Author’s Note: I would like to thank Steve DeGaetano, author of Welcome Aboard the Disneyland Railroad! and the new The Disneyland Railroad: A Complete History in Words and Pictures, for his permission to use the following article.
With each completion of the “Grand Circle Tour,” the engines of the Disneyland Railroad pull beyond the station and proceed into a gated restricted area, which allows the passenger cars to come to a stop in the boarding area. Unfortunately, this means guests never get to see the bronze plaques, or “Builder’s Plates”, which are affixed to the side of the boiler of the engines. In the case of the E.P. Ripley, the plate reads “WED Locomotive Works – W. E. Disney Pres. – R. E. Broggie – Gen. Mgr.” 1955.
WED are the initials of Walter Elias Disney, and Roger Broggie was the head of the studio machine shop and Disney Legend directly responsible for the construction of the steam engines at Disneyland. In addition, he shared Walt’s love of trains. In fact, the two of them worked to create the “Carolwood Pacific,” Walt’s 1/8 scale model railroad which he operated in the backyard of his home at 355 N. Carolwood Drive in Holmby Hills. It was this model railroad which inspired Walt to include the Disneyland Railroad you see today in his new theme park.
Unknown to most guests, however, is the builder's plates which adorn the E.P. Ripley and C.K. Holliday engines have a unique history.
As was the tradition in the world of railroading, all steam locomotives built in the 19th and 20th centuries had builder’s plates affixed to them. These plates were essentially the locomotive’s “birth certificate” in that they indicated the engine’s date of construction, a serial number, the manufacturer and where the engine was built. Often, the President or Manager of the locomotive builder would be listed, as well.
While builder’s plates can be found on nearly all locomotives, for some reason the plates of the #1 C.K. Holliday and #2 E.P. Ripley were never affixed to these engines. Carolwood Pacific Board member Michael Campbell noticed this missing detail and arranged a meeting with Michael Broggie, Roger Broggie’s son, Mat Quimet and Marty Sklar to discuss the missing plates and to see if they could perhaps be created and added to the two trains in time for Disneyland’s 50th anniversary. Doing so would not only adorn the trains with an important piece of railroading tradition, but would allow for an opportunity to pay tribute to those who oversaw their construction.
The first task was to determine a name for the fictional “Locomotive Works” responsible for building the engines. "Retlaw Locomotive Works" was thrown around, in homage to the company that ran the trains for many years, but Retlaw hadn't been formed yet in 1954/55, when the engines were built. Through much discussion, it was determined that WED, the design and construction arm of Disney, had built the engines, so it was this name that would adorn the plaques.
The number found on builder's plates represents the serial number, or actual count of the engines built to-date. It was therefore decided that engine No. 1, the C.K. Holliday, would have serial number “1” on its builder's plate, as it was the first engine built under the fictional “WED Locomotive Works”, and engine No. 2, the E.P. Ripley, would have the number "2" displayed. This was done even though it would look as if the engines' numbers were merely being copied from Disneyland number assigned to the engines. (The red and gold #1 and #2) However, since the WED Locomotive Works had built two engines, and these were the first two, it seems only logical that they would have the serial numbers 1 and 2.
Since the C.K. Holliday and the E.P. Ripley are meant to represent two different eras (and manufaturers), the thought was to have two different plate designs. Since many engines of the Cental Pacific's successor, the Southern Pacific, were built by Baldwin, a round design was chosen for the C.K. Holliday.
The E.P. Ripley is based on an engine from the 1880s, which was built by the Rogers Locomotive Works for the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. The Rogers plates of the era were usually rectangular, often with decorative "notched" corners. Unfortunately, the Rogers plates were often devoid of much textual information, just featuring the word "ROGERS" and a small date and serial number.
Disneyland Railroading author, Steve DeGaetano, had seen a plate from the Schenectady Locomotive Works which had an appeal, and he suggested that design be used. The plate looked a lot like a Rogers plate, but with a bit more information, including the name of the works President and the General manager. Through discussion, it was decided that, obviously, "W.E. Disney" would be the fictional locomotive works “President” and “R.E. Broggie”, head of the studio machine shop and directly responsible for the construction of the engines, would be the "Gen. Manager."
Today, railroading tradition is upheld with the two builder's plates affixed to the C.K. Holliday and E.P. Ripley, and a locomotive at Walt Disney World is named in honor of Roger Broggie for all of his contributions to The Walt Disney Company and the Carolwood Pacific.
Be sure to see Steve's new book, The Disneyland Raiload: A Complete History in Words and Pictures. Available on Amazon.com September, 2015