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2022 NRHS Convention Travel Town Museum/Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn and Banquet 5/20/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I awoke early at the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel as we planned to drive over to Black Bear Diner for breakfast this morning. Since Elizabeth had a bus host meeting at 7:15, we arrived just after the restaurant opened and found fellow NRHS member Alex Powers waiting to be seated. We invited him to sit with us and enjoyed our meal. Upon returning to the hotel, I went back to the room and checked my e-mail and a couple of other things before packing, loading the car and checking out. The buses arrived and boarding commenced at 8:15 for the last event of this year's convention.

The NRHS trip to Travel Town

This day's events start by taking chartered motor coaches to the Travel Town Museum in Griffith Park near downtown Los Angeles. Here we will be able to view extensive static displays of mainly Southern California railroad locomotives, passenger cars, transit and railroad equipment. We will then ride the motor coaches a short distance to the Walt Disney Carolwood Barn, where Walt built and worked on his 1/8th scale live steam backyard railroad. The Barn now houses a plethora of Disney memorabilia and a small model train layout.

During our drive to Griffith Park, we passed the Metrolink Maintenance Facility on the site of former Southern Pacific Taylor Yard. Los Angeles traffic is very unpredictable and we arrived about twenty minutes before Travel Town opened. Those passengers who wanted to disembark did and good conversations were had with other members. At 10:00 AM, the gates opened and started to walk into this fantastic park of railroad history.

Travel Town information and history

Travel Town, the Los Angeles City Recreation and Park Department's unique display of vehicles representing many modes and eras of conveyances, is visited each week by hundreds of youngsters and adults who are interested in the development of transportation.

Located on a 9-acre site at 5200 Hollingsworth Drive in Griffith Park, Travel Town is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no admission charge. Displaying everything from a 104-ton locomotive to a one-horse shay, Travel Town offers its visitors what for most of them is the only opportunity they ever have to see and examine at close hand many different types of vehicles.

Credit for the idea which evolved into Travel Town goes to William Frederickson Jr., the city's superintendent of recreation. It was Frederickson who, in 1947, was struck with the realization that thousands of youngsters had never been close enough to climb into an airplane and get a look at the pilot's cockpit and its myriad of controls and gauges. This was at a time when the federal government was disposing of large amounts of surplus war material, so Frederickson resolved to see if it would be possible to obtain a surplus plane to be exhibited at one of Los Angeles' municipal playgrounds. George Hjelte, general manager of the City Recreation and Park Department, and the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners thought the idea was a good one and allocated the sum of $700 for the purchase of seven planes which were stored in the Middle West. But by the time the necessary purchase orders had been properly channeled, the aircraft were unavailable. Although officially the project was dormant for several years, Frederickson continually mulled the idea of establishing an exhibit where youngsters could actually climb aboard various vehicles.

Just a few months ago, in late September 1952, Frederickson was able to start the project - his dream - toward reality. Enlisting the aid of Orin Wennersten, the Recreation and Park Department's supervisor of maintenance, he set about the work of obtaining Travel Town's first Exhibit. Wennersten assigned a member of his staff, Charles Atkins, the task of writing a letter to D.J. Russell, president of the Southern Pacific Company, in which the suggestion was made that the railroad company might be willing to donate an obsolete locomotive to the display. Russell heartily approved the donation and directed his staff to have Engine "3025" prepared for its emergence from "retirement" and its appearance as an honored exhibit at Travel Town.

With the donation assured, Atkins' next problem was to determine how to move the gallant, oil-burning chugger from Glendale to Travel Town. The Belyea Truck Company agreed to tackle the ticklish task and, on October 10, the unprecedented hauling job was completed as a free public service. The Belyea Truck Company has since performed several other similar assignments in aiding the development of Travel Town.

The giant locomotive and its 25 1/2 ton tender, which in their heyday pulled several "presidential specials" during campaign sweeps across the nation, now stands on a strip of track at Travel Town, and visitors may enter the engine's cab, examine the controls, and tug the cord which clangs its big brass bell.

News about Travel Town spread like wildfire, and almost immediately the display was receiving new vehicles and other exhibits in rapid, one after the other sequence. By the first of December, Travel Town had on exhibit a 44-passenger street car given by the Los Angeles Transit Lines; an historic 76-year old dray, presented by Paul J. Smith, president of the republic Van and Storage Company, a 50-year-old kerosene tank wagon, donated by Standard Oil Company of California; a colorful old circus wagon, given by the Beverly Amusement Company; Caboose No 2117, a veteran "home on wheels" for nomadic trainmen, given by the Union Pacific Railroad Company; and a one-horse shay, the gift of Knott's Berry Farm.

