Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats Depot,
Its connection to Disney,
Its connection to the Lehigh Valley Railroad.





This is an interesting Ferroequinearchaeological mystery!
It's the story of two famous depots, and one obscure depot that inspired them both.

The two famous depots are Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats Depot,
and the Disneyland Railroad's Frontierland depot. (California)

And the obscure one is the Lehigh Valley Railroad's "Pottsville branch" depot.

I became interested in this because of my interest in the Lehigh Valley Railroad. I was born in Sayre, Pennslvania (the historic heart of the LV), both of my Grandfathers, one Great Grandfather, and one Great Great Grandfather all worked for the LV in Sayre! I also model in "Large Scale" ("G gauge") and there is a well-known model of the Grizzly Flats depot available in Large Scale, which I plan to include on my future Garden Railroad. The one area of this story I know the least about is the Disney angle. Im not a "Disney Railfan"..so if anyone finds anything incorrect in my Disney info, please feel-free to correct me! (email link is at the bottom of this page)

My main goal in creating this webpage is to attempt to learn as much as posible about the original LV depot, and how it inspired the two Disney depots.

More on the LV depot will be in the last section of this page..meanwhile, lets dig into the history of this story with a look at the timeline of events:



Late 1880's or early 1890's: - Exact date still unknown.
The Lehigh Valley Railroad builds a small "Flag Stop Depot" somewhere on its "Pottsville Branch"
in South-East Pennsylvania. This begins our story.

Lets call this "Depot #1, LV Pottsville" for the purposes of this narrative.

1893 - The book "Buildings and Structures of American Railroads" is published.
written by Walter G. Berg.

This book contains a drawing of the "Frame Flag Depot, Pottsville Branch, Lehigh Valley Railroad"

This book is not copyrighted, and can be read in its entirety here:

So far, none of this has anything to do with Ward Kimball or Disney!

We have to wait 50 more years for that..

1934 - Ward Kimball, a famous Disney illustrator and well-known train enthusiast,
joins Walt Disney studios. For biographical information on Ward, see here.

1937 - Ward Kimball buys his first piece of narrow gauge equipment, a 3-foot gauge coach from the Southern Pacific.

1938 - Ward Kimball buys the "Emma Nevada" a 3-foot gauge 2-6-0 from the Nevada Central. and thus begins Ward's Grizzly Flats Railroad. His own private 1:1 scale "hobby" railroad at his estate!

1945 - "At a backyard party in 1945, Kimball gave Disney a chance to take the throttle and operate the 1881 locomotive that Kimball had dubbed the "Emma Nevada." That's when the Disneyland Railroad was born, according to Smatlak, a Woodland Hills resident who serves as vice president of collections for the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County." - source

1946 - December, "The Model Railroader" magazine publishes a one-page drawing set of a "Whistle Stop" depot. "The Flag Depot in use on the Pottsville Branch of the Lehigh Valley RR." The drawing set shows a front view, and one side view:

This drawing is clearly based on the 1893 drawing, just "re-drawn" and cleaned up a bit.
(I have a full-size scan I can share, if anyone is interested. also contains some text and a floor plan.)

1947 - 1948 - Disney begins production on a new feature film, "So Dear to my Heart" starring
Burl Ives, Beulah Bondi, Bobby Driscoll and Harry Carey.

This is where the Lehigh Valley depot enters into the scene!

The movie "So Dear to my Heart" is "Set in early 20th century Indiana (in 1903), and tells the tale of Jeremiah Kincaid (Bobby Driscoll) and his quest to raise his 'champion' lamb, Danny (named for the famed race horse, Dan Patch, who is also portrayed in the film). Jeremiah's dream of showing Danny at the Pike County Fair must overcome the obstinate objections of his loving, yet strict, grandmother Granny (Beulah Bondi). Jeremiah's confidant, Uncle Hiram (Burl Ives), is the boy's steady ally." - source.

Walt Disney, wishing to portray small-town America in this new film, wanted a typical idealized "turn of the century" small midwest town. As part of his town set, he wanted a small railroad depot. Disney turned to his "train man" Ward Kimball for ideas.

Legend says that Ward Kimball pulled out his copy of the December 1946 issue of Model Railroader, and Disney immediately fell in love with the LV depot shown there! Disney then proceded to use that design as the template for his movie depot.

