Ward Kimball’s Backyard Railroad – The End

Once upon a time, I had the pleasure and the honor of riding on Ward Kimball’s backyard railroad, the Grizzly Flats.  Mr. Kimball was there (it was also an honor to be in his presence), as were lots of other Disney veterans and fans, such as a the late great David Mumford.  Bob Pool of the Los Angeles Times writes about the end of an era in the unassuming suburban residential neighborhood of San Gabriel where the Kimballs entertained us.

The Grizzly Flats Railroad’s steam engines traveled for 70 years along a 500-foot-long stretch of rails next to the San Gabriel home of Betty and Ward Kimball.

Along the way, the Kimballs’ picturesque narrow-gauge line helped inspire Walt Disney to build the famous passenger train system that circles Disneyland.

Now, though, its locomotives, vintage cars and caboose have been hauled away, and workers have finished pulling out the steel rails and wooden ties. Soon, the antique-looking Grizzly Flats train depot will be dismantled. The old train barn and firehouse will be demolished.

The train depot, used in a Disney film, was replicated for the Frontierland/New Orleans Square station of the Disneyland Railroad after Kimball refused to give the original back to Walt Disney.

In 1949 Disney gave Kimball the train depot set that Disney Studio workers had constructed for the film "So Dear to My Heart" starring Burl Ives, Beulah Bondi, Bobby Driscoll and Harry Carey. Kimball reassembled it, added a back wall to the three-sided structure and turned it into a small museum.

So what;s becoming of the old depot?

The old depot was offered to the Orange Empire museum but was rejected because of the cost required to convert it from a flimsily built movie prop into a structure open to the public, Kimball said. Instead, it is being given to collector John Lasseter, a Sonoma resident who is chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios.

The antique wooden water tower will also be offered to Lasseter when his representatives come in a week or so for the depot, Kimball said.

Definitely a story worth reading.  Check it out.

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About Whit

Whit Honea is the author of The Parents' Phrase Book. He lives in the L.A. area with his wife and two boys. You can find his writings and other works all over the Internets. Now available on Twitter.
This entry was posted in Animation Business, Disneyland, Fandom, Film, History, Imagineering, pixar, Uncle Walt and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ward Kimball’s Backyard Railroad – The End

  1. Well, at least John Lasseter is a great guy. I think he’s one of the smartest folks over at Disney in many, many years. Pixar’s best films have been the ones Lasseter personally oversaw every detail of. I’m sure Grizzly Flats is in good hands. :)

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