A Special Day with Walt and Family

Day 2 for us fell on Monday, November 27th. The kiddos were wiped out and sleeping but I was up with the sun as my internal clock never cuts me any slack. Still, I was excited because Roxy told me she was trying to set up something special for me. She said she couldn’t guarantee anything but that if it worked out I would LOVE it!

So I got up and got myself together and headed upstairs for breakfast. The Desert Palms offers a hot breakfast every morning with a rotation of foods including some kind of eggs, some kind of meat and a bunch of other options. Fruits, yogurts, and cottage cheese along with several waffle makers. And pretty decent coffee. I was happiest on the mornings that they had biscuits and gravy!

Roxy was still in the room getting herself together and just asked me to bring back a muffin or something. I sat by the window and gazed out upon CA.

It has rained during the early morning hours but the blue sky was already peeking thru.

Roxy ended up joining me for breakfast and after finishing a quick meal we headed down to the parks. She explained to me that she had called about trying to get me on a tour of the Lilly Belle, the presidential car attached to the C.K. Holiday. For some history on the Lilly Belle read this article:

Presidential Parlor Car – The Lilly Belle

It had been out of service but was now back and it was my understanding that if you got to the park first thing you could got to the Main Street Train Station and see if there was a list to get on to take a loop in the car.

If you didn’t know, I have a love for trains and love reading about Walt’s history with them. That goes back to him working as a “news butcher” on a train his uncle worked on along with his own train travels. This eventually worked up to him building the Carolwood Pacific Railroad in his back yard. This railroad first had the namesake “Lilly Belle“, with its first incarnation being a 1:8-scale steam locomotive.

As part of my Disney train fascination, we’ll take a little detour to 2015 when I visited the Presidio in San Francisco which houses the Walt Disney Family Museum. It resides in a converted military barracks building on the post:

You may recognize this hand cart, which was sitting in the foyer when I was there (there’s a famous picture of Walt on it)

And of course this guy and his seven little friends

If you’ve ever wondered what the area of Walt’s Apartment over the firehouse with his lamp looks like, here you go!

The interior of the museum looks nothing like the old architecture of the exterior. The back of the museum has glass hallways that lead to the upper levels

There is so much to see that I can’t cover it here so I’ll just show a few highlights, especially ones that have to do with the subject at hand starting with the original Lilly Belle herself

…and the layout of the Carolwood Pacific!

Down from there is a complete diorama of Walt’s park in the early 60s right after the Matterhorn opened up

Just a couple more gems before I move on, first the original framework of Mr. Lincoln

And a Jose from the Tiki Lounge that you can actually operate!

Lastly a ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ look at the groundbreaking Multi-plane camera, first used in Pinocchio if I remember correctly

And specific to this chapter, I was lucky enough to be there when “All Aboard – A Celebration of Walt’s Trains” was on display in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall

For some reason you could not take pictures inside, but an attendant was nice enough to take a picture of me in front of the sign at the entrance to the exhibit

There is Walt on that handcart! So as you can see, I’m not only a big Disney fan/Disney History fan …I’m also a Disney Train Fan! And because of that I’ll take you on a second diversion – lol.

In October of 2016 I attended a conference at the Anaheim Convention Center. I was solo but did make it into the parks for a couple of half days. At that point the trains were down due to the construction and addition of that “left turn”, which afforded me the bonus of them having a mini exhibit in the New Orleans Square Train station.

There’s that hand cart again, it certainly makes the rounds!

A pictorial history of Walt’s love of trains

Close-up of the Telegraph sign

The telegraph machine itself is usually seen from a distance either from on the train or at the station rail – it taps out the coded version of the beginning of Walt’s Opening Day Speech at Disneyland

The hidden speaker that makes it so you can hear the message being tapped out

And lastly an “exploded view” of a steam engine

So now that brings us back to the present. And Roxy knew something that I didn’t know. This was that they had recently started up a special tour focusing on Walt’s love for trains and included a trip around the park in the Lilly Belle!

The Grand Circle Tour (click to see website)

This tour had not been available when I was doing my research so I didn’t know anything about it. Roxy had found out after covertly talking to guest services. There was indeed a tour running while we were there, but it was full up!!!!! But they said it was worth a try to come on down and wait it out to see if there were any ‘no-shows’.

