Disneyland Railroad
Disneyland Railroad
Land Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey's Toontown, Tomorrowland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Attraction type Narrow gauge railroad
Opening date July 17, 1955
Length 6336 ft (1931.2 m)
Reporting mark DRR
Track gauge 3 feet (910 mm) gauge
The Disneyland Railroad (DRR) is a narrow-gauge railroad located at Disneyland Park in California, that was inaugurated on that theme park's opening day, July 17, 1955. The live steam railway was constructed at a cost of US $240,000 and each of the original four locomotives cost in excess of $40,000 either to build or restore. It remains one of Disneyland's most popular attractions as riders can use it as transportation to other areas of the park or to simply ride the trains on the so-called "grand circle tour." Unlike the Disneyland Monorail System, which requires riders to disembark at the Tomorrowland station, passengers on the DRR can remain on the trains for as long as they wish. The railroad is, in fact, the first thing visitors see upon entering Disneyland via the main entrance.

The railroad reopened in March, 2005 after undergoing a three-month restoration to bring the roadbed back to gauge in time for the Happiest Homecoming on Earth. It was the longest prolonged closure of the railroad in park history.


Laid to three-foot gauge, the most common narrow-gauge measurement used in North America, the train's track runs in a continuous loop around the park, which has subsequently expanded past the tracks in some places. The line features grade crossing signals, automatic block signals, and a roundhouse for locomotive storage.

Under the original track plan, two trains (one freight and one passenger) could operate on the railroad simultaneously, running in the same direction. A passing track was incorporated at Main Street station where one train had to wait to allow the other to pass. Later, for safety reasons, and to allow the use of more than two trains, the line was changed so that trains followed behind each other, no longer able to pass one another. The passing track was disconnected and now is only used to display a handcar. Walt Disney dictated that a minimum of two trains were to operate at all times, and it is not uncommon for three or four trains to run simultaneously on busy days.

A detail dating from the park's opening can be seen from the railroad. As the train passes behind the It's a Small World attraction in Fantasyland, it crosses a service road leading back to the roundhouse that is protected by two miniature wigwag crossing signals. The Santa Fe Railway offered the use of full-scale crossing signals, but Disney declined as they would be out of scale with the trains. These scaled-down replicas were designed and built by the San Bernardino, shops of the Santa Fe as a gift to Disneyland. They operate with automotive windshield wiper motors.

Rail cars

Passenger seating originally consisted of forward-facing bench seats in several railcars. The 1958 addition of the Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama necessitated a change in the rolling stock; instead of facing forward, the benches of the new flatcars were changed to face right so that the diorama could be better enjoyed by the passengers. This was also done to speed up loading.

Today the seating consists mostly of open-air, freight-styled coaches with bench seating still facing right for ease of loading and unloading at the depots and for easier viewing of the diorama. Five open-air, clerestory-roofed observation cars with forward-facing seats dating from the park's opening were removed from service shortly after the diorama's opening in 1958 but were returned to service in 2004 after undergoing a three-year restoration. One trainset, the Excursion III, still faces forward. The Lilly Belle presidential coach is occasionally added to the rear of a train, as is an enclosed wooden caboose. In 2006, Disney added the first new steam engine in 47 years, Ward Kimball, named after the legendary Disney animator.


From concept to inauguration

The Disneyland Railroad was inspired by Walt Disney's love for trains and his live steam backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, a love he shared with Disney animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston. Until 1974, it was sponsored by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, during which time it operated as the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.

The train originally consisted solely of custom-built, five-eighths-scale equipment. The Walt Disney Company constructed the original two locomotives in its own workshops under the supervision of Roger E. Broggie. Patterned after the Lilly Belle, a miniature steam locomotive Broggie had made for Walt's backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, these were also models of classic "Wild West"-style American 4-4-0s, but built to a larger five-eighths scale. No. 1 was given a big wood-burning "diamond" stack and a largely pointed pilot (cowcatcher) while No. 2 was given a straight "cap" stack and smaller pilot common to East Coast coal-burning locomotives.

Initially, the Disneyland Railroad was to use a smaller scale of locomotives. Walt's good friend, Southern Pacific engineer Billy Jones, refused to sell him his locomotive, the Number 2, a 1905 product of the. Jones ran one of the trains on Opening Day. The Number 2, known more affectionately as the Two-Spot, still runs at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos, CA, on the non-profit Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad.

Three more locomotives were later acquired from outside sources since this was cheaper than building new ones and since many narrow-gauge lines were closing down and selling their equipment. The locomotives are all products of the famed Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia, PA. All three were given extensive renovations before entering service, including new boilers. Number 3 and the "new" number 5 are Forney locomotives, a type of tank locomotive. As a 1894 product of Baldwin, number 3 is the oldest locomotive in service at any Disney property and is also the most difficult to fire.

