Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ward and Grizzly Flats

Ward Kimball had a ton of hobbies. Besides being a Producer, Director, Writer and Animator for Disney, he also led a famous jazz band, did illustrations for a publication called Asinine Alley, taught classes at Art Center, collected miniature trains and toys, and......
had the only private full sized backyard railroad in the United States. Yes, Kimball really loved trains. Here's a picture of Ward's backyard train layout, complete with roundhouse and train station.

The train station was originally a facade used for the Disney movie, So Dear To My Heart (1948). After the movie was made, Walt Disney gave Ward the facade for his backyard layout. However, the structure was more trouble than it was worth since it was only propped up plywood; there had to be a real building behind those walls. Eventually, Ward turned that facade into the real thing (with the help of some major league construction equipment) and when Walt came back to see Ward's finished Train station, he was truly impressed.
Years later when building Disneyland, Walt wanted Ward's train station for the park. One night Walt called Ward asking for the station back! Ward told the head mousetro no.
Walt had to settle for building a replica of Ward's train station, which became the Frontierland train station that is still in the Disneyland park today.
The engine here is Grizzly Flats Chloe; at the time, the only full sized train that Ward owned.
Ward's other two large engines had already been donated to a museum in California, and the Chloe was a smaller train that had once worked sugar plantations. It was actually more appropriate for a backyard railroad set-up. Some neighbors would complain to Ward about the smoke from this engine, but Ward would tell them that it didn't give off any more smoke than a barbeque. Chloe sure was a beautiful train and at the time of our visit was temporarily out of commission.
Here's a picture of Ward in front of a Giant foam monster train (about two stories high in the roundhouse), complete with arms and legs! Don't know who made this but it sure was an impressive sight.
I'm still impressed by the guy and his amazing career and there isn't a day that I don't think of him and his work.


Anonymous said...

Hey Brian! It's your old pal Cynthia. Thanks for posting these photos of Ward..I remember that day well!

Also I FINALLY got to visit the whole Walt Disney Florida Resort this December. It sucked!! OK, OK, not totally..but wow. We should catch up on the phone soon, I can tell you all about it.


Brian Mitchell said...

Hey Cynthia,
Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I have some other Kimball photos and stuff that I'll put up over the next couple of weeks...including more from that day at Grizzly Flats 11 years ago.
I'll be in touch.