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Grizzly Flats Railroad

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Grizzly Flats Railroad
A gray steam locomotive with a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement (two leading wheels, six driving wheels, and no trailing wheels) and its tender
The GFRR's Emma Nevada locomotive
Dates of operation 1942–2006
Track gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Length 900 feet (274.3 m)
Headquarters San Gabriel, California

The Grizzly Flats Railroad (GFRR) was a 3-foot (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad owned by Disney animator Ward Kimball at his home in San Gabriel, California. The railroad had 900 feet (274.3 m) of track, and was operated from 1942 to 2006. It was the first full-size backyard railroad in the United States.

The GFRR's rolling stock, including the two steam locomotives owned by Kimball, are now on display at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. The railroad's depot building and water tower are now located on the Justi Creek Railway, a private railroad owned by John Lasseter.

The GFRR was notable for helping Walt Disney rediscover his childhood fascination with trains, which led him to build the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a ridable miniature railroad in his backyard. The GFRR also influenced the design of the Disneyland Railroad within the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.

History

Grizzly Flats Railroad
Kimball residence
Garage
Grizzly Flats
Roundhouse

In 1938, Disney animator Ward Kimball, a lifelong railfan, purchased a passenger coach, built in 1881 by the Barney and Smith Car Company, from the Carson and Colorado Railroad.[1][2] He originally wanted the coach to house his collection of model trains at his home in San Gabriel, California; however, his wife Betty suggested that he should also have a locomotive to pull the coach.[2][3] A suitable model was purchased for $400 from the Nevada Central Railroad, which was selling it for scrap.[4] This was the Sidney Dillon, a 2-6-0 steam locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1881.[3] Kimball renamed the locomotive Emma Nevada, after the late 1800s opera star.[3] Over the course of several years, Kimball, his family, and his friends worked to restore the Emma Nevada to operating condition.[4] The railroad became operational in 1942.[5] Kimball named his railroad Grizzly Flats Railroad (GFRR), and it would eventually consist of 900 feet (274.3 m) of 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge track, including a 500-foot (152.4 m) main line, in his backyard.[4][6] The GFRR became the first full-size backyard railroad in the United States.[7]

In the years to follow, Kimball added a boxcar, a cattle car, a gondola, a caboose, and a second locomotive to the GFRR.[1][8][9] The second locomotive was a 0-4-2T steam locomotive built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1907, and was originally run on the Wiamanalo Sugar Plantation in Hawaii.[1] Kimball renamed the locomotive from Pokaa to Chloe, after one of his daughters.[1][10] As opposed to the Emma Nevada, which burned coal to generate steam, the Chloe burned wood.[3] A set of train cars custom made by Kimball, consisting of a four-bench open car built around 1975 and two passenger-carrying gondolas built around 1993, were pulled by the Chloe.[6] Kimball gradually added several structures to the GFRR, including a roundhouse, a water tower, a windmill, and a depot building.[1][11] The depot building was given to him by his boss, Walt Disney, and was originally used as a set piece for the 1949 Disney film So Dear to My Heart.[12] Kimball died in 2002, but his family continued to operate the GFRR until 2006.[6][9]

Influences and preservation

A red steam locomotive with a 0-4-2T wheel arrangement (no leading wheels, four driving wheels, and two trailing wheels) and no tender, coupled to a small train car
The GFRR's Chloe locomotive on display at the Orange Empire Railroad Museum in 2009

Kimball shared his railroad hobby with fellow Disney animator Ollie Johnston, who owned a ridable miniature railroad, and Walt Disney.[13][14] On October 20, 1945, Disney attended one of the Kimball's "steam-ups", which were parties hosted at their home when the Grizzly Flats Railroad was in operation.[15] During the party, Disney was given the opportunity to drive the GFRR's Emma Nevada locomotive, which was the first time since working as a teenager on the Missouri Pacific Railway that he had been inside a locomotive cab.[15] Disney eventually decided to have his own backyard railroad built, which he named Carolwood Pacific Railroad.[16] His ridable miniature backyard railroad, and the narrow-gauge GFRR, inspired Disney to create the Disneyland Railroad within the Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California.[2][17] The Disneyland Railroad's depot building in the Frontierland section of the park was built using the same blueprints for the GFRR's depot building.[12]

In 1992, Kimball began to donate the GFRR's rolling stock to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.[15] The last of the rolling stock remaining on the GFRR, including the Chloe locomotive, were put on display at the museum in 2007.[6] The GFRR's depot building and water tower were acquired by Pixar film director John Lasseter, who moved them to his private Justi Creek Railway.[18][19]

By 2017, the Orange Empire Railway Museum decided that the Chloe should be restored to operating condition.[20] The Hillcrest Shops in Reedley, California, was selected as the location for the locomotive's restoration.[21]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Broggie (2014), p. 52.
  2. ^ a b c Amendola (2015), p. 118.
  3. ^ a b c d Amendola (2015), p. 119.
  4. ^ a b c Broggie (2014), p. 56.
  5. ^ Gross, Cory (April 9, 2011). "The Madness of Ward Kimball". Network Awesome. Archived from the original on September 19, 2015. Retrieved August 11, 2017. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Grizzly Flats (3-Foot Gauge)". Orange Empire Railway Museum. Archived from the original on March 18, 2017. Retrieved August 12, 2017. 
  7. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 53.
  8. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 120.
  9. ^ a b Pool, Bob (May 12, 2007). "Railroad hits End of the Line". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 18, 2015. Retrieved January 15, 2018. 
  10. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 57.
  11. ^ Broggie (2014), pp. 54–55.
  12. ^ a b Broggie (2014), pp. 266–267.
  13. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 17.
  14. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 100.
  15. ^ a b c Broggie (2014), p. 58.
  16. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 109.
  17. ^ Amendola (2015), pp. 138–139.
  18. ^ Amendola (2015), p. 133.
  19. ^ McFarland, Kevin (June 23, 2015). "Pixar's Best Director Is Also Its Most Underrated". Wired. Archived from the original on December 23, 2016. Retrieved February 8, 2017. 
  20. ^ Eades, Mark (July 28, 2017). "Disneyland's River Rides and Railroad Open to the Public with New Route". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on July 28, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2018. 
  21. ^ Colton, Roger (March 24, 2017). "Ward Kimball Fans Take Note – Special Event Sunday, March 26th". MiceChat. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2018. 

Bibliography

External links

  • Orange Empire Railway Museum

Coordinates: 34°07′07″N 118°04′29″W / 34.118714°N 118.074664°W / 34.118714; -118.074664

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