Walt Disney, along with California Governor Goodwin J. Knight and Fred G. Gurley (in his capacity of president of the Santa Fe) presided over the opening-day ceremonies. Since Disney made frequent rounds of the park from opening day forward and since his railroading hobby gave him extensive experience in the operation of steam locomotives, it was not uncommon to see him in the cab of one of the locomotives in the capacity of engineer.

The Grand Canyon/Primeval World diorama

The 1958 addition of the "Grand Canyon" diorama (what was once a long tunnel through a backstage service area) necessitated a change in the rolling stock as well; instead of facing forward, the new flatcars' benches now faced right so that the passengers could better enjoy the scenes. The diorama, which includes the park's only taxidermic animals in lifelike poses, is the longest in the world. Painted on a single piece of seamless canvas and representing the view from the canyon's south rim, the rear of the diorama measures 306 feet (93 m) long, 34 feet (10 m) high and is covered with 300 gallons (1,100 L) of paint.

The cost was US$367,000 and took more than 80,000 labor hours to construct. The main theme of Ferde Grofe's On The Trail is piped in through the train's sound system as it enters the diorama. In 1966, the diorama was expanded with a prehistoric theme to become the "Grand Canyon/Primeval World" diorama, with audio-animatronic dinosaurs from Walt Disney's Ford Magic Skyway attraction at the 1964 New York World's Fair. A 96-year-old Hopi chief, Chief Nevangnewa, blessed the trains on the diorama's opening day.

Alterations and modernization

The 1969 installation and opening of The Haunted Mansion required minor realignment of the main line since part of the new attraction extended beneath the roadbed. The DLRR was in near-continuous operation since the park's 1955 opening day until December 2004 when the system was shut down for reballasting, regauging and new block signals as part of Disneyland's fiftieth-anniversary celebration.

In 1999, Disney purchased the inoperable Maud L locomotive from the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio and sent it to a Southern California shop in 2004 to restore and transform it into a Disneyland Railroad locomotive. This 1902 Baldwin loco is now Disneyland Railroad locomotive number 5 and is the first added since 1959. Originally named for Maud Lepine, daughter of one of the original owners and a name kept throughout the unit's service life, it is now named after the late Ward Kimball, one of Disney's Nine Old Men and an avid railroad preservationist.

The attraction reopened on March 17, 2005. It was the railroad's most prolonged closure in park history.


The 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop originally only stopped at Main Street, U.S.A., and Frontierland, but now stops at Mickey's Toontown and Tomorrowland as well. Main Street Station is designed to coordinate architecturally with the rest of Main Street and is the first Disneyland structure visitors see upon entering the park. A sign on the roof shows an elevation of 138 feet (42m) above sea level and a population number that roughly corresponds with the number of visitors to the park over the past five decades. As of January 2005, the number stood at 500 million. A handcar is on permanent display on a siding in front of the station that once allowed two trains to run the loop while passing each other at the two original stations. It was donated to Walt Disney himself around 1964 by its maker, Kalamazoo Manufacturing. A replica of the Lilly Belle (the locomotive, not the coach) is on display inside the station as are various print articles pertaining to the DRR.

The onetime Frontierland station stop now serves New Orleans Square. Its station is a platform whose canopy is of similar style to that at Main Street Station. A building on the opposite side of the tracks (inspired by Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats depot) once served as the station platform; it was removed from service in 1962 and now serves primarily as an ornamental detail and break room for train crews. The telegraph sound effect that can be heard emanating from the building is actual railroad code that repeats the first two lines of Walt Disney's 1955 opening day speech.

Fantasyland Station was rethemed to a somewhat "cartoonish" design in 1992 to correspond with the new Mickey's Toontown, which opened in January 1993. Tomorrowland's station features a Googie-style architectural design and was originally light blue (the exit signs are still white and blue), but was repainted copper, brown, and orange in 1998 to correspond with the new Tomorrowland color scheme. The station has recently undergone renovation with new metal railings and pavement. For unknown reasons, the station was left with its 1998 colors and its new elements were the same color. This section of Tomorrowland was not painted in time for the fiftieth-anniversary celebration and will most likely be completed in the off-season.

The voice of the stationmaster, who announces the arrival of a train at each stop, is that of Disney Studios employee and voice actor Pierre Renoulet.


All the Disneyland locomotives burn diesel fuel, which is less polluting (though more expensive) than the coal, wood, or heavy "Bunker C" oil normally used on steam locomotives.

