A Childhood Dream Come True
The year before the Chicago Railroad fair, Walt decided to purchase a model train for himself. He wrote to his sister Ruth, “I bought myself a birthday/Christmas present, something I’ve wanted all my life -- an electric train. I wanted one when I was a kid, but I’ve got one now, and what fun I’m having. I have it set up in one of the other rooms adjoining my office so I can play with it in my spare moments.”
Then, following the huge excitement of the Chicago fair, which he visited with animator and fellow train enthusiast Ward Kimball, Walt immediately set about building model railroads as Christmas presents for his grand-nephews. They were well received. But Walt also had more ambitious plans. His next step: A model train on which people could actually ride.
The Disneys' Los Feliz house didn’t have space for such a dream, and in June 1948, he and Lilly bought property in the Holmby Hills neighborhood in Los Angeles. A key attraction was the space it provided for Walt to build his trains and for Lilly to plant the beautiful gardens she loved.
Not everything went smoothly, though. For a while, it appeared as if Walt’s trains would interfere with Lilly’s flowerbeds. But Walt came up with a wonderful solution: He’d have a tunnel built under the flowerbeds -- and not just any tunnel would do. This one would be built with an S-shaped curve that would leave riders in total darkness for a few moments. When it was pointed out that this would be expensive to do, Walt said, “It’s cheaper not to do it at all.”
The Disney family didn’t actually move into their new house until May 1950. When his train, dubbed the Carolwood Pacific, was finally up and running, Walt took enormous pleasure in giving rides to friends and children. “It’s my pride and joy,” he said. “And I love it.”