So what do you think? Will my love of Walt and his trains be rewarded? Will I get to set foot in the prestigious Lilly Belle? Or will I shuffle away dejected as I watch the tour group walk away without us?

Before I started meandering down memory lane Roxy and I had just arrived at the entrance to the parks. We were there early enough that security was a breeze and got a good spot at one of the turnstiles. We made it in and went to the left tunnel and on to the Tour Gardens just to the left of the Courthouse. We found that several tour group members were already there enjoying coffee and pastries and trying to find a dry seat given the early morning rain. Were able to get our names on a waitlist and start the waiting game.

We killed some time over by the tree

Mistletoe time!

We went back over and made small talk with a wonderful family that was going on the tour and found out they were from Northern Oregon! It was a mom and dad and their autistic teenage son and was very excited about the tour. We watched people slowly check in and I kept count, knowing how many people the tour could handle and how many were present. It got to the last fifteen minutes and there was one party of two that hadn’t made it.

I can tell you that those last 15 minutes were slow and torturous but they finally came to an end. The Cast Member (CM) motioned us over and we were ready with our Disney Visa! They said we wouldn’t get the special donut or coffee but we’d get the rest of the package! Right after we finished the transaction, our CM Amy came out with our headsets (the rest of the group had theirs) and lanyards.

Say hello to Amy!

Here’s my lanyard :-]

The tour started on the steps on the left of the Courthouse with some background on Walt’s youth.

From there we went thru the tunnel to the Mickey topiary and the view of the station. There was so much information that there is no way I can relay it to you now. Once that section was complete we headed back under while the Ernest S. Marsh steamed above

We worked back around to the Main Street side of the station and she continued with Walt’s next chapter of Train goodness. She was very knowledgeable and answered all but some of the technical questions that she was going to leave to the Engineer

We then moved into the Disney Gallery where several models were displayed, specifically the original layout of Disneyland and the original route of the train track. Back then they literally had cattle cars that they would load guests in to get the feeling of being cattle being transported – lol! Some of those cars are still in use, having been redesigned and opened up with seating.

We came out of there and stopped on the sidewalk. It was kind of funny, an oriental family came up and the father was REALLY trying to figure out what was going on. He eventually realized that if you didn’t have the headphones you wouldn’t be able to follow along. We headed up Main Street and stopped at the Main Street Magic shop, known famously for having had Steve Martin as a CM working there.

Something else represented there was the “Can Do” Machine Works – Roger Broggie Shopmaster! Remember that Multiplane camera? He helped create it! Remember Walt’s Carolwood Pacific Railroad? He helped build it! Remember the original Lilly Belle Steam Engine? That was him too! Beyond that he did some little things like creating the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, the Monorail, and the Matterhorn Bobsleds.

Talk about a key Imagineer! So much cool history. We were about to go into the movie house when Disneyland CM legend Ken came rolling by – Hi KEN!

Inside the theater we of course talked about trains in Disney Cartoons – Amy kept rolling with cool information

When we were done there she took us the rest of the way up Main street and then took us back in time to Frontierland

We of course had to stop by the petrified tree and then on around towards New Orleans Square. On the way I got a great early morning shot of Tom Sawyer Island

She took us thru to the restrooms for a quick break since our next stop had no bathrooms. After a quick pit stop I snapped a shot of the beautifully unique decorations they had up there

While we were waiting the rest of the family had gotten themselves together and made it into the park. Once they got in they found a certain someone who tolerated letting them get a picture – lol

This brings to mind their interaction with her nearly a decade prior on Main Street at Walt Disney World!

From there they were just going to stroll around and window shop while we finished our tour.

Getting back to us …..IT WAS TIME!!!!!

We walked past the New Orleans Station platform to the right side where the ramp was and lined up. They boarded the rest of the train and then lead us past those on the train and those still waiting on the platform. It was a pretty special feeling as we walked by – we could hear people talking and asking about what we were doing and one lady actually knew the name of the car.

Amy was stationed at the door of the Lilly Belle

We boarded the car and I had Roxy sit across from me in one of the chairs from the Queen Mary

And I sat in a row of seats with the family from Oregon!

