Carolwood Pacific Railroad

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Carolwood Pacific Railroad
A circular, white-colored logo consisting of a forward-facing steam locomotive in the center, the text "Carolwood Pacific" around the edge, and the text "Fair Weather Route" across the middle. The logo is painted on the side of a miniature, reddish-brown-colored freight car.
The logo for the CPRR
Dates of operation 1950–1953
Track gauge 7 14 in (184 mm)
Length 2,615 feet (797.1 m)
Headquarters Holmby Hills, Los Angeles

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR) was a 7 1⁄4-inch (184 mm) gauge ridable miniature railroad built for Walt Disney at his home in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, in the United States. It featured the Lilly Belle, a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive built by the Walt Disney Studios' machine shop, and was first test run on December 24, 1949. The locomotive pulled a set of freight cars and a caboose, the latter of which was almost entirely built by Disney himself. The railroad, which became operational in 1950, was 2,615 feet (797.1 m) long and encircled his house. Disney's backyard railroad attracted visitors interested in riding his miniature steam train and on weekends, when the railroad was operating, he allowed them to do so. In 1953, after an accident occurred in which a guest was injured, the CPRR was closed to the public.

The barn structure used as the control center for the railroad is now located at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. The Lilly Belle, some of the freight cars, and the caboose are now on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California.

The Carolwood Pacific Railroad inspired Disney to include railroad attractions in the design for the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California. Railroad attractions are now featured at many other Disney theme parks around the world. It was Disney's lifelong fascination with trains, as well as his interest in miniature models, that led to the creation of the CPRR.


A diagram of a model railroad layout consisting of a loop of track encircling a house, garage, and pool, interlaced with a figure-eight section of track surrounding a small barn
The layout of the CPRR

Walt Disney, the owner of the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, always had a great passion for trains.[1][2] As a young boy, he wanted to become a train engineer like his father's cousin, Mike Martin, who told him stories about his experiences driving main-line trains on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.[3][4] In addition, Disney's father would occasionally share his experiences from when he was part of a track installation crew for the Union Pacific Railroad.[3] As a teenager, Disney obtained a news butcher job on the Missouri Pacific Railway, selling various products to train passengers, including newspapers, candy, and cigars.[5] He would sometimes climb over the tender and into the locomotive's cab while the train was in motion, and, using chewing tobacco as a bribe, the engineer and fireman would show him how to operate the locomotive.[5][6] Many years later, after co-founding the Walt Disney Company with his older brother Roy O. Disney, he started playing polo.[7] Fractured vertebrae and other injuries led him to abandon the sport on the advice of his doctor, who recommended a calmer recreational activity.[7] Starting in late 1947, he developed an interest in model trains after purchasing several Lionel train sets.[8]

By 1948, Walt Disney's interest in model trains was evolving into an interest in larger, ridable miniature trains after observing the trains and backyard railroad layouts of several hobbyists.[9] These hobbyists included Disney animator Ollie Johnston, who had a ridable miniature railroad; and Disney animator Ward Kimball, who owned the full-size, 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge Grizzly Flats Railroad.[9][10] On June 1, 1949, Walt Disney purchased 5 acres (2.0 ha) of vacant land in the Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles.[11] The property consisted of a bluff, which was 2 acres (0.8 ha) in size; and a level shelf of land behind it, which Disney named Yensid Valley.[12][13] The word Yensid is Disney spelled backwards.[13] Disney purchased this land in order to build a new residence for himself and his family, and an elaborate backyard railroad behind it.[11] The railroad's layout was planned to include 2,615 feet (797.1 m) of 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge track with eleven switches, as well as gradients, overpasses, a trestle, and an elevated dirt berm.[14][15] The layout would completely surround the house.[15] Disney's wife, Lillian Disney, objected to the plan that part of the layout be built in an area where she intended to plant a flower garden.[15] As a compromise, Disney had an S-curve tunnel built underneath the future spot for the garden.[16] Aided by a Walt Disney Studios' attorney, Disney had a tongue-in-cheek legal contract written to establish his right to own and operate the railroad's right of way, which was signed by him and his wife, and witnessed by their two daughters.[17][18] Disney named his railroad Carolwood Pacific Railroad (CPRR) in reference to his address at 355 Carolwood Drive.[11][19] The railroad would end up costing $50,000, split evenly between its layout and rolling stock.[20]

