, moved with his family (including his older brother Roy O. Disney), to a small town in Missouri, called Marceline.
Move forward 50 years, said little boy is one of the most successful producers, and alongside Roy O. has created one of the biggest studios in Hollywood, Walt Disney Productions
But Walt wasn’t settling for that, he wanted more, something different to what all these other studios had.
Starting right at the front of each one, I am going to look at each and every one of The Walt Disney Company’s theme parks on opening day, looking at individual lands and their attractions, shops and restaurants.
And where better to start than the original, Disneyland and its Marceline inspired Main Street USA.
Beginning with the Main Street Station which you pass under to enter the park. When the land was purchased in 1953, for what would become Disneyland one of the first things Walt did was draw a triangular train route that would encompass the future theme park
By August 1954, the park’s construction had began and the railroad was part of that construction
Evoking a 2nd Empire-Style architecture, the station was built at the front of the park and was the first of two stations, the other in the Wild West setting of Frontierland, but more on that station when we move on to that land.
Due to budget restraints Disney looked for sponsors for the park and found one for the railroad, when a deal was struck with Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF) and as part of that deal it would be known as Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, a deal that would last twenty years.
Also to save money, the trains and carriages were not to be built but existing ones were bought. Trying to buy a set of 19, his offer was refused and it was back to the drawing board. That drawing board was handed to Roger Broggie who was in charge of The Walt Disney Studios’ machine shop, believing they could just make a full size copy of one of Walt’s 1:8 minatures, The Lilly Belle.
Despite being built for Disneyland, the trains didn’t belong to the park. They remained in Walt’s possession, through WED Enterprises, which was an offshoot of The Walt Disney Company.
Both trains contained the name Retlaw, Walter spelt backwards, in their name, The No.2 locomotive, which had a 20th Century look, was named Retlaw 1 by cast members. Retlaw 2 was pulled by the No.1 locomotive and was a more late 19th Century looking train.
An expert in rail track building was hired by Roger Broggie. That man was Earl Vilmer, who had served in the War for the Allies in Iran building railways, as well as France and Venezuela after the war.
Each train was assigned its own line, serving one station each, meaning that only a round trip would be available. Retlaw 1 would be assigned the Main Street Station.This meant that both trains could run continuously even if the the other train had stopped.
On July 17th, the park officially opened and with that, the first journeys of the Disneyland Railroad began. Prior to the opening ceremony, Walt drove the No.2 locomotive in to the Main Street Station with the California Governor and the AT & SF President, where they were met by the host of the day, Art Linkletter as well as actor and future President of the United States, Ronald Regan. The 3 gave brief interviews with Linkletter before heading to the dedication.
And so we begin our trip down Main Street USA, where that walk will take us, we will find out in part 2