(Alternate version says Ward had a copy of the 1893 book "
Buildings and Structures of American Railroads" with the older version of the drawing, and that is what he showed to Walt Disney..
Disney then began leafing through the large book, until he came to the LV depot drawing, and said "thats it!" (or something like that..)  I'm not sure which version is true, but the December 1946 issue of Model Railroader seems very likely, because Ward, being so interested in trains, would have likely had the magazine, and being such a recent issue it would have easily come to mind, and it fits the timeline perfectly.)

In any event, It's well documented that Disney built the depot for the movie based on the drawing of the LVRR depot.

1948 - December, The movie "So Dear to my Heart" is released.

1949 - Walt Disney gives the "prop" station from the movie to Ward. Ward then reassembled it for his railroad, added a back wall to turn it into a "real" functional structure, (as opposed to its original purpose as a somewhat flimsy movie prop) and turned it into a small museum on the grounds of his Grizzly Flats Railroad.

This marks the beginning of "Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats Depot" as we know it today.
(lets call this "Depot #2, Grizzly Flats")

I came across these great photos of the Grizzly Flats Depot, by Brian P. McEntee, who let me use
his photos here..thanks Brian! (Photos were taken in 2006.)

1953 - Walt Disney begins planning and construction for Disneyland (California), his first theme park.
Disney, also being interesting in trains, and having been inspired by Kimball's Grizzly Flats Railroad, decides a railroad line must be a part of his theme park! Disney asks Kimball if he can have the (now greatly improved) Grizzly Flats Depot *back* to use in the park..Kimball refuses! He says "Hell no, thats indian giving!"
  (source)  Disney, perhaped somewhat miffed but otherwise unperturbed, goes on to build a new station for his Disneyland railroad. The new Frontierland depot uses the same basic plan as the Grizzly Flats Depot, with some minor modifications and improvements. Also note that the design is a "mirror image", the bay window is now on the left side, but otherwise the Frontierland depot is based on the Grizzly Flats depot, which is based on the LV Pottsville branch depot! Lets call this
"Depot #3, Frontierland" Here is a nice photo of the Frontierland depot, from Ray Dunakin,
thanks Ray!

click here for more information on the Frontierland depot.

1967 - "Kimball quit running the coal-burning Emma Nevada as the orange groves around him gave way to homes. The backyard train excursions were powered instead by the cleaner, wood-burning Hawaiian switch engine he called "Chloe," after his youngest daughter." - source.

1975 - The material originally contained in "Buildings and Structures of American Railroads", published in 1893, is re-published as part of the "Train Shed Cyclopedia" series of the 1970's.
Our LV Pottsville depot drawing reappears in "Train Shed Cyclopedia No. 24
, Buildings and Structures
of American Railroads, 1893 (Part 4)" published in 1975. (the depot drawing in the Train Shed Cyclopedia book is an exact copy of the original 1893 edition, its essentially a re-print of the original.)

1992 - Ward donates much of his railroad equipment to the nearby Orange Empire Railroad Museum. The Emma Nevada and some rolling stock went there in 1992.

2002 - Ward Kimball dies at the age of 88.

Ward Kimball's obituary, from the LA times.

2005 - A new Disneyland locomotive is placed in service and named in Kimball's honor.
Disneyland Railroad No. 5, the Ward Kimball.

The "Ward Kimball" is a 2-4-4 Forney, built by Baldwin in 1902, and originally served as a Louisana sugar cane plantation locomotive.

2007 - May 12. This article appears in the LA Times.
"May 12, 2007|Bob Pool, Times Staff Writer
It was short in length -- but long in its reach.

The Grizzly Flats Railroad's steam engines traveled for 70 years along a 500-foot-long stretch of rails next to the San Gabriel home of Betty and Ward Kimball.

Along the way, the Kimballs' picturesque narrow-gauge line helped inspire Walt Disney to build the famous passenger train system that circles Disneyland.

Now, though, its locomotives, vintage cars and caboose have been hauled away, and workers have finished pulling out the steel rails and wooden ties. Soon, the antique-looking Grizzly Flats train depot will be dismantled. The old train barn and firehouse will be demolished."

(click the link above for the rest of the article)
In 2007 the original Grizzly Flats Railroad, at Ward Kimball's home, was dismantled.
The caboose was donated to the California State Railroad museum  in Sacramento. The remaining steam engine "Chloe" and her train were donated to the Orange Empire Museum, and joined the Emma Nevada there.

