Disney’s Connection to the Transcontinental Railroad

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Always on the lookout for a bit of Disney trivia, my ears perked up when I was at the Golden Spike National Park in Promontory, Utah. You wouldn’t think Disney had anything to do with something made famous 32 years before Walt Disney was even born… but you’d be wrong!

Promontory was the site where it was decided that the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads would meet up after several years of racing across the country laying down rails. On May 10, 1869, the east-bound Central Pacific and west-bound Union Pacific met together and the final spike, made out of gold, was driven into the final tie, thus completely connecting the east coast to the west coast by train. And the nation was completely changed!

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Years later, more convenient routes were laid down and Promontory grew out of use. During World War II, all of the metal rail in the area was pulled up, melted down and used for the war effort. In 1965, the government declared Promontory a National Park.

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What does that have to do with Disney? Nothing! But… in 1979, for the 110th anniversary of the Golden Spike ceremony, new engines were wanted. The original Jupiter and 119 locomotives had long since been scrapped, so the National Park directors went on the hunt for someone to make replicas. Knowing the Disney corporation’s close association with railroads and talent for creating amazing vehicles, they sought out Disney’s help. Disney referred Golden Spike on to the company they had often used for building and the trains built to approximate 1:1 scale were made using pictures and writings from the past.

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Disney was again called on to give the engines the look that they had when they were used in the 1860s. The Disney Corporation provided the artists that not only painted the locomotives their bright colors, but put murals on the 119 very similar to the originals. Most of them can be seen throughout this blog post.

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What other Disney historical connections are out there that you know of? Comment me!

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