DISNEY’S TRAIN

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For Christmas of 1949, Walt Disney received a miniature ride-on steam locomotive from Santa, as seen in the first Disney TV special, One Hour in Wonderland (aired December 25, 1950). It was built by elves at the Disney Studio machine shop, and when installed in Disney’s backyard, the little train enabled Walt to entertain his guests on a theme park-type ride for the first time. In the photo above, Walt Disney (center) is seen at the premiere steam-up of his partially-completed miniature locomotive Lilly Belle (named for his wife Lillian) on December 24, 1949. Others on hand are (clockwise from left, studio draftsman Eddie Sargeant, machinist Dick VanEvery and animator Ward Kimball). Walt’s miniature railroad hobby was a precursor to what he created at Disneyland just five years later.Now, Disney’s original train can be seen in a rare Southern California appearance at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA (extended through January 11th, 2007; closed New Year’s Day). The train likely won’t be shown again until the Disney Family Foundation opens a new museum at San Francisco’s Presidio in 2009. (The locomotive was once exhibited at Main Street Station in Disneyland, but was replaced by a replica several years ago.) Footage of the train in action can be found on the recently released Walt Disney Treasures DVD, Your Host Walt Disney. The exhibit will be staffed in part by members of Walt Disney’s miniature train group, the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. The Disney train is just a portion of an exhibit that contains what has been called the biggest holiday toy train layout ever constructed. Click here for a CBS newscast video which explains more.(Thanks, Steve Waller)