To add still more charm to the transportation array, the Pacific Electric Company donated its old Sierra Vista "waiting station," which had sheltered "big red car" commuters over a period of several decades. With that impressive slate of exhibits cleaned and polished for the occasion, Travel Town was officially dedicated on Sunday, December 14, 1952.

Since then, several new vehicles have been added to the display, including an obsolescent Japanese "zero" fighter plane which was captured on a South Pacific island during World War II; and an ancient petroleum field fire truck, which was donated by the Shell Oil Company. And still more exhibits are being planned and will take their places of honor at Travel town in the near future, according to Frederickson, whose "pet project" has blossomed into a popular attraction for Southlanders and tourists of all ages. The unique facility is particularly a "Mecca" for transportation hobbyists.

Our Visit

As I led the way in, I came to my first historical piece of railroading.

Los Angeles Railway Horse Flat Car.

Rio Vista Junction Pacific Electric shelter.

Southern Pacific Atlantic 4-4-2 3025 built by Alco in 1904. It is the only surviving Atlantic built for the Southern Pacific and was the first standard gauge locomotive to be displayed at Travel Town.

Santa Maria Valley Railroad Mikado 2-8-2 1000 built by Alco in 1920, originally Hetch Hetchy Railroad 4.

Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1273 built by Southern Pacific in 1921.

Los Angeles Harbor Department 0-4-0T 31 built 1921 by Davenport.

A side dump ballast car.

Los Angeles Harbor Department 0-4-0T 32 built in 1914 by Alco.

Pickering Lumber Company Heisler 2 built by Heisler in 1918 as Hetch Hetchy Railroad 2.

Camino, Placerville & Lake Tahoe 3-Truck Shay 2 built in 1922 by Lima, originally Little River Redwood Company Railroad 4.

Conrock 0-6-0T 1 built by Alco in 1925 for the Reliance Rock Company.

Axle of a traction motor display. I decided to ride the train, paid three dollars for a senior, and boarded the last seat on the train.

My two-lap ride around Travel Town was now complete. Now the continuation of browsing the park.

Los Angeles Railway Horse Car is a 42 inch gauge vehicle built in 1880.

Santa Fe Railway 2-8-0 664 built 1899 by Baldwin as Santa Fe 891. In 1910, it was loaned to the Pecos & Northern Texas Railway, but returned to the Santa Fe after only one year.

Santa Fe Motor Car 177 built by Pullnan Company in 1929. Motorcars, nicknamed "doodlebugs," combined three functions of railroading into one vehicle: motive power, passenger seating and baggage compartment. This functional consolidation efficiently served branch lines by saving the railroads the costly operation of an entire train with locomotive and half-filled cars. The baggage compartment of the M.177 served not only as baggage and freight compartment, but also as a Railway Post Office and as a refrigerator car (by sitting perishables on metal plates with ice blocks). Doodlebugs, like M.177, were the life blood along the smaller veins of the Santa Fe system serving small, rural communities in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas from the Depression through the Korean War. Although M.177 did not operate in Southern California, one of the cars from the same order, the M.181, did work Santa Fe's Los Angeles-San Bernardino run for many years. The M.177 last operated on a line between Pampa, Texas, and Clinton, Oklahoma, in October 1953, when retired to Topeka, Kansas, where it remained until its donation to the Travel Town Museum in 1958.

Travel Town 42 ton switcher 1 "The Charley Atkins" built by EMD in 1942 for the United States Navy.

Stockton Terminal and Eastern 4-4-0 1 built in 1862 by Norris-Lancaster and was one of ten bought by the Western Pacific, who lettered them "A" to "J", this particular one being "G". It was sold to the Stockton, Terminal and Eastern Railroad in 1914 and became 31.

California Western RS-12 56 built 1955 by Baldwin.

Union Pacific Diner 369 built by the Pullman Car and Manufacturing Company in 1921.

Union Pacific Dormitory Car LA-701 "The Little Nugget" built in 1937 by Pullman and designed by American artist Walt Kuhn.

Pacific Electric steeplecab 1544 "Electrica" was built in the North Shore Railroad's Tiburon shops in Sausalito, California, in 1902. The Pacific Electric used 1544 as a work locomotive and switcher at various locations in the Los Angeles area. It last worked at PE's Torrance repair shops until it was retired in 1952 and donated to the museum two years later.

Union Pacific Sleeping Car "Rose Bowl" built by Pullman Company in 1937.

Union Pacific wooden caboose 2117 built in 1881.

Southern Pacific outside-braced box car 30036 built in 1924 by Standard Steel.

