The Walt Disney Family Museum is pleased to present All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains, for your viewing pleasure beginning November 13, 2014 through February 9, 2015.
This incredible exhibit gives a glimpse into the influence railroading had on Walt Disney’s life and work. It will also show visitors how his love of and legacy continues in Disney films and parks. With more than 200 artifacts, firsthand accounts, archival videos, images of Walt and his trains, and actual model trains running throughout the show, All Aboard will share how Walt’s passion for trains developed long before manifesting itself in Disney short cartoons, feature films, and in Walt’s personal life at home.
Walt’s father and uncle (Mike) worked on the railroads which started Walt’s fascination. One of Walt’s earliest jobs was as a news butcher, selling magazines and snacks on the Missouri Pacific, Kansas City Southern, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroads. Walt said: “My railroad career was brief, exciting, and unprofitable.” Little did he know then that his later years would include railroads in his profitable ventures.
Two crucial train rides affected Walt’s life significantly. During a cross-country rail trip to New York in early 1928, Walt lost his cartoon star Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and half of his animation staff to his film distributor. On the return train to California, Walt contemplated a new character—a mouse, which he named Mortimer. His wife Lillian had a different idea, and, with their collaboration on a name, Mickey Mouse was born.
Disney films would host special appearances of trains with the first short in 1929 titled, Mickey’s Choo-Choo. Trains would also make appearances in future Disney shorts and films, either as plot devices or as characters of their own—with The Brave Engineer (1950) and Casey Jr. from the 1941 classic Dumbo. In the move to live-action films, it was inevitable that the Studios began featuring more trains, including the ones seen in So Dear to My Heart and The Great Locomotive Chase. Walt also fulfilled a long-time desire: he bought and built a tabletop model train layout in his office and enjoyed showing it off to visitors, including some of his own animators who were train buffs themselves.
The exhibit also includes some of Walt’s friends and staff, including two of Walt’s “Nine Old Men,” animators Ward Kimball and Ollie Johnston. Kimball was the first person to be a private owner of a full-sized steam locomotive. Johnston’s hobby re-ignited when he saw the miniature train set in Walt’s office. Also showcased are WED Enterprises’ Imagineers – “Imagination Engineers” – Roger Broggie and Bob Gurr, whose creative locomotives helped Walt transport his guests throughout Disneyland, and later, the Magic Kingdom Park in the Walt Disney World Resort.
And finally, “All Aboard” will show us how Walt’s railroad legacy continues today. Disney theme parks and films continue to honor trains and railroading, in their past, recent and yet to be seen future endevours.
Guest curator Michael Campbell, president of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, constructed the exhibition to reflect Walt’s railroad journey as told through multiple chapters: Lighting the Fire, Building Steam, Gaining Speed, Full Throttle, Switching Tracks, Branching Out, A Grand Circle Tour Around The World, and Coming Full Circle. The exhibition’s conclusion reminds us that, even over a century later, Walt’s railroading influence remains as a vibrant and relevant force. Campbell’s love of steam railroading began on a childhood trip to Disneyland. As the President of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society and a Board Member Emeritus of the Carolwood Foundation, the non-profit organization that maintains and operates Walt Disney’s Barn in Griffith Park, Campbell is full immersed in the world of Disney and locomotives. Campbell has presented talks about Walt and railroading to many groups throughout the years, including Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Pixar Animation Studios, and various schools, charities and railroad organizations. He was recently named Project Director for the Carolwood Foundation’s project to acquire, restore, and preserve the Wells Fargo Combine: Walt’s favorite car from his Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad passenger train.
All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains is produced by The Walt Disney Family Museum and is made possible, in part, with support from Lionel, LLC.