Tomorrowland Depot/Roundhouse

BACKSTORY (April 1958—Present): From Wikipedia and Yesterland: The trains pass Autopia before entering Tomorrowland Station, a Googie-styled depot built in 1958. The Viewliner (1957-1958 had a very similar station, complete with the same type of beams with round holes. In a MiceChat thread, Steve wrote, “Tomorrowland Station is a different station than the Viewliner station. The two stations existed simultaneously for a short period, and both can be seen in certain photos of Tomorrowland. However, the mistake is an easy one to make: They were both virtually identical in design.”

The ticket booth disappeared when tickets were no longer needed, and. The Santa Fe logo disappeared when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway dropped its sponsorship in 1974. Since 1998, The Tomorrowland Station has been themed with a Victorian era bronze color scheme of steampunk anachronistic technology aesthetic envisioned by the 1998 New Tomorrowland project, and painted over with whites, silvers, and blues. A trivision billboard outside the station promotes the Railroad as a time travel device, with stops in 1900 (Main Street, U.S.A.), 1860 (Frontierland), and c.200,000,000 B.C. (Primeval World).

The Roundhouse (this is an edited version from an article on MiceAge, written by Disneyland Railroad expert Steve DeGaetano. Please visit the link to read the fully illustrated story):

The servicing facilities of the new Disneyland railroad were scaled back from the first iterations. The roundhouse was in reality nothing more than a corrugated metal engine house, including a modest machine shop, with a "pole barn" extending out the back to shelter the two train sets from the weather. The roundhouse was built ahead of schedule, for one reason: Disney had started constructing his first locomotives, the E.P. Ripley and the C.K. Holliday at the studio, but two of the major components were outsourced. Wilmington Iron Works and Dixon Boiler Works, both of Los Angeles, fabricated the boilers. The plan was to install the boilers onto the frames at Wilmington's facility, but Wilmington's management told Disney that the non-union-built boilers would not be allowed into its union shop. Roger Broggie, head of the Studio Machine Shop, placed a call to Admiral Joe Fowler, who was overseeing construction of Disneyland. Broggie told Fowler that they'd need the roundhouse constructed sooner rather than later, so work on the two locomotives could continue.

In one week, a concrete foundation had been poured with two sets of track, and the corrugated sheet metal structure was in place. Here, the first two Disneyland locomotives were finally assembled. The switch track to access the roundhouse from the mainline passed through a tunnel off to passengers' left and to the rear, effectively rendering it nearly invisible to guests, who were usually gazing off to the right or front. Once through the tunnel, the track split into the two main lead tracks into the roundhouse. The roundhouse itself really wasn't a glamorous affair, but it included everything needed to service the trains. A large sliding door opened to reveal the two locomotive stalls. The two tracks passed through the roundhouse and out the back, providing shelter for the passenger cars. Lights were placed under the eaves of the car shed, so work could be done at night, and large canvas curtains could be unfurled during inclement weather to help protect the cars. No switching would be needed—the trains were simply backed in. Off to the southern portion of the structure was the machine shop, which included the tools necessary to service the cars and locomotives. Large windows were placed all around the building to provide light.

In the late 1950s the railroad proved immensely popular, and the decision was soon made to acquire another train. The original two tracks soon became inadequate as the railroad grew. When the Fred Gurley and the Excursion cars were added in 1958, a third track was needed. Photos on page 249 in Michael Broggie's book "Walt Disney's Railroad Story" show three sets of track approaching the roundhouse, and it appears the third track is placed outside the roundhouse, paralleling it on the left hand side. It's assumed a covering was constructed, but no evidence has yet surfaced one way or the other. When the Ernest S. Marsh joined the fleet in 1959, occasional shuffling of engines and cars would need to take place, but the railroad finally outgrew the facility in the mid-1960s, with the addition of two new sets of cars—the Holiday Blue and Holiday Green—which were constructed to allow better viewing of the new Primeval World dioramas. The time had finally arrived to build a brand new facility, and some decisions had to be made. Not only would the facility need to be built wider to accommodate four trains, it would need to be taller as well. When it was finally realized that the expanding fleet of the Santa Fe & Disneyland railroad needed improved living quarters, it was decided to combine the Monorail and steam train maintenance and storage facilities into one structure. It's difficult to ascertain exactly when the new Disneyland roundhouse was completed, but we can logically surmise that it was in place by 1965 or '66, by the time two new Holiday Blue and Green trainsets were added, which provided better viewing of the Primeval World Diorama. The trains of the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railway now had a new home, and everything was packed up and sent east to the new facility.

