Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ward Kimball's Trains

The story of the Grizzly Flats Railroad began in 1938, in the backyard of Ward and Betty Kimball's San Gabriel, California orange grove. Ward, an animator for the Walt Disney Studios and part-time railroad hobbyist, decided to purchase the last remaining passenger coach from Southern Pacific's narrow gauge railroad.

About the same time, a railfan friend suggested the Kimballs should have an engine to go with their "new" 1881 coach. The historic Nevada Central Railroad was about to be abandoned, and had for sale a nice, vintage Mogul-type steam locomotive, numbered 2 and once named "Sidney Dillon", which had operated in the Nevada desert since 1881.

The rest is history. The newly-acquired locomotive and coach were brought to Southern California by rail and by truck, and soon were resting on a short section of track among the Kimball orange trees. Ward and Betty decided to name their new operation the Grizzly Flats Railroad, and heralded it as the "Scenic Wonder of the West".

In the beginning, Grizzly Flats September 1938 - Ward Kimball photo, OERM Collection.

The Emma Nevada under steam, 1940's - Named for an 1800's opera star, the "Emma Nevada" was the pride of Ward and Betty Kimball's backyard Grizzly Flats Railroad - Ward Kimball photo, OERM Collection.

Chloe at work during a 1997 steam-up - Named for Ward and Betty's daughter Chloe, this former Hawaiian sugar plantation locomotive arrived in 1948 - John Smatlak photo.

LINK: For much more information on Ward's trains visit the Orange Empire Railway Museum website.


Cory Gross said...

That is pretty much awesome... I love both the existence of Ward's backyard railway and the presentation. His oddball Victorian-inspired artwork promoting it and the little Keystone Cops-style silent films he made with it are fantastic.

I recently ordered So Dear to My Heart from the Disney Movie Rewards Club just to see the original station that made its way to Ward's line and was replicated for Disneyland. Unfortunately you only see a few small angles of it! However, the disk did include a few train-related shorts as bonus features to make up for it.

Major Pepperidge said...

Ward Kimball seemed to squeeze about 4 lifetime's worth of experiences into one! Thanks for those great vintage images.

Nannie Doss said...

The Kimball's were always really nice when we would go over to the house. They would always have fresh orange juice frozen pops and would let us run the handcar on the mainline. Ward's paintings inside the depot were amazing. One day I will have to scan some of the many pictures we shot at the Kimball's.

Viewliner Ltd. said...

I am with you Cory. Ward was a genius.

Major, you hit the nail on the head. This man was truly amazing.

Nannie Doss, now you have done it. Saying you will scan some of the pictures at the Kimball's. If you need my assistance, please do not hesitate to ask. There are many, many people out there that would love to see these pictures.