The Grizzly Flats Depot "was offered to the Orange Empire museum but was rejected because of the cost required to convert it from a flimsily built movie prop into a structure open to the public, Kimball (Ward's son) said. Instead, it is being given to collector John Lasseter, a Sonoma resident who is chief creative officer of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios." - source

2010 - So as I write this in the year 2010, the three depots in question are:

Depot #1,
LV Pottsville - The Original LV depot, the inspiration for the Grizzly Flats depot and the Frontierland depot - no longer exists. and where exactly it was located on the LV's Pottsville branch is still unknown.

Depot #2, Grizzly Flats - The Original Grizzly Flats depot, the movie prop from the movie "So Dear to my Heart", used on Ward Kimball's Grizzly Flats road from 1949 - 2007, is currently owned by
John Lasseter of Pixar studios, probably still dismantled and in storage somewhere.
(I could find no on-line reference to it being reassembled yet)

Depot #3, Frontierland- The Disneyland "Frontierland" depot, Disney's "replica of a replica"..is still in use at Disneyland in California today, both Depot #2 and #3 are based on the obscure
"Depot #1,
LV Pottsville", the 19th century LVRR depot in Pennsylvania.

Virtually nothing is known about the original LV depot that began this story!
Ironically the two replica depots it inspired are MUCH better known than the original.

NO photo of the original depot has yet been found..that is a quest of mine!
All we have are the drawings.

2012 - Update! Depot #2, Ward Kimballs Grizzly Flats depot, the 1949 movie prop, has been reassembled and restored on the property of John Lasseter, CEO of Pixar studios. The depot won a preservation award in 2012:

2017 - A very sad update. Depot #2, Ward Kimballs Grizzly Flats depot, the 1949 movie prop, is no longer with us. It was completely destroyed, reduced to literal ashes, by a California wildfire in October 2017. You can read about it here:




Searching for the Lehigh Valley Railroad's
Pottsville branch "Flag Stop" Depot.

So now we know about the Grizzly Flats depot and the Frontierland depot..the history of both
are quite well known..and we know both are based on the LV depot..

What is *not* well known at all is the history of the original LV depot!
As I write this in 2010, No one (in the on-line railfan community anyway)
has ever seen a photo of the actual depot!
Unsolved mysteries:

1. When was it built? (probably around 1888-1893, but the exact date is still unknown)
2. When  was it torn down?
3. WHERE exactly was it located?
4. Are there any photos of it?
5. Were there several of the same design? or only one? (answer! yes, there were several! see below)
6. What color was it?

None of this is yet known..Im hoping that by creating this webpage other historians can be drawn into the story, and maybe we can solve some these mysteries!

Here is what we do know:

1. We have the drawings of the LV depot, The first from
the book "Buildings and Structures of American Railroads" by Walter G. Berg, published in 1893.

2. Then an "improved" version of the drawing was made for the December 1946 issue of "The Model Railroader" magazine.

3. Then the original 1893 drawing was re-published as part of the 1975 "Trainshed Cyclopedia No. 24"

4. The depot was likely built in the five years between 1888 and 1893,
based on historic data on the branch,

The 1893 book gives us some background information on the depot:

Built by Mr. F.E. Schall.
Under the direction of the LV Superintendant of Bridges and buildings, Mr. William F. Pascoe.
21 X 13 feet.

Apart from the drawing itself, those are the only details we have.

I began looking into the history of the LV depot in 2004, when I received an email from my fellow Garden RR club member, and fellow railroad historian SandyR. Sandy discovered the connection between the Piko Large Scale model, the Grizzly Flats depot, and the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Both of us being very interested in LV history (one of our local railroads) we began digging into this more!

We posted a thread on mylargescale.com to see if anyone knew anything..
Unfortunately the archived threads from 2004 have mostly disappeared..here is what is left:
Thread 1
Thread 2
(Unfortunately those discussions are now essentially lost.)
Some of the Disney guys picked up on our discussion, and talked among themselves.
I also posted a thread on railroad.net.

Unfortunately none of these discussions were able to bring up any new information on the LV depot.

After I upload this webpage, I plan to re-post new discussions on five forums:

mylargescale.com (for the G-gauge crew)
railroad.net (for the LVRR crew)
railfan.net (also for the LVRR crew)
burnsland.com, Disney Railroad forum. (for the Disney Railroad fans)
rypn.org (for the general Railroad historian crew!)

Im hoping between us all, we can come up with new info for the LV depot!

One of the early sources said the LV depot was located in "Pottsville, NY"
We quickly determined that is incorrect, and its actually Pottsville, PA.

