It is time for another installment of the Encyclopedia SAMLANDICA. These are random bits of Disneyland trivia that tickle my fancy and I hope yours too. We will explore a world of tiny mechanical men on Disneyland's popcorn wagons, Look above New Orleans Square, and take a ride on a tender car. Let's crack open the latest volume and see where it takes us . . .
As you probably have guessed by now, I really love the little details that often get overlooked but make Disneyland and Walt Disney World so special. This is the sort of stuff the Imagineers did not have to do but would certainly be missed if it were removed. One of those special touches is a group of mechanical men called Roastie-Toasties, so named in the book Imagineering: A Behind the Scenes Look at Making MORE Magic Real (what a title). I just love these little guys. Within each land that features a popcorn cart, there is a little person who assists the Cast Members.
Here is a quick video to show you the team at work.
At the other end of Main Street, at the edge of the Plaza Hub, is this colorful happy clown. On a completely different topic, I understand there are people who will not stay at the Boardwalk in Walt Disney World because they are afraid of the clown featured in the slide at the pool. Is this true?
Spinning around like the paddle powering the Mark Twain is this guy.
He is between the boat dock and the petrified tree. This little fellow may be related to the one on Main Street USA.
The littlest conductor is working in Toontown. This is the least obvious of the carts, located all the way at the exit of Mickey's house.
Our furry little friend is over by the Matterhorn naturally.
This evil clown is across from it's a small world. I guess the song has taken its toll.
One of my favorites. This fellow works just outside of the Haunted Mansion. Bet we have all felt this same way after a long day at work. He get's a break from Halloween through Christmas as a tiny Oogie Boogie takes his place.
Finally, Tomorrowland gets into the act and has recruited the Rocketeer.
MORE POPCORN: ART MEETS REALITY
Speaking of popcorn, next time you are in Disneyland's New Orleans Square, take a look around at the balconies. You will notice that there is an entire community living upstairs with each person expressing their talents by what is on the balcony. For example, the lady over by the exit of Pirates has a thing for birds, while another is the home of a fortuneteller. There is even a band that lives in one building.
One day I sat staring at the painter's nest up above the entrance to the French Market. Looks like the painter is an impressionist who paints what they know. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the content also looked familiar. Of course, it is one of the famous Disneyland popcorn carts that is within site of this balcony that is the inspiration for the painting.
DISNEYLAND RAILROAD TENDER CAR
Ever wonder what it would be like to run a live steam locomotive like the ones that power the Disneyland Railroad? A relatively unknown Disney perk (subject to change at anytime) can get you very close to that experience when you see Engine 1 or Engine 2 running. If the conditions are right, you and one guest might be able to score a ride on the tender car. This special seat puts your right there in the cab with the folks running the train.
A confession. I am a train freak. Love 'em. You can say I have “high iron” in my blood. If you don't own Steve DeGaetano's Welcome aboard the Disneyland Railroad and Michael Broggie's Walt Disney's Railroad Story then what are you waiting for? You said you were a Disney fan.
The C.K. Holliday (Engine 1) and the E.P. Ripley (Engine 2) are the two original steam locomotives built specifically for Disneyland. For many years, Disneyland didn't even own the trains. Instead, they were owned and operated by a separate company owned by Walt Disney himself, called Reltaw. Retlaw was Walter spelled backwards. One benefit for Walt by this arrangement, according to Michael Broggie, was his ability to “put on his bib overalls and kerchief, and go wait for the next train. When the train arrived, [Walt] would climb into the cab and tell the engineer that he was on break.” Since everybody at Retlaw was on Walt’s own payroll they did as the boss told them.
The steam locomotives are one of the defining features of the Magic Kingdom parks. I would argue that Disneyland wouldn't exist if it were not for these two trains. Walt owned a 1/8-scale live steam locomotive called the Lilly Belle and ran it in his backyard in Holmby Hills. According to Broggie, Walt learned a couple of lessons with his backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific. First, there is just something about steam trains that fascinates children and adults.
