Walt wants a miniature railroad added to Disneyland
The area northeast of Fantasyland was just a big dusty bare spot after the 1956 circus was removed from Disneyland. Walt needed to fill this space with something quick and simple. Adding Autopia Jr. and a small river connected to Fantasyland and a small railroad was the plan. Walt thought a small Streamline train starting from Tomorrowland would work fine.
General Motors ran their experimental streamlined Aerotrain between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a while in 1956. I thought it was the slickest looking thing on rails. I made a quick rendering of a streamline train based on the GM Aerotrain. If you are gonna steal, steal from the best! Walt liked it.
On February 1, 1957, I made the first construction drawing No. 3513-051-1 Proposed Coach Exterior. By February 20th, I’d finished the sixteen production drawings which were provided to Johnny Giltch of Standard Carriage Works on Bandini Boulevard in Vernon, a city just east of Los Angeles. Standard was contracted to build the train coaches while the Studio Machine Shop would build the two locomotives.
In designing the Omnibus, Autopia and antique cars, I used simple steel structural shapes and flat metal panels. But the streamline train was going to have a lot of light weight monocoque construction. Standard built lots of garbage trucks and had racks filled with all kinds of steel strips called “press broken” sections. These could be bent into curved parts called “carlines,” which could be covered with corrugated aluminum skins to look just like the California Zephyr. A local company, A.J. Bayer, could supply us with almost any press broken section I wanted. I was in design heaven with this new knowledge!
On February 22nd, I started the surface development drawings for the Locomotive compound curved sheet metal parts. Now, I was getting deeper into vehicle manufacturing since I needed short-run, non-tooled, compound-curved aluminum parts. I knew how race car bodies were built, having seen their parts formed by hand on shaping rolls at California Metal Shaping in downtown Los Angeles. They directed me to Mike Scott, builder of the body for the 1956 Indy 500 race winner. We gave the job of making the Locomotive body skins to Mike.
Between February 26th and April 19th, I drew the major drawings needed to build the locomotive, while draftsmen Tim O’neill and Chuck Schrader made additional detail drawings. In those days, we never had time to engineer and completely document 100 percent of everything like later on. We made lots of small sketches on the fly on the shop floor for the guys building everything. I’d never engineered a gasoline-engine locomotive before, and the shop folks had never built one either. Walt wanted it and we were doing it. That’s how we all learned a new trade.
The hardest part of a vehicle to build is the cowl, windshield, front doors, and door opening body structure. I went to the local wrecking yard and picked out a couple of smashed 1954 Oldsmobiles to design into the locomotive. Since I needed to make the locomotive narrower than a car, the Olds was perfect.
To read more on the Viewliner, please order Bob’s book “Design: Just for Fun”.