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Part One of this story is at this link.

Part Two of this story is at this link.

Part Three of this story is at this link.

On March 1st, 1959 the engine was loaded onto a flatbed truck for her trip from the Disney Studios to the Disneyland roundhouse for final painting and testing. The color scheme chosen was a bright red on the boiler, cab and wheels. Red has always been one of the most expensive paints to produce. In fact, early firemen often chose to paint their apparatus in shades of red to show their pride in their fire fighting machines--a tradition carried on to this very day. Elaborate pinstriping adorned the cylinders and headlight, and bright brass rounded out the trim.


The engine simmers in front of the old roundhouse shortly after completion.

In an unusual change from the practice on the three previous Disneyland engines, no stars were painted on the drive wheel hubs, and the drive wheel tires were painted in white. Continuing the tradition of naming his engines after Santa Fe executives, Walt chose to name the engine Ernest S. Marsh, a nod to the assistance the Santa Fe president had given in returning Walt's "lost locomotive" to him. The fact that the Santa Fe had just signed the first five-year contract extension to sponsor the Disneyland trains probably didn't hurt either.

After a couple months of finishing and testing, the engine was ready to enter service. Unlike with the Fred Gurley, the Marsh was not formally dedicated. On July 25, 1959, the little engine entered service, to little fanfare.

Here's the engine as she appeared on the cover of
the 1982 souvenir guide (Presented by Polaroid).

With only three sets of cars to pull, the engine was never "assigned" a train, as had been done with the first three engines. The Ernest S. Marsh could be found pulling any of the three sets of cars on any given day. Three train sets meant that only three trains could be run simultaneously, even with a fourth engine. That changed in the mid-1960s, however, when two new sets of cars were built--the Holiday Blue and Holiday Green cars, with their blue and green striped awnings, respectively. Now, four trains could be operated simultaneously during busy times.

The Fall 1968 cover of the Disney News featured the engine
in great light--with the whistle blowing quite loudly.

In May 1967, the engine reached a milestone at Disneyland. Jerry Best took some photographs and wrote to the owners of the Pine Creek Railroad, the tourist line where the engine spent time in the early 1950s, to update them on the progress of their former first engine. Best wrote on May 2, 1967, "Thought you might like these photos of former Pine Creek #1, which has just completed 50,000 miles of service on the Disneyland railroad. Of course, not much of the original engine is left…The tender was discarded and Ward Kimball and I got it, and some day it will be a duplicate of a Disneyland horse car. The engine today even has a ‘feet per second' speedometer to control the speed through the dioramas. Sorry the engine doesn't smoke in the shot of the train emerging from the tunnel; smoke is forbidden due to smog laws, and special chemicals are used in the distillate to eliminate soot from the fires."

This mid-'60s publicity view shows the white wall tires and starless drivers the engine wore originally.

In operation, crews have noted that the Marsh can be one of the roughest-riding engines on the line. It's been theorized that the spring suspension was designed to support the weight of a saddle tank. The added weight would compress the springs a bit. Removing the tank allowed the springs to remain rigid, resulting in a rougher ride. She consumes 140 gallons of water and 12 to 14 gallons of fuel every hour when operating.

ABOVE: A look into the backhead of the Ernest S. Marsh. A quick tour: The two curving white pipes lead to the water sight glasses that tell the crew how much water is in the boiler; The two green valves on the right do the same thing, but by spitting out steam or water instead. The bright brass gauge at top center is the steam pressure gauge, and the smaller gauge to the right shows the air pressure in the brake system. The horizontal bar below the brake gauge is the throttle. Photo courtesy Dennis Flores.

ABOVE: A rare view inside the Ernest S. Marsh's front end. The "holes" are actually pipes that run to the engine's firebox, through the water carried in the boiler. The large curved pipe carries steam from the steam dome to the cylinders. Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai. BELOW: Walt Disney in the Ernest S. Marsh's cab in an undated publicity shot.

While Walt certainly enjoyed the engine, even going so far as to having a publicity shot of him made while in the cab, the Ernest S. Marsh held a dubious distinction: Until the Ward Kimball's arrival in 2005, she remained the only Disneyland engine to never have appeared on an attraction poster--a record spanning some 46 years (and counting). A few postcards were produced over the years, and the engine appeared on a very nice collectible plate by the Bradford Mint, but in 2002, the Marsh was treated to an unusual plethora of train-related merchandise that featured her image.

BELOW: This early postcard shows the Marsh to good advantage.

ABOVE: The back panel of a denim jacket released in summer 2002 features this
great artwork of the Ernest S. Marsh, and in unusual fashion, mentions the
engine by name. (Most Disneyland Railroad collectibles do not
make such distinctions between the trains).

The Park was in the midst of celebrating Walt Disney's 100th birthday, and featuring trains seemed to be a natural. A coffee mug showing the engine steaming into Main Street Station was made. Denim shirts and jackets were available with the same image. A pin set consisting of the Marsh locomotive, tender and several cars was made, each in a limited edition of 1,959, signifying the engine's debut year on the Disneyland Railroad.

This year marks the Ernest S. Marsh's 50th year as a Disneyland Railroad locomotive, and her 89th birthday overall. She has continued to delight guests since the Park's formative years, and with the constant and loving maintenance she receives from her dedicated crew, there is no reason why she couldn't see another 50 years as Disneyland Railroad engine No. 4.

The fireman of the Ernest S. Marsh waves kindly to guests just arriving
at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom. Photo courtesy Matt Walker

She may have started out as an olive drab ugly duckling in 1925, competing with the very first diesel, but today when her ruby-red paint is waxed to a high luster, she's the queen of the fleet.

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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