The Disneyland Railroad currently has five narrow-gauge steam locomotives (the original four are named after former Santa Fe CEOs):

  • 1: C. K. Holliday, a 4-4-0 built in the Walt Disney Studio in 1954; went into service at Disneyland on Opening Day, 1955. Named for Cyrus Kurtz Holliday, founder of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1859.
  • 2: E.P. Ripley, a 4-4-0 built in the Walt Disney Studio in 1954; went into service at Disneyland on Opening Day, 1955. Named for Edward Payson Ripley, an early president of the ATSF after its 1895 reorganization.
  • 3: Fred Gurley, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1894, went into service at Disneyland March 28, 1958. The locomotive, named for the then-current chairman of the ATSF, is the oldest single piece of railroad equipment in use at any Disney theme park. The 2-4-4T tank locomotive, used in Louisiana to transport sugar cane, was purchased in working condition for US$1300; nevertheless, more than $35,000 was spent on its restoration. A commemorative brass plaque celebrating the Gurley's centennial was mounted in the cab in 1994.
  • 4: Ernest S. Marsh, a 2-4-0 built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925; went into service at Disneyland July 25, 1959. Named for the Santa Fe's then-current president, the Marsh originally served the Raritan River Sand Company in New Jersey. During shipment from New Jersey to California, the locomotive was misrouted and ended up in a rail yard outside Pittsburgh. Disney placed a call to personal friend Marsh who personally oversaw the rerouting and rapid shipment of the locomotive to its final destination.
  • 5: Ward Kimball, a 0-4-4T Forney, serial number 20925, built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1902 for the Laurel Valley Plantation of Louisiana and later received in trade from Cedar Point Amusement Park as the inoperative Maud L in 1999. Cedar Point added a lead truck during its service there, making it a 2-4-4T. The restoration was begun by Boschan Boiler and Restorations of Carson, California in 2004 and the unit went into permanent service on June 25, 2005, as part of the park's fiftieth-anniversary celebration. Named for the famous Disney animator, the Kimball makes a slight break from tradition as well. Since the DLRR's inauguration, no Disney characters have been depicted on the rolling stock or at the stations in order to enforce the image of the railroad as a genuine, working system. The new locomotive's headlight features a gold leaf silhouette of Jiminy Cricket, a Ward Kimball creation. The silhouette is based on a drawing of the character Kimball made shortly before his death.


  • To offset construction costs, the Walt Disney Company solicited a number of major railroads for corporate sponsorship of the attraction in 1953; the Santa Fe was the only company to respond.
  • From 1955 until 1974 (when the railroad's sponsorship ended), the Santa Fe "rail pass" was honored in lieu of the required "D" coupon. The Rail Pass was discontinued in 1971 by the Santa Fe when all passenger operations were handed over to Amtrak, but existing passes were still honored until 1974.
  • The narration provided inside the cars at various points throughout the trip around the park features the late voice actor Vic Perrin.
  • By Disneyland's own estimates, the trains make more than 13,000 trips around the park annually.
  • There are also Disneyland Railroads at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.
  • Ever since the trains first started operating in 1955, they have covered enough track to circle the globe more than 150 times.
  • On May 6 and 7, 2006 the E.P. Ripley was displayed at the annual Fullerton Railroad Days in Fullerton, California. This was the first time any of the locomotives have been displayed at a public event off-site. The Ripley was fully accessible to the public.
  • In Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, the train appears as a mode of transportation. It goes to Mean Street (Main Street), Ventureland (Adventureland), Bog Easy (New Orleans Square), and Ostown (Toontown).
  • The railroad originally had only two trains: the Passenger Train and the Freight Train. The Passenger Train was pulled by the E.P. Ripley and stopped only at Main Street, while the Freight Train was pulled by the C.K. Holliday and only stopped at Frontierland. Passing tracks were located at the stations to facilitate continuous running. The Passenger Train was made up of coaches, while the Freight Train was made up of gondolas and stock cars with standing room only. In 1974, the Passenger Train was mothballed due to its small windows, which were not suitable for viewing the dioramas. All of the coaches still survive: the combine is in the hands of a private collector, the coaches are at the Pacific Coast Railway in Santa Margarita, CA, still in service, and the observation car is now a VIP car named Lillie Belle. The Freight Train, on the other hand, is still in operation, but with seats facing inward towards the park, red and white striped awnings, and wheelchair accessibility. The caboose is still on the train, and can still be ridden in. The cupola, however, is sealed off for safety reasons.
    • Besides the original trains, there are three other trainsets. The Excursion III cars were introduced with the Fred Gurley, Grand Canyon Diorama, and Fantasyland Depot in 1958, and are the only foreword-facing passenger cars left in the park. The Excursion III cars served as the inspiration for all four trainsets on the Walt Disney World Railroad. The Holiday IV and Holiday V trainsets were introduced in the 1960s. These cars face inwards and have blue and white and green and white striped awnings, respectively. The inward facing seats make viewing the park easier and facilitate quicker loading and unloading.
    • All passenger cars are in a set number series: the 10x series cars were the Passenger Train, and were known as the Retlaw Ones (Retlaw is Walter in reverse). The 20x series cars are the Freight Train but have never been referred to as the Freight Train Two. The 30x cars are the Excursion III cars, and the 40x and 50x cars the Holiday IV and Holiday V cars, respectively.
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