THE REEDY CREEK RAILROADS*
A modular club builds two
railways for the Walt Disney Family Museum

Bruce Jahn


THE EVENT
The Walt Disney Family Museum displays special exhibitions throughout the year. These have ranged from highlights of important artists of The Walt Disney Company to Hollywood’s famous talent. Our modular group, Diablo Pacific Short Line was contacted by Michael Campbell, president of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society with a request to provide running trains for “All Aboard: A Celebration of Walt’s Trains”.

THE RAILWAYS
The hall containing the exhibitions is two stories tall with a ten foot wide balcony skirting the perimeter. Downstairs, walls were constructed to divide the large space into smaller alcoves in order to segregate interest subjects. One of the two layouts (Room 6) was placed on top of the walls of one of these areas; this room is approximately twenty feet square. The second layout (Room 10) was placed on the balcony where one could look down at the various “rooms” below.

DESIGN
Constraints of the two railway areas dictated they be built in entirely different fashions. The Room 6 layout design criteria ensured corner curves resulted in minimal shadowing to the walls below. Hence our desire to use broad curves on the four corners was superseded by the need to keep the railway as much as possible on the top of the 7 ½” wide walls. The value of artifacts displayed below this railway also forced us to build a retaining fence around the entire railway in case of a seismic event which is not unheard of in San Francisco.


Redwood 'bridge' on one of the Room 6 corners.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

The width of the upstairs balcony forced very sharp curves to ensure adequate wheelchair access frontage on the Room 10 layout. We held the end curves of our “Dog Bone” style layout to four foot diameter. The Room 10 layout also needed to be carried through standard 36” doorways and up two flights of stairs, so making the pieces light weight was paramount.


Room 10 layout in far center with Room 6 layout far right.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

CONSTRUCTION
The Room 10 layout is comprised the four separate parts. The left two tables are standard plywood deck and the right table is open architecture both for weight considerations and to access the On30 mine train inside the mountain. The right section consists of a large canyon from floor to track height and a separate mountain section above track height.

The canyon/mountain is Bragdon’s Geodesic Foam. This not only ensures light weight but also allows amazing detail while keeping construction time to a minimum. Each of the four sections making up the Room 10 layout can be carried by two people.


Benchwork for the right (canyon) module.
Photo by Bruce Jahn

Applying Bragdon’s Geodesic Foam mountain.
Photo by Bruce Jahn

During the exhibition, acrylic was fastened around the front above track height and black vinyl skirting attached below via Velcro on the left two modules. A full eight foot long sheet of acrylic, 54 inches high protected the canyon/mountain portion.

THE SHOW
The display was open for 18 weeks. The train on the Room 6 layout was pulled by an LGB Forney the entire time, pulling four Bachmann coaches.


Room 6 train on top of walls with seismic restraints.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

The Room 10 train was pulled by a trio of HLW locomotives in Disney livery. Our intent was to rotate the three locomotives weekly between the 4-4-0 The General, the 2-4-0 Ernest Marsh and the 2-4-4 Ward Kimball, however for various reasons the Ward Kimball did most of the pulling. The consists were either a pair of LGB open excursion cars or a Bachmann coach. All cars had been painted and lettered in Disney motif.


Left two modules highlighting Mickey street lights.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

Walt’s barn (built by Jack Verducci) on the left module.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

The Room 10 mine train consisted of a pair of Bachmann On30 Porters and a trio of Bachmann side dump ore cars. All three ore cars had wheel or axle power pick-ups to feed the locomotives that were rotated weekly. Suggestions from a local On30 club that we should not rely on the Porter for this type of operation proved correct as we didn’t have two contiguous days running without some sort of stoppage. After about 12 weeks of frustration we created a rock slide on the mountain and the mine train became a static wreck scene to mimic the former “wreck scene” at Disneyland.


Trestle over right module canyon with mine train above.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

On30 mine train after horrible rock slide wreck on the Room 10 layout.
Courtesy of The Walt Disney Family Museum
Photography by Johnna Arnold

Attendance records continued to be broken and the display was extended for six weeks with still growing attendance. The final count grew to almost 30,000 guests who came to become part of Walt’s love of trains.


Promotional banners hanging throughout downtown San Francisco.
Photo by Bruce Jahn

Our special thanks to:
* Joan Saunders of Just Trains, Concord
* Russ Miller of Tap Plastics, San Leandro
* Eric Moe of Moe Trains, Walnut Creek


*Reedy Creek flowed through the property in Florida which ultimately became Disney World.


The Walt Disney Family Museum presents the fascinating story and achievements of Walt Disney, the man who raised animation to an art, transformed the film industry, tirelessly pursued innovation, and created a global and distinctively American legacy. Opened in October 2009, the 40,000 square foot facility features the newest technology and historic materials and artifacts to bring Disney’s achievements to life, with interactive galleries that include early drawings and animation, movies, music, listening stations, a spectacular model of Disneyland and much more.

Museum hours: 10am to 6pm, Wednesdays through Monday; closed on Tuesdays and the following public holidays: New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The Presidio of San Francisco, 104 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94129. Visit waltdisney.org.

Andi Wang
WDFM