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Today we're going to look at a few items of interest that combine the Disneyland Railroad with the Post Office. Yeah, I know...seems an unusual pairing. And I wouldn't have thought of it myself if it weren't for the item we'll look at last--a simple unused envelope. But after I examined it, I started thinking...

Ever since the very idea of Disneyland began jelling in Walt Disney's mind, it seems that postal issues didn't lurk very far away. In fact, in the very first memo describing Disneyland in detail that Walt ever wrote, the Post Office made an appearance. In an internal memo prepared by Walt dated August 31, 1948, he wrote this: "In the Town Hall we will have a real Post Office where mail and packages can be mailed. (Note: Check with Burbank on how to go about getting our own postal stamp)."


Now, as everyone knows, the Park he ended up building wasn't situated in Burbank, but Walt did, in fact, fulfill the second portion of his idea written above: For many years, mail deposited in any of the several mail boxes located throughout Disneyland would have their postage cancelled with an official Disneyland cancellation stamp! (This practice has since ended, and all mail posted at Disneyland is now cancelled with the Anaheim stamp).

Mail deposited into these mailboxes at one time received a
Disneyland cancellation stamp. Photo courtesy Matt Walker

Perhaps Walt's thoughts of the Post office were somehow tied in with his love of railroading. Walt had become a news butcher on the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the Midwest when he was just 15 years old, selling soda, candy and newspapers to passengers on the commuter trains of the railroad. The baggage car was always stationed as the first car right behind the locomotive. Here, parcels, packages and the U.S. Mail would be carried, to be delivered to the stops along the route.

Often, the car was a "combine," which was a car with half coach seats for passengers, and half baggage compartment. When Walt wasn't selling sundries to the passengers, he would spend his time in this car. The car also gave him fairly easy access to the locomotive, since it was coupled directly to it. Walt would often venture out the front door of the baggage car, climb the ladder of the tender on the speeding train, and make his way over the coal pile in the tender before descending into the locomotive cab. Here, he would bribe the engine crews with fruit and snacks in exchange for them showing him how the various engine controls worked.

The times Walt spent as a news butcher were some of the most enjoyable of his life. And this is why Walt's favorite car on the early Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad was the combine car--a car which also would have carried the mails during the great age of steam it was meant to portray.

The "combine" is the first yellow car behind the engine--a combination baggage and passenger car. It's partially lettered as a "U.S. Railway Post Office." This was Walt Disney's favorite passenger car.

While Walt Disney had made sure that his Park provided its own cancellation stamp, it's interesting to note that years later, the tiny country on the West African coast called Angola would honor the Disneyland Railroad with their own postage stamps.

While undated, these stamps were issued sometime in the late 1990s, and bear testament to the wide-ranging influence of Walt and his trains. Those of you who own Michael Broggie's expansive biography of Walt Disney may recognize the images: They have all been lifted from Walt Disney's Railroad Story.

The government of Angola wasn't too concerned with intellectual property rights when it lifted every single image here from Walt Disney's Railroad Story, unbeknownst to author Michael Broggie!

The upper left and lower right corners are the book's sidebar graphics; the four images on the sides are the back cover (even reproducing the name of the book!); the upper right and lower left corners show a pass signed by Walt Disney that appears in the book, and the top and bottom images are "stretched" portions of an attraction poster. The four stamps themselves in the middle are all images lifted directly from the book.

While we may complain about our 42-cent stamp prices, perhaps we should be grateful: An on-line currency converter shows that the stamp's value, Kzr 500,000.00--converts to about $6,651 in today's dollars. Ouch.

One final bit of Disneyland Railroad/postal paraphernalia: This is an unused envelope I recently spotted on Ebay.

This unused envelope was an interesting--if mysterious--find commemorating the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.

As can be plainly seen, the envelope was issued in conjunction with the Oregon Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon. It is imprinted by the "National Railroad Hall of Fame and Museum, C.J. Keenan, founder." The 3-cent stamp it bears commemorates Casey Jones, a famous engineer in American song and folklore. Obviously, it's un-addressed, but the stamp has been cancelled at the Centennial branch of the Portland post office.

Of course, the interesting aspect for me is that on August 24, 1959, the National Railroad Hall of Fame and Museum "saluted" the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad! Internet research turns up precious little on the National Railroad Hall of Fame and Museum in Oregon; it is apparently defunct. Obviously, a different railroad was saluted daily; several other of these envelopes have appeared on Ebay, and at least one other one saluting the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad on August 24th.

Anyway, the above envelope and the stamps just goes to show you that Disneyland wasn't the only place to get Disneyland Railroad souvenirs. Sometimes they turn up in the darndest places. Please consider this article signed, sealed, delivered and yours!

Steve DeGaetano is author of Welcome Aboard the Disneyland Railroad! Steve’s latest book, the history of Disneyland’s newest locomotive, the Ward Kimball, is now available. You can read more about From Plantation to Theme Park, the Story of Disneyland Railroad Locomotive No. 5, the Ward Kimball, and place an order for it, by using this link.

Steve DeGaetano may be e-mailed at [email protected] - Please keep in mind he may not be able to respond to each note personally.

© 2009 Steve DeGaetano

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