Friday, July 28th was the culmination of efforts by many people to bring back a series of Disneyland attractions that had been on hiatus during the construction of the new area, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Taking a page from the Park’s past, the Imagineering team on this project definitely plussed the area known as the Rivers of America.
Festivities to commemorate this accomplishment included a special operation on the Disneyland Railroad. John Lasseter, Disney’s top creative, wanted to acknowledge the gentlemen whose own railroad interests furthered Walt Disney’s love of trains. With the special operation of two steam locomotives on the Disneyland Railroad, it was the perfect way to say “thanks”. The first locomotive was Ollie Johnson’s “Marie E.” – now operating on the Justi Creek Railroad at the Lasseter Family Winery in Glen Ellen, CA. Under steam with John at the throttle and Nancy in the cab, they were pulling the second locomotive, Ward and Betty Kimball’s “Chloe” and it’s summer coach – now part of the Grizzly Flats collection at the Southern California Railroad Museum in Perris, CA. Museum Project Manager Ken Mitchroney and Chloe Docent Beth Weilenman filled the role of Ward and Betty waiving from the cab as the consist led the day’s railway cavalcade.
Following behind was the Disneyland Railroad’s “C.K. Holliday” pulling it’s freight train consist of cars and caboose, filled with cast members and Disney characters, it was a direct connection back to the Park’s opening day in 1955 as it had been one of two steam powered train in service then. Crossing the new trestle along the Rivers the air way filled with fireworks to mark the occasion.
The day also saw the official re-opening of three other Disneyland attractions – the steam paddle-wheeled riverboat Mark Twain, the proud sailing ship Columbia and the Davey Crockett Explorer Canoes. Following the ceremonial trips for VIPS and media, all of these classics welcomed guests aboard to enjoy them once more.
In today’s world of hustle and bustle, it may be difficult to remember that back when Disneyland first welcomed visitors, tall tales and fantastic stories of heroes and villains, fame and fortune in the American west were the just the thing to keep audiences enthralled on radio and television, in film and books. Heroes such as the Lone Ranger or Marshall Dillion kept the peace out on the frontier and kept audiences coming back again and again for more; just as their compatriots had for generations before with Buffalo Billy Cody and others with connection to the Old West.
Even as Disneyland solidly moves into the 21st Century with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, those tales of life on the frontier still fascinate and enthrall us. The West may have given way to a galaxy far, far away. But we still root for the heroes to come through and save the day.
The return of the classic Disneyland favorites is a part of the history, the past if you will, of what made guests want to experience the magic of the Park. Keeping that alive for the future is a wonderful way to connect new experiences to those memories of days gone by; with new ones to come.
Special thanks to everyone connected with this event who made it possible!
For more photos and video of Disneyland’s classic Railroad and River attractions, please read yesterday’s MiceChat Disneyland Photo Update HERE.