Monday, May 19, 2008

Chicago Rail Fair 1948 Slides Set Number 1

Beginning today I am going to explore one of the sources of inspiration for Disneyland. In 1948, Walt Disney was undergoing a very stressful time in his life. The studio was running short on money, many animators were let go and complete animation films were too expensive, so the studio resorted to package films. Hazel George who was Walt's nurse had been reading about the Chicago Rail Fair to be held on the shores of Lake Michigan, sponsored by the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. The fair was to celebrate 100 years of the Railroads and to feature famous trains from the last century. Walt jumped at the idea, having been a life long fan of trains. Figuring his wife Lillian would not go with him, he invited Ward Kimball to go on the trip. Ward was already a famous train man, having purchased, restored and steamed up his own personal train in his back yard. Ward also jumped at the chance as he too had been reading about the fair. Most of the stories in the Walt biographies detail the trains seen by the two travelers and their experiences operating the trains, but I feel the themed areas presented by the various railroads made a lasting impression on Walt. The first image is a Haunted House in the Gold Gulch area that appears somewhat similar to the first sketches of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion as a run down house.

The second image is of the Opera House also in the Gold Gulch section. Walt would have relived the memories of vaudeville, and this was the genesis of the Main Street Cinema.

The third image is from the Rio Grande sponsored section showing a tunnel through the Rockies. This image looks very similar to the first tunnel on the Nature's Wonderland Railroad.

The final image is of the Gold Gulch with the period architecture and wide streets. It also looks a lot like the Knott's Berry Farm Ghost Town.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Major,

In your slide set, are there images of the "world of tomorrow" section of the railroad fair. I've heard that the similarities between this and DL are supposed to be striking.

Major Pepperidge said...

Anonymous mistakes me for Matterhorn1959... I only wish I could take credit for these INCREDIBLE color images. WOW WOW WOW! Unbelievable. What a great piece of rarely-seen history, and yes I agree that it had to have a major impact on Walt Disney. Check out that Haunted Fun House, oh my gosh. (And here I was all proud of my Viewliner photo today, ha ha!)

Thanks so much for sharing these, Patrick!!

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Matterhorn you have made my day. These pictures are some of the best, I have ever seen of the Railroad Fair. Looking forward to more. Thank you, Thank You, Thank You.

Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Super History lesson with stellar photo's to match! Thanks so much for putting this together, its great to see things I have only read about!

The Blue Parrot said...

The Rio Grande's tunnel is a fanciful recreation of the Moffat Tunnel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moffat_Tunnel

Keep 'em coming! This was one fun event.

jedblau said...

Fantastic shots!

Chris Merritt said...

Whoa! Amazing shots!

outsidetheberm said...

'Gold Gulch' seemed to be a popular name for these old west amusement zones. There was a 'Gold Gulch' at the 1935 San Diego Expo, as well.

These shots are wonderful. Thanks.

Bob Cowan said...

Excellent! Good commentary as well!
-Bob

Biblioadonis aka George said...

Wow, Matterhorn...

All around perfect 10 from the judges!