A ridable miniature steam locomotive, tender, and yellow-colored caboose in a display case with an image of a desert behind them
The CPRR's Lilly Belle and caboose on display at the Disneyland Railroad's Main Street, U.S.A. Station in 1993

The railroad featured the Lilly Belle, a 1:8-scale live steam locomotive named after Disney's wife and built by the Walt Disney Studios' machine shop team led by Roger E. Broggie.[21][22] The locomotive's design, chosen by Walt Disney after seeing a smaller locomotive model with the same design at the home of rail historian Gerald M. Best, was based directly on copies of the blueprints for the Central Pacific No. 173, a 4-4-0 steam locomotive rebuilt by the Central Pacific Railroad in 1872.[21] The initials for the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, CPRR, matched the initials for the Central Pacific Railroad, one of the railroads that helped complete the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1869.[23] Under Broggie's guidance, Disney helped build several parts for the Lilly Belle, including its smokestack and headlamp.[21] Most of the machining was done by Broggie's machine shop team, and the entire wooden cab was built by Disney on his own.[21][24] On December 24, 1949, the Lilly Belle and its tender were first test run on a small loop of track during the studio's Christmas party in front of the entire staff.[22] The tender could carry up to 3.5 US gallons (13.2 l) of water and 10 pounds (4.5 kg) of coal crushed to scale-sized lumps to fuel the locomotive.[22][25] Walt Disney ran the Lilly Belle on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad for the first time on May 7, 1950.[26][27]

The rest of the CPRR's rolling stock consisted of six cast-metal, wood-grain-patterned gondolas made by the studio's machine shop; and two boxcars, two stock cars, a flatcar, and a caboose made of wood from the studio's prop shop.[28] Disney's fascination with miniature models was apparent with the level of detail he applied to the miniature interior of the caboose, which included a calendar hung on the wall, a broom, and a working potbelly stove.[28][29] Except for its frame and trucks, Disney built the entire caboose himself.[28] All of the train cars except for the caboose, when not in use, were stored in the CPRR's tunnel.[25][28]

Disney monitored and controlled the CPRR's track from a special barn.[13] The barn's design was based on a set piece for the 1949 Disney film So Dear to My Heart, and it brought back Disney's childhood memories of a similar barn located on his family farm in Marceline, Missouri.[30][31] The barn had a centralized traffic control board, which had several lights designed to indicate the presence of trains along the railroad's route.[13] The CPRR's switches could also be electrically controlled from this board.[13] The barn also served as the storage facility for the CPRR's caboose.[28]

Articles about the CPRR appeared in several magazines, including Look magazine in September 1951.[20][32] These articles attracted visitors interested in riding Disney's miniature steam train and on weekends, when the railroad was operating, he allowed them to do so, even allowing some to become "guest engineers" and drive the train.[20][33] With a tractive effort of more than 2,000 pounds-force (8,900 N), the Lilly Belle could pull a train with up to 12 adult passengers.[25] Due to its lack of brakes, the locomotive was sent in reverse if it ever needed to stop quickly.[22][34] In early 1953, a visitor drove the Lilly Belle too fast along a curve, making it derail.[35] The derailment caused the Lilly Belle to fall on its side, break its whistle, and release a jet of steam across the ground.[35] A curious five-year-old girl ran through the steam jet, which left minor burns on her legs.[35] As a result of this incident, Walt Disney, fearing the possibility of future accidents, closed down the Carolwood Pacific Railroad and placed the locomotive in storage.[35][36]


A red steam locomotive with a 4-4-0 wheel arrangement (four leading wheels, four driving wheels, and no trailing wheels) passing over a bridge
The Disneyland Railroad's C.K. Holliday locomotive has a very similar appearance to the CPRR's Lilly Belle locomotive.

