Jun 26, 2007

Disneyland's Viewliner is 50 Years Old Today

In 1955, Walt Disney had decided that a circus would be a cool addition to Disneyland so he bought a huge tent and created a circus using the original Mouseketeers as the main participants. (It wasn't really that simple but let's roll with the short answer for the sake of brevity shall we?)

The circus flopped like a fat guy from the high dive and Uncle Walt was left with a big dirt field. Since he abhorred a vacuum as much as mother nature, he asked Imagineer Bob Gurr to design a modern train to fill the space.

Bob was Disneyland's mechanical Magiver. If Walt had given Gurr an old sewing machine, a couple dill pickles and asked for a nuclear reactor, Disneyland may have never needed electricity. You'd have to wear lead underpants to ride the rides and the warm glow of main street would make your hair fall out in clumps, but there would have been a reactor.

Gurr sketches out an engine design loosly based on GM's new Aerotrain. The streamlined Aerotrain was designed by Harley Earl's infamous General Motors design team and released in 1955. Bob modified the Viewliners front end a little by intersecting two ovals to house the headlights [The Aerotrain had all it's lights in a single oval] and streamlined the sides of the passenger cars with channeled chrome that runs the length of the train. The engine & the top of the passenger cars are painted in matching colors Disney decides he wants two of the cool trains. One in red, one in blue.

To speed the process, the Viewliner's passenger cars are built by outside vendors while Gurr builds the engines starting with stock V-8 motors and the parts from two 1954 Oldsmobiles.

The whole train is built in a screaming hurry and Gurr is still putting out electrical fires the morning of the Viewliner premiere.[June 26, 1957] When it's time for the inaugural trip, the band begins to play, Walt jumps in the engine and off they go with Bob in a new uniform that had been sewn together just the night before.

Amazingly, the opening was a success without any real problems and the little Viewliner that could chugged around Tomorrowland until Sept of 1958. Why did it have such a short life? The land the Viewliner was sitting on became part of the Disneyland expansion of 1959 which included the Submarine ride, the Matterhorn & the Monorail.


Davelandweb said...

VERY much enjoyed the post; good mix of humor and info. Thanks! Looking forward to seeing more.

kenb said...

That's amazing. I didn't know that disney had a train like that. Being a huge fan of the Aerotrain, I wonder where disney's trains are now. I bet they were scrapped years ago. Thanks for the interesting info.