Walt’s Barn at Griffith Park in Los Angeles

Photo of Walt's BarnIn 1950, Walt Disney built a 1/8 scale live steam railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, in the backyard of his house in Los Angeles. He named the railroad for Carolwood Drive, where his home was located in Holmby Hills. He also built a barn where he could control the switches on the track. The barn was a workshop where Walt and his friends could relax and putter. (Many of the early Disney animators were huge railroad fans and several operated their own backyard railroads.)

Arguably Walt’s Barn was the birthplace of Imagineering, because many of Walt’s railroad buddies became the first Imagineers. Many of them moved from animation to what later became Imagineering when Walt started planning Disneyland. One of the Imagineers’ early projects was the building of the Disneyland Railroad.

When the Holmby Hills home was sold, Walt’s daughter Diane Disney Miller worked with Michael and Sharon Broggie, founders of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society, to save the barn, which the new owners wanted to remove from the property. The barn was dismantled and stored until an agreement with the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum made it possible to reassemble it in Griffith Park.

Since 1999 Walt’s Barn has been open to the public in Griffith Park. It currently open on the third Sunday of each month from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. The barn is small but interesting, and it’s located in a pretty area with picnic tables nearby. Admission and parking are free. (Michael Broggie often jokes that it’s the only free Disney attraction!) See the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society website for directions and details about visiting.

The Carolwood Foundation also saved early Disney animator Ollie Johnston’s backyard railway station, which has been restored and is on display next to Walt’s Barn. In 2010 the Foundation aquired Retlaw 1, the original combine car from the Disneyland Railroad, and is currently raising funds to create a permanent home for it.

Walt’s original steam train and cars from the Carolwood Pacific Railroad are now located at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. You can see a smaller G Scale replica of the train at Walt Disney World, in the Carolwood Pacific Railroad Room at The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.