Walt Disney credited the Carolwood Pacific Railroad with being his inspiration for the creation of Disneyland in Anaheim, California.[37] In one early concept for the park, the CPRR was included as an attraction, in which its train would carry passengers past miniature towns and settings.[38] The Casey Jr. Circus Train, a different ridable miniature railroad that travels past miniature scenes of animated Disney films, is one of Disneyland's original attractions.[39][40] Another early design for the park included a narrow-gauge steam railroad encircling it, a feature which was retained in the park's final design.[41][42] Disneyland, and the Disneyland Railroad encircling the park, opened on July 17, 1955.[43][44] The Disneyland Railroad's No. 1 locomotive, the C.K. Holliday, bears a strong resemblance to the CPRR's Lilly Belle locomotive, since their designs were based on the same blueprints.[45] In addition to the Disneyland Railroad, there are also steam railroad attractions in the Magic Kingdom within Walt Disney World in Florida, Tokyo Disneyland in Japan, and Disneyland Park (Paris) in France.[46][47][48]

Through a company named Walt Disney Miniature Railroad, formed by Walt Disney in 1950 as a legally separate entity from Walt Disney Productions, copies of the blueprints for the CPRR's Lilly Belle were sold to model railroad hobbyists.[20][49] After that company evolved into Walt Disney, Inc., in 1952 and had its name changed to WED Enterprises in 1953, it developed rides and attractions for Disneyland and later Walt Disney World.[20][50] In 1965, Walt Disney Productions purchased WED Enterprises, and in 1986, its name was changed to Walt Disney Imagineering.[51] The CPRR's barn has been referred to as the birthplace of Imagineering.[52]

In addition to Disney theme parks, the CPRR became the inspiration for the 1951 Disney animated short film Out of Scale, in which the Donald Duck character is portrayed running a ridable miniature railroad in his backyard.[53] The train of the CPRR also appeared in several Disney television specials in the 1950s.[54][55]


A red-colored barn with white-colored trim and a shingle roof
Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn is preserved at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum.

In 1965, after pulling up the CPRR's track the previous year, Walt Disney donated 1,500 feet (457.2 m) of that track, as well as the railroad's trestle, to the Los Angeles Live Steamers, a group of miniature steam train enthusiasts.[56][57] Disney was a charter member of that group.[13] The completion of the CPRR's track installation at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Los Angeles' Griffith Park was celebrated on October 22, 1966, and the route utilizing that track became known as the Disney Loop.[57] This event occurred a few weeks before the death of Walt Disney on December 15, 1966.[58] In 1968, Lillian Disney donated the rest of the CPRR's track to the Los Angeles Live Steamers.[59][60] Since that time, the original CPRR track on the Disney Loop has been removed and replaced with newer, more durable track.[60]

After Lillian Disney died in 1997, the Disney residence, including the area where the CPRR was located, was put up for sale.[16] Mexican investor Gabriel Brener, who bought the property in 1998, demolished the original house due to issues with lead paint, lead piping, asbestos, and a weak foundation.[16][60] In 2013, before the property was sold to an unknown buyer the following year, the CPRR's tunnel was still in place.[16][60] In 1999, Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn, the CPRR's former control center, was relocated to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum.[19][61] Morgan "Bill" Evans, the original landscaper of the Disney residence and several Disney theme parks, arranged for Walt Disney Imagineering to provide a landscaping plan for the barn's new site.[61] On July 19, 1999, Diane Disney Miller, Walt Disney's daughter, participated in the rededication ceremony for the barn.[61]

Since 2009, the CPRR's Lilly Belle, some of the freight cars, and the caboose have been on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, California.[62] There are also two pieces of CPRR rolling stock on display in the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room in the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge in Walt Disney World.[63]