Union Pacific Sleeping Car "Hunters Point" built by Pullman Company in 1940. Both "Rose Bowl" and "Hunter's Point" were part of an unusual tourist attraction in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In 1963, Verl Thomson opened a train motel, or traintel, out of three decommissioned Pullman sleeping cars and a chair car he bought from a broker in 1962. The chair car was refurbished to feature a television and snack room in one end, and the traintel office in the other end. Except for re-wiring the lights to 120 volt and exterior repainting, the sleeping cars were left much the same as they last operated on the Chicago & North Western, which was still very much the same as they looked inside when first assigned to the Union Pacific's City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles trains. Taped train sounds were played to add to the atmosphere. In 1965, the charge for a single person in a roomette was $5, and a drawing room for five was $12.85. The traintel closed in the summer of 1980 due to lack of sufficient tourist business.

Union Pacific 0-6-0 4439 built by Baldwin in 1918. During its early career, it worked in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Later, it served on the Los Angeles Harbor Belt line until its operation was ended on the order of the Air Pollution Control Board in 1957.

Western Pacific 2-8-0 26 built by Alco in 1909. The C-43s served the railway through World War II and were retired in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This steam engine was donated to the museum in 1954.

Sharp & Fellows Railroad Contractor Prairie 2-6-2 7 built by Alco in 1902. It worked on building the Santa Fe Railway system through Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and California. During World War I, 7 worked at Camp Kearney in San Diego and during World War II, it worked at various ordnance depots, including Fort Wingate, New Mexico, and the Navajo Ordnance Plant at Flagstaff, Arizona.

Richfield tank car ROX 670 built in 1911.

Western Pacific wooden caboose 754 built by Haskell and Barker in 1910.

Oahu Railway and Land Company Coach 1 built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1900.

Oahu Railway and Land Company Combination Car built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1910.

Oahu Railway and Land Company caboose 1 built by Oahu Railway and Land Shops circa 1900.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authotity 1543 built by American Car and Foundry in 1911.

The Travel Town train passed by with NRHS members aboard as it ran along the back of the property.

Pennsylvania Railroad Dining Car 4118 built by Pennsylvania Railroad in 1914.

Santa Fe Snack Car 3355 built by Pullman Company in 1928.

Southern Pacific coach 2513 built by Pullman Company in 1910.

Municipal Railway of San Francisco Cable Car 28 built before 1900.

I sat in a gazebo and was enjoying my view of the Camino-Placerville & Lake Tahoe 3-Truck Shay 2.

The train came by the back of the museum with several NRHS members on it.

Semaphore signals.

The crane outside the museum.

There is a wig wag highway crossing signal also located here. The boxed lunches were then delivered and Elizabeth took everyone's lunch ticket and distributed them. Members could sit at one of three aptly-named picnic tables - Union Pacific, Western Pacific and Northern Pacific. My sandwich, although it did not have cheese, had other items so I just ate the cookie and drank the water. After lunch I re-visited my gezebo before coming back to a table and did my word search puzzles until it was time to leave. We walked out and Elizabeth checked us off as we boarded the bus. Once everyone was on, we departed to our next destination just a short distance away.

Carolwood Foundation History

The Carolwood Foundation's mission is to preserve Walt Disney's railroad legacy. We accomplish this through: sharing our volunteers' and supporters' love of railroading; teaching our children to understand the role that railroads served in building America, and encouraging the continual appreciation of railroading. Carolwood hosts several social events each year which have resulted in the creation of lifelong friendships among our members, and wonderful memories for all. We also operate Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn, located in Griffith Park on behalf of the Walt Disney Family Foundation.

Walt's Barn

In 1950, Walt Disney built a 1/8th scale live-steam railroad at his residence in Holmby Hills, California. He operated the "Carolwood Pacific Railroad" for family and friends until 1953 when he shifted his energies into creating a magical place where families could have fun together – Disneyland.

The CPRR center of operations was a quaint red barn that Walt built as a replica of one from the Disney farm in Marceline, Missouri. The Carolwood barn served as his workshop and he spent many hours here building miniatures and model trains. In 1999, Walt Disney's family moved the barn he called his "happy place" from his home to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, of which Walt was a founding member.

Today, Walt's Barn is a living showcase of Walt's passion for railroading. Operated by the non-profit Carolwood Foundation, Walt's Barn is filled with trains of all scales, many of which were donated to the Foundation by his animators and friends that shared his hobby. Many of Walt's personal items and tools are on display and he even hand-made all of the work benches.

Walt's Barn is open generally open every third Sunday of the month from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, subject to change without notice, where our members serve as volunteer hosts.