Gotta do a selfie too!

This was the view down the car from my seat

We settled in as Amy gave us a brief history of the Lilly Belle, its construction, its furnishings, its famous guests, and so on

She then encouraged us to look around and take in the little details. One was a picture of the interior of the car before the redesign

At the back of the car was a marble table that had a wonderful picture of Walt and Lillian

If I remember correctly, this is where the famous guest book sat. It had signatures from dignitaries, directors, celebrities, sports start and politicians from around the world dating back decades. Rumor has it this famous book was stolen from the car. I’ve seen a couple of pages of it being sold individually on eBay so sadly it was apparently broken up page by page for profit.

Looking out the back window of the caboose

Then I rejoined Roxy and a fellow guest snapped a picture of us together!

Soon enough the train was on its way and I snapped some random shots as we traveled the lands

I tried to take a picture of the “roundhouse” as we went by it, but it is a pretty nondescript building and I couldn’t get a good shot of it.

All too soon we were rolling into Main Street Station. Roxy got a shot of me as I exited the car

We finished the tour where we started it, on the steps at the left of City Hall near the Tour Gardens. An engineer joined Amy and answered all of those technical/mechanical questions people had been contemplating.

He had great answers and a good breadth of knowledge of the railroad and of Disney’s trains. A book was passed around with all kinds of pictures and information about the trains, the stations, the fans, the spiels for each section of the track. It was very cool. With that the tour ended and we all said our farewells.

The prized map and Lilly Belle ticket are now framed in my office

After that tour we had to make a quick pit stop. I snapped a pic of one of the dioramas, such great Christmas cheer

And as a Disney Railroad bonus, there is a poster for the railroad near the restrooms

We had been in contact with the kiddos and also with a family member we hadn’t seen since 2005! And ironically enough, the last place we had seen her was AT DISNEYLAND!!!

Here is a pic of her with our two (she is the one on the left and is their cousin).

We were set to meet at the Uva Café. Roxy and I arrived first, followed by Jinx and PumpkinGirl. We were enjoying the Mediterranean Flatbread but if you remember part of our Trip Report’s title, we have a new 21 year old along for the ride! So she got to have her first drink of the trip! She had their trademark Electric Lemonade while I enjoyed a Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. Here she is with her “lemonade”, she loved the way it matched her hair!

Soon enough Roxy’s niece arrived and I snapped a picture of them together

The conversation started out slow but picked up steam soon enough. We all ordered our entrees and had a wonderful meal and enjoyed catching up with each other’s lives. The time went by way too fast as she had to drive back up north. But before she left she had one last mission to accomplish – to hit the macaroon stand! As we walked that way I snapped a shot of our happy brood

That’s a LOT OF BALLS!

I also saw this handsome devil …Luke Skywalker was there too!

We all went on a macaroon purchasing frenzy and then headed back the way we came and on towards the parking area for DTD. On the way we saw the beautiful DTD tree

I was able to flag down a passerby to snap a shot of us all in front of it

We talked a bit more, not wanting our time together to come to an end

But the sun was starting to set and we know that traffic would be ramping up for her so we continued along. On the way I captured some more beautifully decorated trees – have I said how much I love this season at Disneyland?

Our extended family group continued ambling but didn’t get far as we spied the Wonderground Gallery. We spent some time drooling over some amazing original Disney-themed works and wished we had the budget to buy some of the pieces. I really liked this take on Alice and Cheshire

We bought a couple of postcards and headed on past the Lego Store, with its dragon now in silhouette

On we went to the exit to the parking area, stopping for one more round of goodbyes. There were many hugs followed by Roxy and her continuing to talk. After that they talked. When they were done they talked some more – lol. Our kiddos were hanging back at this point

PumpkinGirl eventually sat down and started reading Marvel FanFic

Jinx and I looked on

I can’t blame them for wanting to talk, they had a lot to catch up on. The final hug them came between the two of them :-]

After she had headed out we thought about what park to go into and made our decision based on convenience. We made a beeline to the Downtown Disney monorail station, which would get us into a Disney park faster than walking all the way back thru DTD. Soon enough our ultra-modern chariot arrived!