See also


  1. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 17.
  2. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 355.
  3. ^ a b Broggie (2014), p. 35.
  4. ^ Amendola (2015), pp. 16–17.
  5. ^ a b Broggie (2014), pp. 36–37.
  6. ^ Amendola (2015), pp. 23–24.
  7. ^ a b Broggie (2014), p. 44.
  8. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 45.
  9. ^ a b Broggie (2014), p. 99.
  10. ^ Amendola (2015), pp. 118–119.
  11. ^ a b c Broggie (2014), p. 109.
  12. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 108.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Broggie (2014), pp. 135–136.
  14. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 112.
  15. ^ a b c Broggie (2014), p. 115.
  16. ^ a b c d Brennan, Morgan (June 9, 2013). "Exclusive: The $90 Million Carolwood Estate Once Owned by Walt Disney". Forbes. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved January 31, 2017. 
  17. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 7.
  18. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 117–118.
  19. ^ a b Eades, Mark (August 20, 2015). "Memories of Walt Disney's Steam Train from His Daughter". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2017. 
  20. ^ a b c d e Broggie (2014), pp. 173–175.
  21. ^ a b c d Broggie (2014), pp. 123–128.
  22. ^ a b c d Broggie (2014), pp. 139–144.
  23. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 151–152.
  24. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 159.
  25. ^ a b c Broggie (2014), p. 167.
  26. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 390.
  27. ^ "Walt's Barn". The Carolwood Society. Archived from the original on October 23, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2017. 
  28. ^ a b c d e Broggie (2014), pp. 147–148.
  29. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 58.
  30. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 121.
  31. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 116.
  32. ^ "Walt Disney Riding on His Scale Model Steam Railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railway, Which He Built in the Backyard of His Home in Los Angeles, California". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved August 5, 2017. 
  33. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 171.
  34. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 164.
  35. ^ a b c d Broggie (2014), pp. 179–180.
  36. ^ Barrier (2007), p. 219.
  37. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 28.
  38. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 207.
  39. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 284–286.
  40. ^ "Casey Jr. Circus Train – official website". Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Archived from the original on December 3, 2016. Retrieved February 19, 2017. 
  41. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 194–195.
  42. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 200–201.
  43. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 31.
  44. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 138.
  45. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 139.
  46. ^ "Walt Disney World Railroad – official website". Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Archived from the original on October 14, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  47. ^ "Western River Railroad – official website (in Japanese)". The Oriental Land Company. Archived from the original on January 10, 2017. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  48. ^ "Disneyland Railroad (Paris) – official website". Euro Disney S.C.A. Archived from the original on October 5, 2016. Retrieved February 20, 2017. 
  49. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 222.
  50. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 130–131.
  51. ^ Mannheim (2016), p. 97.
  52. ^ Nichols, Chris (July 13, 2016). "Take a Stroll Through the Life Walt Disney Lived in Los Feliz Back in 1923". Los Angeles Magazine. Archived from the original on June 15, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2017. 
  53. ^ Amendola (2015), pp. 62–63.
  54. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 189.
  55. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 210–217.
  56. ^ Stephens & Wanamaker (2011), p. 42.
  57. ^ a b Lack, III, Fred (Spring 2006). "What Is the Disney Loop?" (PDF). Carolwood Chronicle. Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 1, 2016. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  58. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 314.
  59. ^ Danilov (2013), p. 102.
  60. ^ a b c d Broggie, Michael (Summer 2014). "View from the Cupola" (PDF). Carolwood Chronicle. Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 22, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2017. 
  61. ^ a b c Campbell, Michael (Winter 2000). "Disney Barn Rededicated by Walt's Family" (PDF). Carolwood Chronicle. Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 19, 2017. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  62. ^ Culler, Mary Beth (October 24, 2011). "Look Closer: Walt's Carolwood-Pacific Railroad with the Lilly Belle". The Walt Disney Family Museum. Archived from the original on July 21, 2017. Retrieved July 21, 2017. 
  63. ^ Baumann, Michelle (March 5, 2010). "Trains at the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge". Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Archived from the original on March 25, 2015. Retrieved July 16, 2017. 


External links

  • The Carolwood Society

Coordinates: 34°05′05″N 118°25′46″W / 34.084778°N 118.429371°W / 34.084778; -118.429371

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