Brian Martsolf (bigbrian_nc) wrote,
Brian Martsolf

Well Ward, they finally did it right in the end didn't they?

Way back in 2005, almost five years ago as I write this, I took my first trip to Disneyland since moving "back east" at the beginning of High School in the 1980's. That 2005 trip is also currently my only trip to DL since that time. Recently I read a book that is closely tied to an event whose anniversary will be 5 years ago even sooner this coming Friday June 25 in fact, and boy am I glad this happened BEFORE my trip as it gave me the change to enjoy the fruits of that dedication during my visit in July of that year, I'm speaking of the dedication of Disneyland's fifth steam engine the Ward Kimball, and the book I read was by a fellow Carolinian Steve DeGaetano who literally wrote the book on this engine!
From Plantation to Theme Park: The Story of Disneyland Railroad Engine No. 5, the Ward Kimball
Which is a very LONG title for a great little book it tells the story of this engine with words, photos, and great illustrations as Disney parks related books go this one seems to me a pretty good value as well at $29.95 especially considering how well done it is, that said I see how this could seem to be a bit specialized to some folks, still if you would consider buying any books on the Disney parks railroads it would seem to me that this one would be hard to pass up. In celebration of this anniversary I helped write a "This week in Disneyland History" segment for the Disneyland news today podcast, you can listen to that episode here:
or if you'd rather read it just continue, and I'll throw in my photos of the Ward from the 2005 trip:

On June 25Th 2005, that's just 5 years ago, a new steam engine debuted at Disneyland. Unlike the previous four engines instead of being named for a head of the Santa Fe Railroad this one was named for a Disney legend, and this is fitting not only because Santa Fe which was, from 1955 to 1974 the sponsor of the Disneyland Railroad, but it was also fitting because the Disney legend it was named for was himself arguably the biggest rail fan of the generation of folks who worked with Walt (or since then for that matter), this engine was rededicated with the name Ward Kimball, sure Walt had a scale model railroad in his backyard, as did animator Ollie Johnston, but Ward had a FULL SCALE steam engine the Grizzly Flats Railroad. Now while I called this a "new steam engine" that's only used in the same sense as when I purchased a car, and my friends or coworkers say, "oh I see you got a new car" as in a new car to me, so this was an engine that was "new" to Disneyland, and this engine has a story and history too it, its story is also a good example of the type of story at least two of the other Disneyland steam engines have as they all have some things in common, but also important differences. Compared to their sister engines at Walt Disney Worlds Magic Kingdom , these 5 Disneyland steam engines all tend to be a bit smaller, and the first two have a different reason for that than the others, as they were constructed to five-eighths scale by Roger Broggie and the Disney Studios machine shop, but it was soon realized that a better way to go would be to take advantage of all the old steam rail equipment that was being retired in the 1950's across the USA, but they couldn't just take any steam engine and bring it to Disneyland, after all with those first two engines being built to a reduced scale (and many other bits of the park too), a full size engine would not only be "not to scale" but would not fit the track, it turns out however that Disneyland's five-eighths engines were set to run at 36" gauge, the most common narrow gauge in North America, this meant that Disney could look for smaller engines, such as those used is some locations for logging, or those found on sugar cane plantations, the Ward Kimball was originally purchased for just that later purpose, it was bought by the Barker and Lepine sugar plantations in Louisiana In 1902, and was named the "Maud L" after a daughter of one of the plantation owners, it was cutting edge in one respect, rather than running on wood or coal, the plantation owners specified in their request to Baldwin locomotive works (a HUGE steam engine manufacturer in Philadelphia) that it was to be an oil burning engine, Baldwin had built their first one earlier that same year.

It wasn't until Mach 4, 1914 until Ward Waldrath Kimball was born, Ward had a love of trains and once he became an animator at Disney often seemed to work on those scenes in Disney films where trains could be found, his wife Betty was quite supportive of him and his hobby to the point that when he bought a rail coach to save it from scrap and put it on static display in his backyard it was SHE who suggested that he needed to find a locomotive to pull it!In 1948 Ward accompanied Walt on a trip to the Chicago Railroad fair, on the way back they stopped at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn Michigan, it is possible to see many bits of inspiration for Disneyland.

Meanwhile back in Louisiana in 1946 the Maud L was retired, sugar cane work and the humid Louisiana air are not kind to anything made of iron, and it is easy to imagine her rusting away in disuse, in the late 50's a a rail fan named Arthur La Salle purchased her saving her from he scrap heap Arthur's American Railroad Equipment Association restored old steam engines.

Meanwhile in Ohio two businessmen bought some land that an old amusement park named Cedar point sat on they thought the site it was on would make a great housing development, but the park had a least that didn't expire until 1959, well at least one of the owners made a trip out west before then and visited a little town called Anaheim and an attraction known as Disneyland that was well known across the country due in large part to the power of the new medium known as Television, and the Disneyland television show, following this trip he convinced his partner that there just might be something to this amusement park business after all. So in part to emulate Disneyland they sought out old steam engines to bring to their park, the Maud L was purchased and arrived in rough shape, Ceder Point restored her and used her.

In the mid 1990's Disneyland knew they needed a fourth engine, as that would give them to release the other engines, one at a time, for their own renovations, and still be able to run four engines at a time . Disneyland had an old set of closed coaches that they had used previous to the construction of their open air cars that provide such great views of the park and they traded those coaches with Bill Nored, a California rail collector for an engine originally built by Davenport locomotives Works, but they soon realized that engine was much heavier than Disneyland's existing engines and would have resulted in a need to reinforce all the trestles on the Disneyland Railroad, and also be a bit "out of scale", so it was sent to Walt Disney World where it was painted up and named....the Ward Kimball, unfortunately though the engine was a bit large for Disneyland it was a bit small for the Magic Kingdom, and more to the point, the Magic Kingdom didn't have a need to run four engines at a time, so they really didn't need (or want) a fifth engine. Disneyland continued to look for an appropriate engine, and they now know what NOT to do. While they were looking for a smaller engine they ran across an Ohio Amusement park looking to acquire a LARGER engine in 1999 a trade was arranged and the former Bill Norred Davenport locomotives engine that had been sent to Florida and named the Ward Kimball was traded for the Maud L, the Maud L arrived at Disneyland inoperable a new boiler was constructed, and Disneyland staff built a new cab very similar to the original, then all work stopped due to budget issues, in 2003 parts were being wrapped and prepared to be put in long term storage since no apparent end was to be seen of the budget issues, but in that same year Cynthia Harris who had been Paul Pressler's hand picked successor as Disneyland President, left Disneyland and Matt Ouimet was brought in and soon realized that Disneyland had a lot of spiffing up to be done if it was to be readied for a big celebration of its 50th anniversary, and the refurbishment of the Maud L to become the new Ward Kimball was back on again.

The rest as they say is history, in 2005 I enjoyed my only trip to Disneyland so far this millennium, and I was lucky enough to see the Ward in operation several times and some of my favorite photos from that trip are of the Ward Kimball.  If you'd like to see many more great photos of this engine I really do reccomend Steve's book as it is a fun and easy read with lots of great details and images.


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