(Actually, the depot wasnt for Pottsville, PA itself..it was located somewhere on the LV's
Pottsville branch.)

Some other early discussions said the depot might have been located in Rauschs, PA.
SandyR and I did a lot of digging for Rauschs, and came up with nothing.
(I dont recall the original source for the
Rauschs idea.) Also two of our fellow mylargescale.com members, Chuckger and Ron Knepp, actually went to the area to check on the Rauschs lead! (thanks guys!)
but unfortunately it looks like the Rauschs connection is a dead end, and most likely the depot was not located there afterall..
so we can probably drop Rauschs.

The discussion died off back in 2004-2005, with no further info on the LV depot being found.
Things remained stagnant until April 2010, when I recieved an email from Brad K.
Brad has some new information on the quest, and allowed to post his email here:


Every once in awhile I come back to this topic just to see if anything new turns up.  I grew up in Schuylkill Haven, which was located on the Lehigh Valley's Pottsville Branch.  Today was one of those days when the topic came to mind and the thread with your question turned up.  I don't recall seeing the thread before; perhaps it was just the search criteria I used today.

Anyway, I have it on good authority that the station upon which Grizzly Flats depot was based was located at Spring Garden Jct. on the LV, which essentially made it the LV station for Schuylkill Haven.  Spring Garden Jct. was actually a point where a track swung off the LV and connected with the PRR.  When the LV construction reached Schuylkill Haven, the connection allowed the LV to operate their trains over the PRR's Schuylkill Valley Div. to the PRR station in Pottsville.  This not only expedited LV service into Pottsville until the remainder of their own branch construction was completed, it offered the LV access to Pottsville more centrally than their own line eventually would (their eventual "station" in Pottsville was the Peoples Railway station at 12th St, and was not the prototype for the Grizzly Flats depot).  The New York Times article at the following link describes the line very well just after it's completion:
 Into the Coal Fields, The Lehigh Valley Railroad'sn extension to the Pottsville Region.

One of the threads suggested the "Grizzly Flats" prototype was located at Rauschs, but I'm doubtful, as there was nothing of any significance at that point to warrant a station.  Spring Garden Jct. certainly makes sense from a practical standpoint as to requiring such a structure. I have not yet found a photo of the actual prototype, although I've seen various views along the branch.  The Orwigsburg station has been well documented, as well as the West Penn shelter (which still exists; has been refurbished, and is located at a bank in Snyders, PA).  I've seen numerous views of the viaduct across the Schuylkill Valley at Conners, and a friend took a photo of steam on the viaduct up the West Branch of the Schuylkill above Beckville.  I keep looking for that elusive photo of Spring Garden Jct. though.  If anything turns up, I'll try to keep you in mind.  I have one idea as to where a photo of it might have been captured, and I hope to pursue that lead at some point.  If you have any other interest in that line, or anthracite railroading in general, drop me a line.


thanks Brad! thats great information!
Now we have a good new lead for the possible location of the depot:

Spring Garden Junction.
Schuylkill Haven, PA.

Here are some maps of the area:

A large LV system map, from my LVRR Survivors page:
(the tracks highlighted in green and red are LV tracks that still exist today,
green tracks are in use, red tracks indicate track that exists, but not in active use.)

Here is a highlight of the Pottsville branch:

No trackage on the Pottsville branch exists today.

Im looking for a good close-up map of the Spring Garden Junction area.

Cant find anything so far..an 1892 topo map collection of the area:
does not yet show the LV trackage..
if anyone has a good map, please let me know!

The answer to one of the questions:
5. Were there several of the same design? or only one?
has been answered!

Yes, there was more than one!
FOUR new photos have come to light, two emailed to me by Greg H., who let me post the photos here.
and two more I found on the "Pennsylvania Railroad Stations, Past and Present" site, specifically the
Schuylkill County page:  http://www.west2k.com/pastations/schuylkill.shtml
The PA stations site is run by Dan West, who also let me share the photos here..
thanks Greg and Dan!

The four LV Depot photos are:

New Boston
Park Place

All four are located on the LV's Hazelton-Pottsville area "coal" branchlines!
All in the same general vicinity of the LVRR.

Two of them, Drifton and Park Place, are somewhat simplier, and bear only a slight resemblance to our mystery "Depot #1"..the bay windows are simple and "square",  however the Park Place depot does share much of the fancy ornamentation, (Drifton does not) but they do appear to share the same basic plan, size and shape as our mystery Pottsville branch depot, which makes me believe they are all variations on the same theme..so I am including them here:

Drifton Pennsylvania on theLehigh Valley Railroad, 1916.