Have a seat, take a ride
Second, Walt learned how an earthen berm around his property could screen visual intrusions. A berm is a narrow ledge or shelf generally made of dirt with the top or bottom of a slope planted with trees and plants to control a view. Along the top edge is a dense layer of plant materials. As Walt told his daughter Diane, “I built that bank up on the canyon so when I was down there playing with my trains, my neighbors wouldn’t be annoyed.” An earthen berm, preventing the real world from intruding, is a defining feature of Disneyland park.
Engine 1, the C.K. Holliday (4-4-0 America - 5/8ths scale) is somewhat based on the Lilly Belle, Walt's backyard 1/8th scale locomotive. That locomotive is based on a famous Central Pacific Steam Locomotive that you can see in Sacramento, California. Since this would be a rural train, it was fueled by wood. The wide smokestack was able to catch embers. Engine 2, the E.P. Ripley is a replica of a coal-burning 4-4-0 American with its narrow smokestack. Here is some guilt free news. Today all of the Disneyland trains run on bio-diesel (including French-fry oil).
Both locomotives are named after former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad presidents. Originally, the C.K. Holliday only stopped at the Frontierland station and the rolling stock was cattle cars. The E.P. Ripley only stopped at the Main Street Station.
For me, my favorite may have to be E.P. Ripley because this was the locomotive that Walt guided into the Main Street station on the opening day broadcast. The expression on his face reveals a man having the time of his life.
The tender car holds the fuel and water for the locomotive and is usually not an attractive place to be. But the C.K. Holliday and the E.P. Ripley were purpose built as pleasure trains and there is a place for guests. The other three Disneyland Baldwin locomotives were built for business and do not have such a perk.
The little bench seat fits two guests. You do not get to hear the spiel but who cares. Due to the diminutive scale of the locomotives, you feel like you are inside the cab. This is one of my favorite things to do and I save it for very special occasions.
How do you get to ride the tender car? Keep in mind, Disneyland can turn the program on and off and has done so in the past. The best way is to very politely ask the Cast Member working the Main Street station and have a lot of patience. You may have to wait for a long period of time. There are four reasons they will not allow you ride:
1) They need to refill the water tank to feed the boiler.
2) They need to blow down the boiler. This is a process whereby they remove the sediments that build up in the boiler. You can watch this process happen frequently at the New Orleans Square station. Sometimes they will do this at the Tomorrowland station as well.
3) They are changing crews.
4) The Cast Member just doesn't want to deal with it at that time.
If you get the green light, and it may take a few passes. This gives you a good chance to soak up the exhibits in the train station. Once your train has arrived, you will bypass the regular line and push past the little gate leading to the locomotive. Watch your head, as the roof is very low. Step up on the metal plates and take a seat. They have one of those little plastic seatbelts you must wear.
This perk is for a round trip only. You cannot exit early. Soon you will note how cozy the space is and how close you are to the Engineer, Fireman, and the boiler. You are just behind the locomotive and the floor plates of the tender and locomotive move independently beneath your feet. It can get very hot in here. You are right up against the firebox. The fireman can teach you about the water meter and proper water levels. You get a real sense of the power of steam.
It is a very different experience because you are sitting with no cover over your head. The Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas take on a whole new meaning as you feel the shed surrounding you.
The Cast Members operating the train are some of the friendliest in the park. They are always glad to answer questions and help you to understand how this machine lives and breathes. The amount of tweaking done by the fireman is always a surprise. You will learn that a steam engine is a very complex machine each position requires a lot of training. I understand a minimum of 200 hours is required just to be fireman.
The crews have told me that locomotives are very finicky and have personalities. It is fun to hear the debate between crew members as to the positive and negative traits of each engine.
If you get the chance to take a ride on the tender car you will be glad you did. I know what job I want when I retire....
And so closes this volume of the Encyclopedia SAMLANDICA. If you ask for it, we may just have another volume for you soon.
Thank you all for reading, I look forward to your comments and discussions below.
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