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Riding The Rails

Engine 275, a Baldwin 4-6-0, en route from the Yucatan to Tampa Bay, where it was refit and restored to become the Walt Disney World Railroad's "Roger E. Broggie"

Engine 275, a Baldwin 4-6-0, en route from the Yucatan to Tampa, where it was refit and restored to become the Walt Disney World Railroad’s “Roger E. Broggie”

When Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom was being designed, Imagineers had to seek out steam locomotives to power the park’s new Railroad. In early 1969, two of Disney’s in-house train specialists, Roger Broggie and Earl Vilmer, traveled to Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in search of antique engines. The Ferrocarriles Unidos de Yucat├ín (United Railways of Yucatan) was divesting all of its old steam engines as they began to upgrade to diesel stock, and the Disney men wound up purchasing five locomotives and an array of spare parts and other cast-offs.

The well-worn engines were shipped by train – very meta – across the continent to Tampa, Florida. There, at the Tampa Ship Repair and Dry Dock Company, they were extensively restored and retrofitted to bring them up to Disney show standards.

Above and below are two rare pictures of the locomotives en route from the Yucatan to Florida. As you can see, they were hardly the showpieces they are today. Above is engine 275, a 4-6-0 model built by Pennsylvania’s Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1925. Today park guests know it as the Roger E. Broggie, named for the Imagineer who purchased it in 1969. Ironically, the Roger E. Broggie bears the serial number 58445; this shows it was built consecutively with another Disney engine, the Walter E. Disney, which is serial number 58444. Still in operation in the Magic Kingdom today, the two trains once sat on Baldwin’s production floor way back in 1925; both 4-6-0 designs, they are essentially “twins”.

The five Disney locomotives en route from the Yucatan to Tampa, 1969

The five Disney locomotives en route from the Yucatan to Tampa, 1969

Here we see all five Disney locomotives as they were arranged for transport. From the front of the train we have the Lilly Belle, a 2-6-0 Mogul built by Baldwin in 1928; the Roger E. Broggie; the Walter E. Disney (Engine 274); and the Roy O. Disney (Engine 251), a 4-4-0 American built by Baldwin in 1916. The final train, the one in the picture’s foreground, was a fifth engine that the Disney men bought for $750. It had apparently been junked, but perhaps Broggie thought it could be salvaged.

This mysterious fifth engine was a 2-6-0 Mogul, like the Lilly Belle; it had been built in 1902 by the Pittsburgh Locomotive Works. Unfortunately, the locomotive proved to be too far gone to warrant restoration, and it was later sold off to an outside party.

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1 comment to Riding The Rails

  • Professional Dreamer

    I remember in the early 50’s I was on a train trip from Los Angeles to New York and up to Minnesota. In Minnesota we passed through a train wrecking yard where many of the old steam locomotives were being scraped out, dismantled, and pulling others into the yards to their final station in life. My folks later took me to travel town where I got to see some up close and still in one piece. I’m glad people like Walt and Ward Kimball and the Knott’s saved a few for us to enjoy as well as our kids at the Disney Parks and Knott’s Berry Farm and Calico. What’s a Disney Park without trains afterall.

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