A brief history of the Retlaw 1 Combine

"Combine" is a railroad term for a coach that carries both passengers and freight. One such car was used on the Missouri Pacific train upon which Walt Disney worked as a 14-year-old news butch. He would take his breaks in the baggage half of the car and sometimes go out of the front door and climb over the tender to get to the cab. Walt would offer the engineer and fireman apples from his family's farm in exchange for getting to ride with them. The crews took a liking to him and it was on this train that he learned how to operate a steam locomotive.

Walt had great memories of that combine. This is why one was part of the "Retlaw 1" passenger train at Disneyland. In 1992, Bill Norred acquired the Retlaw 1 cars, except for the Lilly Belle coach. A few years ago, four of these five coaches were sold, but Bill's family retained the combine because of the special connection to Walt. The Norred family, concerned about the long term survival of the car, agreed to sell it to the Carolwood Foundation. We finalized that purchase on July 10, 2010. We have now completed the restoration that Bill started but still need to construct a permanent shelter to home for the combine next to Walt's Barn.

Ollie Johnston's Station

The Foundation saved Ollie's Station from the Johnston property before it went up for sale in 2007. The Station has been restored and is on display next to Walt's Barn in Griffith Park.

Our Visit

We debussed and lined up at the front gate of the property and waited for the gate to be opened. We were greeted by volunteer Doug Marsh who led us into the property. After a welcome and explanation of what everyone was about to see, we were divided into two groups and I led the way into Walt's Disney Barn.

Walt Disney barn from his Carolwood property.

Retlaw 1 Combine which we would see later.

Another view of the barn.

Fifty Year Celebration plaque. I then went inside.

One of Walt's steam engines.

The first of the displays.

Walt Disney's parents Flora Disney and Elias Disney.

Walt and his wife Lillian Disney.

Some of Walt's keepsakes.

A camera and several pictures.

One of the model of the "Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland" ride.

Two of the unique steam engines here.

Pictures and a model of Walt's barn.

Map of the Carolwood property.

A steam engine, a Disney Game and pictures.

A model of one of the early Disneyland rides, based on Carolwood.

That first steam engine we passed on our way into the barn.

More of the collection including the state-of-the-art signalling system that Walt created.

The address and the barn.

NRHS members awaiting their turn to tour the barn.

Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad Retlaw Combine 1.

Artifacts and memorabelia from the Walt Disney collection. Every picture or item tells a story from the inside of the cover Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad Retlaw Combine 1.

The rear of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad Retlaw Combine 1.

Ollie's Johnson Station from the Johnson property.

The interior of "Retlaw" Combine 1. Elizabeth and I bought a pair of T-shirts and a magnet from the foundation's gift shop. Since some people were wishing to return to the buses, I found Doug Marsh who opened the gate for us. Elizabeth checked our members off the manifest one last time and once everyone was aboard, we departed five minutes earlier than planned and although there some was some bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 5, it moved better that yesterday and we returned to the hotel earlier than expected. Elizabeth finished her duties while I loaded the car and talked with Greg, Marty and Robin before she arrived and we drove home for a while. At 6:00 PM we returned to the Knott's Berry Farm Hotel for the NRHS Banquet.

NRHS 2022 Banquet

Elizabeth and I arrived and went to the Rosamond Salon I on the ninth floor and socialized with several people. I met the guest speaker, Rob Shatsnider, President of the Rail Giants Museum, who remembered me as one of the car hosts on the Big Boy trips in 2019. It was good to see him again. Everyone took their seats at the tables they had previously chosen. My wife and I sat with Roger Meyer, Dan Meyer, Dawn Holmberg, Frank Cornelius and his wife Carol Ann and Bob Bitzer. After a few words by Al Weber, President of the NRHS, we were excused by tables to go through the buffet line. Mrs. Knott's chicken, baked salmon and pot roast with mushroom sauce were the entree selections with plenty of vegetables, mashed potatoes and salad. Dessert was either apple or boysenberry pie. After everyone had had their fill, convention chairman John Goodman thanked everyone for attending and acknowledged the work and effort of the convention committee in making this year's event a success. Al Weber then announced the collection for the Heritage Grants, which was later announced as a little over $700. He then introduced Rob Shatsnider who gave a complete history of how Rail Giants came to be, the move to the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona and what it took to move Union Pacific 4014 out of the park for restoration by the Union Pacific. Everyone learnt a lot from his presentation.

With a couple of questions and answers, the 2022 NRHS convention came to a close. Elizabeth and I said goodbye to several people and we drove home, tired but satisfied.