A different look at Disney...

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Will It Go Round in Circles

Part one of this story may be found at this link.

In 1959, the Disneyland-Alweg Monorail, operating—as the steam trains—under the sponsorship of the Santa Fe Railway, became the first daily operating monorail in the western hemisphere. The rectifiers and shops of the Monorail were constructed in the northeast corner of the property, outside the Berm, since the Monorail operated only in Tomorrowland. So far, history has been selfish, and no photograph of the original Monorail facility has yet surfaced publicly.

Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
Note the Santa Fe blue cross logo on the second monorail car.

When it was finally realized that the expanding fleet of the Santa Fe & Disneyland railroad needed improved living quarters, it was decided to combine the Monorail and steam train maintenance and storage facilities into one structure.

Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
Walt Disney in an undated publicity shot.


It's difficult to ascertain exactly when the new Disneyland roundhouse was completed, but we can logically surmise that it was in place by 1965 or '66, by the time two new Holiday Blue and Green trainsets were added, which provided better viewing of the Primeval World Diorama. The trains of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railway now had a new home, and everything was packed up and sent east to the new facility.

The old roundhouse survives to this day, as a shop where ride vehicles are refurbished. Embedded in the pavement in front, mute witness to the Santa Fe & Disneyland's earliest days, are the remnants of the original roundhouse lead tracks.

Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
Here you can see the old roundhouse area as it exists today, with ride vehicles in
various states of rehab. At the top of the upper photo is the break in the Disneyland Berm
where the trains used to access the mainline. Photos courtesy David "Darkbeer" Michael.

The "new" roundhouse was and is quite a facility. The switch off the mainline was placed on the outskirts of Tomorrowland, and again it swept backwards and to the left, effectively camouflaging the now-visible backstage area (this time, the trains didn't pass through a tunnel to get backstage; they passed through a very noticeable cut in the Berm).

Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
With the Monorail switch track above, the roundhouse lead of the
Disneyland Railroad snakes its way off-stage to the left.

Once past the Berm, the track was split into the four roundhouse tracks. The Santa Fe supplied genuine AT&SF switch lanterns, with red and green lenses, which were placed on top of the switch control mechanisms, lending even greater authenticity to the line.

Disneyland Railroad Roundhouse
Once backstage, the tracks split again before entering the roundhouse.
Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai.

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© 2007 Steve DeGaetano

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