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.