Yesterday we visited Walt’s Barn and the rode on the model trains at the neighboring Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad. In case anyone else is interested in checking out other Walt Disney related history while in California, I thought I’d share our trip.
First thing to note, Walt’s Barn is only open on the third Sunday of each month from 11am-3pm. Admission and parking are free, but they gladly accept donations. The Barn is located in Griffith Park, about 35 miles north of Disneyland.
Just like good Liners, we arrived at the parking lot pre-“rope” drop, around 10:50am. There was a sign marking the entrance to the parking area, but it was easy to find using Google maps.
There were several cars in the parking lot already, but these all must have been Cast Members’ cars, because there was no one else waiting at the entrance gate when we arrived. CM’s were very friendly as they entered and exited through the gate and told us it would only be a few more minutes to wait. There were probably about 30 other people waiting with us by the time they opened at 11am. I definitely recommend getting there early though – the barn is small and it filled up quickly!
After letting us through the gate, everyone was given a sticker and a CM was marking down how many people entered. There was a donation box at the entrance, but no pressure to give a certain (or any!) amount.
Later a CM told us the symbol on the stickers was designed by Walt, but the Disney family owns the proprietary rights to the symbol/logo and they will no longer be able to use that particular symbol anymore. We didn’t get the full story because that CM had to help when one of the trains got stuck on the track, so we weren’t able to ask him any more questions about it.
Inside, the barn is fairly small but packed with memorabilia, trains of various sizes, and lots of history about Walt, other train-loving Imagineers and Disneyland:
Many CM inside were available to answer questions and tell stories. They said some things were missing from the barn since they were at Disneyland for the 60th Anniversary Celebration, but they didn’t give details as to what was gone.
There was also a great CM (I think his name was Bob) telling stories outside the restored combine coach from the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad.
There was a small TV set up at the edge of the coach so he could show pictures of the car from the 50s and 60s in Disneyland and photos of Walt’s backyard where he built his own small scale railroad. After he was finished with the slideshow, he invited my daughter and me, and another woman listening to his presentation into the coach! He pointed out original details inside and told more stories for another 10-15 min.
Everything in the coach is original except the glass windows on top. They were originally made of plastic, but had deteriorated and broken over time. So they were replaced with glass.
Since Walt was short on money and time leading up to the opening day of Disneyland, he decided to use school bus seats and windows on the train. He bought several buses, took them apart and used the seats and windows on the combine coach.
The light fixtures were hand-crafted:
This section of the combine coach wasn’t for passengers. The box hid the audio equipment for the speakers so the guests couldn’t see it.
He also told us that some of the cars from the old Mine Train Through Nature’s Wonderland ride have been donated to the Carolwood Foundation.
The engine and cars have been sitting at the edge of Rivers of America for many years and could be seen from the Mark Twain or Columbia. They have now been moved, due to the construction for Star Wars land. They plan to start restoring them and then display them in the yard between the barn and train tracks.
There’s also a small restored depot station that belonged to Ollie Johnston (one of Walt’s original animators and a fellow train aficionado):
After spending about an hour in the barn and on the grounds, we headed toward the trains. I had read there were two different train rides, but the info on the Griffith Park website wasn’t very clear. We first ended up at the Travel Town Railroad, about a half mile down the road from Walt’s Barn. They do have a miniature train, but it didn’t look like the ones done to scale. Their prices are $2.75 per person, in case anyone is interested in multiple train rides. We opted to try to find the ones closer to the barn. The Travel Town Railroad did have some full scale trains that you could climb inside. The kids had a great time exploring several of the engines.
Then we drove back to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad. They have a separate parking lot, but we should’ve just stayed parked by Walt’s Barn and walked down the road – it’s a super short walk. By the time we arrived, it was around 12:30 and the line to get tickets was already pretty long. There are picnic tables nearby, but we opted for the benches surrounding the miniature working train to keep the kids entertained:
It took about 45 minutes to get tickets and then get on the train. Tickets were $3 per person and children must be 34" tall to ride. Many of the people working the trains had Disney CM name badges and seem to work at the barn and railroad. One CM told us this was an especially busy day, due to the long weekend for Martin Luther King Day.
The actual train ride took about 12 minutes and brought us through Disney-named tunnels, frontier towns and old west scenes:
Afterwards, the kids chose to check out the (creepy) old Griffith Park Zoo, rather than the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round (where Walt brought his daughters and came up with the idea for Disneyland).
I think next time I’ll push for the Merry-Go-Round!