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A Celebration of Disney Trains at the Walt Disney Family Museum

Jeffrey Epstein

by , Director, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

As The Walt Disney Family Museum unveils its new exhibit, All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains, we look back at some rarely seen photos and a very special moment in Disney train history.

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On May 10, 2005, at 7 a.m., a ceremony took place before Disneyland opened for the day. On the occasion of Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, about 100 people gathered at the New Orleans Square Station of the Disneyland Railroad to honor animator and Disney Legend Ollie Johnston, one of Walt’s Nine Old Men, for how he inspired Walt Disney with his love of trains. Ollie inspired Walt to build his backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Walt’s love of giving people rides on this little steam train in his backyard eventually led to the building of Disneyland.

After the speeches that early May morning, Ollie was presented with a plaque from the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society. Then everyone heard a toot of a steam whistle and up pulled a gleaming steam train. Ollie at first thought it was a Disneyland engine, then his son Ken leaned down and said, “Dad, that is your engine.” Ollie then realized it was his beloved Marie E. and he started to cry. And then so did everyone else.

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I then told Ollie that the Marie E. needed a real engineer to drive it around Disneyland and asked if he would like to do it. “Boy, would I!!” was his answer. He climbed up into the cab of the Marie E. with the help of the amazing Disneyland Railroad crew and they strapped him in with seatbelts borrowed from one of the old Matterhorn bobsleds.

At 94 years old, Ollie expertly engineered his Marie E. — the only outside train ever run on the rails of Disneyland — three times around Disneyland to the cheers of everyone there.

It was said that of all of the year-long events celebrating Disneyland’s 50th anniversary, the morning of May 10 was by far the most special.

– John Lasseter

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This memory told by John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer, Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, recalls a very special moment in Disney train history. It’s one of many train tales being celebrated in All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains, a new exhibit at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, Calif. On view through February 9, 2015, this comprehensive exhibition explores the influence that railroading had on Walt Disney’s life and work. It also tells the story of how his railroading legacy lives on to this day in Disney films and theme parks around the world.

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The arc of this exhibition doesn’t start and end with just Walt, though. All Aboard explores the interest and passion for railroading of Walt’s friends and staff, including Ollie Johnston. The Disney Legend was able to make his Disney railroad dreams come true at Disneyland before he passed away in 2008.

Comments

  • Awesome story. Thanks to you and John for sharing it with us!

  • There is a Frank Thomas/Ollie Johnston website that has video of this event. I would highly recommend looking it up and watching it, and I dare you not to get a tear in your eye! This is one of my favorite things Disney has ever done. I can’t even look at these pictures without getting all misty eyed.

  • Really excited and happy to see the Disney company and the Walt Disney Family Museum finally colloborating! Thank you Disney Parks Blog for letting people know about this inspiring, heart-warming, WONDERFUL museum and for getting the word out about the exhibit.

  • Thanks for the article Jeffrey. I really appreciate the promotion of the Walt Disney Family Museum on the Disney Parks Blog. This exhibit is fantastic and really sheds light on the story of trains and how they have been woven into the work of the Disney company. For anyone who has never been to the WDFM, this is a prime opportunity to make the trip to San Francisco.

    Fun fact: The Kalamozoo push car that usually resides in front of the Disneyland train station is now in the lobby of the museum. The car will remain through the run of the exhibit.

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