A Look Back: 1958 Opening of the Grand Canyon Diorama at Disneyland Park

George Savvas

by , Director, Public Relations, Disneyland Resort


Fifty-five years ago this Sunday, a new route was discovered on the Disneyland Railroad: the Grand Canyon. The 306-foot-long diorama, which features the work of prolific scenic artist Delmer Yoakum, was described at the time as the “longest diorama in the world.”

During the opening ceremony on March 31, 1958, Walt Disney was joined by his longtime friend Santa Fe Railroad Chairman, Fred Gurley — the namesake of our very own Engine No. 3, which began its service only three days earlier and was officially dedicated the same day.

Just beyond the Tomorrowland Train Station, outside the tunnel that houses the diorama, the ceremony featured members of the Hopi tribe, including Chief Negangnewa, who performed a blessing.

Among the rare photos from this special day, and one of my personal favorites, is a picture of Walt and Mr. Gurley chatting with the boy who participated in the ceremony. As you can see in this photo, Walt never seemed happier than when he was around the young or the young at heart, or whenever trains were involved!

If you’re a fan of the Disneyland Railroad, or the Grand Canyon Diorama, my colleague, Paul Hiffmeyer, shared a really great photo he took of the diorama back in 2010 that you should also check out here.


  • This is a prime example of the “simple” super cool things at Disneyland!!! Love it!!

  • This was a wonderful post. Thank you.
    I believe Primeval World was one of the New York World’s fair attaractions, so it would have opened about the same time as Small World and Mr. Lincoln.
    Are there any thoughts or plans to one day animate the animals in the Grand Canyon portion?

  • Does anyone know what year the Primieval World portion was added?

    • July 1, 1966, was when Primeval World first came to Disneyland park – but there’s more to the story here.

  • Wonderful! The Grand Canyon Diorama, along with Primeval World and the whole DLRR, is one of my favourite attractions at Disneyland and actually inspired me to visit the real thing via its own steam train!

  • I truly love photos of Walt. The photos bring joy to my heart and a smile to my face. Walt was an inspiration to us all. I hope to see more photos of him the future!

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