Friday, January 30, 2015

Walt Disney World & Railroading Part 1 - Wilderness Lodge

Well the wait is over and we are off on great three part journey that will take you more in depth and look railroading and model railroading at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

The series is in three parts:
1. Disney s Wilderness Lodge - Today
2. Magic Kindgom - Monday
3. Epcot - Thursday

While I could spend time talking about railroads of fantasy and fun such as the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad or Casey Jr's. Circus Train, this series is going to focus on real railroading and model railroading at the resort.

Part 1: Disney's Wilderness Lodge 
Of the three places that I am going to discuss over the series this is probably the cheapest to visit, because being its a resort it is open to visitors who happen to be on property and does not require park admission. So what is this hidden secret; its called the Carolwood Pacific Room and it pays respect to Walt Disney's love of trains and his own backyard railroad (hence the name). While Walt died before the first shovel full of earth had been moved on what was called the "Florida Project" one wonders why would this room be at the resort. My thought on this is really quite simple - the resort is themed like some of the great forest service lodges from out west and one would tie lodges, American West, and railroads as just being absolutely the core of American progress and ingenuity. Enough of my interpretation of why the room is there lets look at the room and the great details within.

Carolwood Pacific Railroad
This is the name of Walt's backyard railroad that he had at his house in the Holmby Hills. Everything there was created by Walt and his team from scratch and it looked to be pioneering spirit of ride aboard garden railroads of the 1950s. We will talk more about the railroad and some of the significance but while visiting the room I did take pictures of the captions as I want to ensure that I reference and provide the correct information on Walt and his trains. I apologize in advance for the photos, the room is low light so getting a picture without the lighting was very difficult.

Interesting note was the name of the locomotive the "Lilly Belle" which was to honor his wife Lilian Disney for letting him turn part of the backyard into a garden railroad. Even Walt understood the great importance of recognizing the partnership we all take part of with our spouses to enjoy our hobby. 

 On display in the room is two of the actual 1/8 scale cars that were on the Carolwood Pacific.

While the railroad no longer exists today the barn that he used as his shop now resides at Griffith Park in Los Angeles and more of the rolling stock and Lilly Belle itself can be found at the The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. There is ton of great resources available online that will allow to further reading about the Carolwood Pacific so if you would like more please follow the links below:
Carolwood Pacific Historical Society
Carolwood Pacific Wikipedia Page
Disney Parks Blog on Carolwood Pacific

G scale model of Lilly Belle on display in the room.

Disneyland & Carolwood Pacific Significance
There was not alot about Disneyland's railroad in the room as it primarily focused on the Carolwood Pacific. My takeaway from the picture is really quite straight forward; "Thank You Mr. Disney for deciding to take the correct and historical way of showcasing the great railroads that built the United States." In the end he could of chose a different type or less prototypical train but The Disney Company did not cut those corners and to this day still display and allow guests to experience our proud railroading history at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World..... So the significance to me is Walt's love and passion for railroading on his own pike directly influenced and inspired him and his Imagineers when building the two parks with unique operations at both.

Our Railroads
There is significance here we can all relate to in our hobby because we all have been inspired by maybe an area we grew up in or one that we visited often. So we then take this influence and use it to design, build, and operate so others can enjoy and share with us in our passion. If you ask me this is something that is pretty specific to model railroading and I don't know if other hobbies allow for the same result. As an example I have provided my passion and influence below on why I created the Michigan Interstate Railroad.

My passion is creating a successful modern day regional in Michigan which operates through areas that I grew up traveling through and visiting when heading "Up North" to my grandparents lake cabin.
Key Ingredients that we can find from this post and withing the blog: Influence, design, build, operate, sharing

Fort Wilderness
Small fact - at one time the Fort Wildness Campground at Walt Disney World had a railroad. It came and went years before my existence so no photos or stories to tell, but the link below can provide you a great article to read on what use to be.

Fort Wildnerness Railroad Wikipedia Page
Mouseplanet Article by Jim Korkis

Until our next post - thanks for stopping by.


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