Saturday, May 12, 2007

Goodbye to Grizzly Flats Railway

The L.A. Times reports that Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats railroad (situated in Ward's backyard/sideyard for the past seventy years) will be passing into history:

It was short in length — but long in its reach.

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.

"It's an emotional thing. But it has to be done," said John Kimball, the couple's 66-year-old son...

Both Kevin and I attended train parties out at the Kimball place. Years ago, Ward took me on a walking tour of the rolling stock and the sheds filled with Disney memorabalia. I poked around the little movie-set station that will now find its way to John Lasseter's Sonoma estate.

Ward once told me the story of Walt calling him up and wanting to move Mr. Kimball's steam engine down to Disneyland, and Ward refusing. Shortly after, (Ward said) Walt temporarily exiled him to the commercial unit at the studio.

It's definitely the end of an era.

John Kimball and Nathan Lord.


Anonymous said...

I never got to ride Grizzy Flats, but I was there at WDW when the Ward Kimball locomotive was dedicated around 10 years ago. After the ceremony, Ward decided he wanted to take one of the locomotives on a trip around the Magic Kingdom, and I got to go along for the ride. It's one of my favorite memories from working in Florida.

David Lyman said...

The Grizzly Flats lives on! The Grizzly Flats locomotives and cars are now lovingly cared for and available to the general public at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.
I was privileged to meet Ward Kimball there when he donated his collection to the museum. I've also had the pleasure of riding Frank Thomas train at his summer home in Julian, California (near San Diego). I wonder what the future of his collection is?

Rudy said...

I did have an opportunity to ride the Grizzle Flats railroad once. Ward Kimball's daughter Chloe and I attended Jr. High and High school together in Temple City Ca. (Class of 64) She had a lot of the class over to her home at graduation time for a party and we all got to ride the train. Having lived only about a mile away from here house, I had numerous opportunities to pass by her house and hear the chug chug of the train going up and down the track.

Robin said...

When I was a kid, attending Emperor elementary school, which was was on Muscatel ave, just down the street form the Kimball home, I remember going on a field trip and seeing the train layout, and the sugar plantation train, a stuffed MGM "Leo the Lion" and a gold spike from the transcontinental rr. I think the house was on Ardendale and the year must have been 1955 or 56! In those days, even the LA area was a nice area to grow up and avocado trees, snow capped mts, deserts, and Disneyland! Then it became crowded....

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