The old roundhouse survives to this day, as a shop where ride vehicles are refurbished. Embedded in the pavement in front, mute witness to the Santa Fe & Disneyland's earliest days, are the remnants of the original roundhouse lead tracks. The "new" roundhouse was and is quite a facility. The switch off the mainline was placed on the outskirts of Tomorrowland, and again it swept backwards and to the left, effectively camouflaging the now-visible backstage area (this time, the trains didn't pass through a tunnel to get backstage; they passed through a very noticeable cut in the Berm). Once past the Berm, the track was split into the four roundhouse tracks. The Santa Fe supplied genuine AT&SF switch lanterns, with red and green lenses, which were placed on top of the switch control mechanisms, lending even greater authenticity to the line. Roll-up doors concealed each stall, and each track was numbered, 1-4. Over each track, red and green lamps gave notice as to whether a train would be moving. To ease maintenance, pits were built between the rails so mechanics could step under the iron horses, while still standing upright. On track 1, a "drop-table" was installed. This way, the large and heavy drive wheels of a locomotive could be removed by lowering them away from the engine frame, and sliding them out laterally (the alternative could be to raise the locomotive high enough to roll the wheels out—a more difficult procedure without benefit of a crane). A small work area, restrooms and office completed the new facility. The new roundhouse could comfortably accommodate four locomotives complete with train sets. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the fifth train set was stored in the Grand Canyon/Primeval World Diorama every evening, but to date, no concrete evidence has turned up to verify this theory.

The Operating Engineers (or "O.E.s") who staff the roundhouse are responsible not only for the upkeep of the trains, but also help to operate the Mark Twain, along with maintaining the boat's boiler and steam systems. Responsibilities for the roundhouse crew have run the gamut over the years, from the earliest days when all the work—including assembling the first two steam engines and rebuilding the second two—was performed on-site; to later, when heavier repair work was outsourced to other vendors.

A typical day at the Disneyland Railroad roundhouse begins early. The locomotives, sitting near the open front, gleam and shine like precious jewels in their velvet-lined boxes. Each engine has been uncoupled from its train, and sits a few feet in front of the first passenger car on each train, waiting its turn to "steam up."

Scattered around the floor and walls of the roundhouse is the accumulated debris of nearly 50 years of steam railroading. Over on one track, behind the caboose, sits a freight car truck with no wheels. Almost hidden in one dark corner near the Lilly Belle is a small pile of "polling pockets," — small steel "dimples" fitted onto the bottom corners of the cars that allowed a locomotive to push a car on a parallel track by inserting a large pole into opposing pockets on car and engine. Though not a practice used on the Disneyland Railroad, the pockets are nonetheless a detail that Disney refused to overlook.

For an operating stream locomotive roundhouse, the facility is meticulously clean. The first thing one notices when standing beside one of these stabled iron horses is the utter silence that permeates their vicinity. The locomotives, known to most guests as noisy, huffing, panting, throbbing machines when they are out on the line, are as quiet as if they were sound asleep, which in essence they are. Even the escape of steam through leaky safety valves is hardly audible, the white wisps rising into the atmosphere before vanishing. When the trains are bedded down for the evening, the fires are extinguished (or "dropped"), and the fire-breathing dragon that is the locomotive begins to slumber and cool off. Crewmen on the late shift shut off the air compressors and blowers and put the reverse lever in the center, neutral position. Then the engine is quiet. When awakened the following morning, the engines still retain some of their operating pressure, usually around 25 psi — down about a hundred pounds from their normal operating pressure of 125 psi.

As the morning proceeds, more people show up—shop cast members, costumed engineers and firemen. Some help with steaming up the engines; others busy themselves with polishing the shiny brass and steel trim on the locomotives.




Here is the text from the Live Narration of a Guided Tour, circa 1962 (previously started on this page):


You may be interested to know that the Santa Fe Train we are on is a model of the old steam engines used at the turn of the century, rebuilt and constructed at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. There are three complete trains on our Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad and each train may make 13,500 round trips yearly accounting for over 15,500 miles. Entering the tunnel ahead we will soon view the highlight of our train trip, the beautiful Grand Canyon Diorama.

To resume your vintage tour, please go to the Main Street page.