We looped around and worked our way past the entrance and got one more glance at a train 😉 🙂

We were then in Disneyland proper and got to see both the shadow side and the sunny side of the Matterhorn!

The waterfall doesn’t look quite as cool from this angle …or maybe it was the time of day?

We arrived in Tomorrowland’s Monorail Station and walked towards the exit stairs. I had no plans to take Nemo’s little adventure, but it was a cool perspective on the subs

And the overall view was spectacular!

By now the sun was properly down. When we entered the park Roxy and the kiddos were able to snag MaxPass for Space Mountain.

My neck was bugging me so I didn’t want to take a risk of it getting jolted and feeling worse. I saw that the Jedi Academy was going to be starting soon so I waved goodbye to them and found a table directly to the left of the stage and awaited the show.

Jinx and PumpkinGirl grabbed a selfie on the queue

They made it thru pretty quickly and then boarded. For some reason we didn’t get the shot of Roxy’s car but here is Jinx and PumpkinGirl sitting behind a reincarnation of the Olsen twins.

Right about that time my show was beginning. Time to embrace the Dark Side with Kylo!

Then Lord Vader came out, establishing clearly that he was in charge

Kylo got all whiny about that

…and Darth came back up to give him some “clarity of vision”

They went off to share a beer, The End! :rotfl:

Honestly there was a bunch of Light Side stuff and Padawans and such, but I really only came for those two – lol

While the show was going on I had been contacted by the rest of the fam, they had such a good time that they decided to loop around and go Stand-by on Space Mountain. I was fine with that, I had wanted to check out the Character Meet & Greets in the Star Wars Launch Bay.

So off I went to the Star Wars Launch Bay and Roxy and the kiddos waited thru the Stand-by on Space Mountain. My first interaction was with a certain Bounty Hunter who was under the impression I was smuggling contraband

I checked out the displays and then went in to see this young pup of a Sith. I honestly tried to get his goat a bit 😉

While I was in there the rest of the fam took their second ride on Space Mountain with a couple of guys really hamming it up!

I got a shot with one more dark side flunky before heading out of the Launch Bay

And then met up with the family at the exit area of Space Mountain. I had wrangled a FastPasses for Matterhorn and I was apprehensive. I had skipped Space Mountain because of my neck being out of whack and wondered what Matterhorn would do to me.

Still, it was a classic ride and I wanted to ride if with the fam. Once we made it thru the FP check-in I jumped back on the Disneyland app and got MaxPass set up for Star Tours.

We made it to the front of the line so I couldn’t put off Matterhorn any longer so off we went!

It was pretty harsh on my neck – I love being on the ride, the updated theming is very cool. But I got off knowing I would need a chiropractor. To tell you how good the MaxPass is, we were rolling out on Matterhorn at 6:13pm and by 6:23pm we were inside the FastPass queue for Star Tours!

We watched C3PO and R2 bicker for a bit

Star Tours is a “one and done” for me as the motion of it makes me a bit queasy. I can handle a lot of rides, but those enclosed motion ones have always gotten me. It also didn’t help my neck – lol.

When we got off we realized we hadn’t had dinner yet! We wanted quick and easy so we headed to Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port. We got some pizza and salad and found a table amongst the tired masses.

We ate and were pretty beat after the long day yesterday and a full day today. I caught a shot of Jinx catching up with friends on his phone while Roxy braided PumpkinGirl’s hair.

We finished up just before 8pm and had an hour left. We decided to grab some dole whips and enjoy a showing of the Enchanted Tiki Room.

A little Tiki goodness

We came out and saw that we could fit in a Jungle Cruise trip in as our last ride of the night. As we walked there I stopped to take a quick snap of a cute little tree above the stroller area to the left of the Cruise entrance

I didn’t even bother trying to take night time pics on the ride. It was fun and relaxing. We had some good laughs at the jokes and enjoyed the skipper. When we got off it was about 15 minutes before the park closed. We made our way back out of Adventureland and skirted the hub and all the people waiting for the fireworks show. We weren’t interested.

I turned around and snapped a quick shot of the castle just because

We shuffled out and did the long walk back to the Desert Palms. Showers and such ensued. Tomorrow was going to be our first full day at California Adventure and a special meetup with an old friend of Roxy’s who now works as an electrician lead at CA itself!