The Disneyland Railroad was inspired by Walt Disney’s love of trains. Since he first conceived the idea of Disneyland park, every concept design had one thing in common: “… it will be surrounded by a train,” said Walt. Roger Broggie, the first Walt Disney Studio employee to be recruited for the hand-picked team at WED Enterprises (now called Walt Disney Imagineering), was instrumental in helping Walt fulfill this dream.
Hired in 1939 as a master machinist, one of Broggie’s first assignments was the installation of the multiplane camera at the Burbank studio. Because he was familiar with fabricating small camera parts with great precision, Walt approached him to create a one-eighth scale live steam locomotive. Broggie helped create the Lilly Belle, a miniature live steam engine named for Walt’s wife, Lillian. A replica of the Lilly Belle is currently on display in the Disneyland Main Street Train Station. In 1949, Broggie helped Walt build his miniature trains in the Studio Machine Shop and later installed the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in the backyard of Walt’s Holmby Hills home.
In 1950, Broggie was promoted to head of the Studio Machine Shop and he became the transportation specialist. As plans for Disneyland progressed, he oversaw the development of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad, the Monorail system and Matterhorn Bobsleds. He also worked on new processes and techniques such as Circle-Vision 360, a motion picture format with screens that completely surround the audience, and “Project Little Man” which became the prototype for Audio-Animatronics technology.
While working on “Project Little Man,” Broggie and fellow Imagineer Wathel Rogers constructed a 9-inch-tall figure of a moving, talking man that mimicked vaudevillian tap-dancing using cams, cables and tubes. The original figure is on display at the One Man’s Dream attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and earlier figures from “Project Little Man” are part of the D23 Presents Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum through April 30, 2013.
Broggie is known for epitomizing the essence of Walt Disney Imagineering – the blending of creative imagination and technical know-how. His legacy lives on at Disney as his grandson Garry (son of Imagineer Roger Broggie, Jr.) carries on the tradition as a third-generation machinist and supervisor at the Disney Studio machine shop.
Broggie was honored with a Window on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland park on March 30, 2007. His window is above the Magic Shop and fittingly refers to him as “Roger Broggie, Shopmaster” and “Advisor to the Magic Makers.” Additionally, he has a window dedicated to him at Magic Kingdom Park in the Walt Disney World Resort, and on October 21, 2003, Walt Disney World Railroad Steam Engine #3, was re-dedicated as the Roger E. Broggie in his honor. In 1990, Broggie was named a Disney Legend.