Park Place, Pennsylvania on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Photo courtesy of Pennyslvania Railroad Stations, Past and Present

The other two, Ashmore and New Boston, have a LOT in common with our mystery depot! :)

Ashmore Pennsylvania on the Lehigh Valley Railroad, 1915.

New Boston, Pennsylvania on the Lehigh Valley Railroad.
Photo courtesy of Pennyslvania Railroad Stations, Past and Present

These two have the fancy bay window, similar size and shape, same ornamentation..the only difference is they appear to be lacking the window to the left of the door, Ashmore is lacking the "Jerkinhead Roof" on the roof line..although New Boston has it! (over the bay window)..so again, these are not *exact* copies of Depot #1, but they are very close! Clearly all variations on the same theme..

Does New Boston also have the sloped roof angle on the left side of the roof? same as Depot #1??
Its hard to tell from the photo, but it appears it might! If so, this is the closest "sister station" yet to our Depot #1!
  In fact, the only difference I can see between New Boston and Depot #1 is that
New Boston appears to be somewhat shorter, and appears to be lacking the window to the left of the door,
but otherwise, it is very close!

Clearly these are all the same basic pattern as our Mystery Pottsville branch depot..
but they arent exactly the same!
Minor variations can be seen from our Depot #1:

"Depot #1,
LV Pottsville" the original depot from the 1893 book.
the inspiration for the Grizzly Flats depot.

So we are getting closer!
But clearly none of these are our "Depot #1,
LV Pottsville"

One question answered though! clearly these are all from the same "family tree" of depot design.
and we now know several depots of this design were used in the LV's Pennsylvania coal fields.
its a start.

Based on these new photos, clearly this design was used in several locations around the LV coal field branch lines in the Hazleton-Pottsville area. It is interesting that none are actually on the Pottsville branch though! (although these are the only the four found so far..I suspect there are several more!) All four locations are visable on the map above, a bit north of the Pottsville branch, on the LV's network of Hazleton area branch lines, But not very far away from the Pottsville Branch.. (if anyone knows the exact names of the branch lines they are on, please let me know! as many of you LV fans know, im a "West of Sayre" guy! and thus not very familiar with the Pennsylvania branch lines. ;)



Here are a few photos of some models. The Grizzly Flats depot has been a popular design over the years, and has been offered in many scales.

Piko makes a "Large Scale" version ("G gauge") in 1/24 scale.
Here is a photo from Ross Crane's railroad:

Ross' webpages can be found here. thanks Ross!
I eventually plan to have this model on my own garden railroad.

And here are two more photos of the Large Scale Piko model.
This depot was beautifully detailed, painted and weathered by Jack Thompson, and is a feature on his "Dulles & Reston Garden Weeds Railroad" Click here for more photos of Jack's railroad.
thanks forthe photos Jack!

And here are links to some more models, in other scales.
(If I am missing any models, please let me know! I will add a link here for any manufacturers offering a model of this depot, in any scale.)

O scale:
Mile Post Model Works.

Scale Structures Ltd.

HO Scale:
Scale Structures Ltd.

Links for more information:

The history behind the Disneyland Railroad's Frontierland station.
Steve DeGaetano

Disney Legends - Ward Kimball.

Into the Coal Fields, The Lehigh Valley Railroad's extension to the Pottsville Region.

Orange Empire Railroad Museum.

From the RYPN thread comes this interesting depot:
The "Hatton Depot" from North West Ohio and nworrp.org
built by the Toledo and Ohio Central Railroad.
Definately has the look of our LV depot!
I wonder if there is a connection there? hmmm..

Discussions on this topic:

mylargescale.com (for the G-gauge crew)
railroad.net (for the LVRR crew)
railfan.net (also for the LVRR crew)
burnsland.com, Disney Railroad forum. (for the Disney Railroad fans)
rypn.org (for the general Railroad historian crew!)


And thats everything I have..

I'm really hoping some photos of the original LV Depot can be found!

If you have anything to add, please let me know!
any other photos, information, questions, theorys, etc..feel free to email me,
or join in on the discussion on one of the four discussion threads linked above!

This is an on-going collaborative project..I really appreciate all the help!

Scot Lawrence
Waverly & Rochester NY
Page started May 2010.
Last updated January 9, 2019.


Return to my main page: https://sites.google.com/site/scotlawrence