Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26: Back Home

On this day in 1948, Walt Disney and one of his trusted animators Ward Kimball returned to the Studio after a 10-day trip to the Chicago Railroad Fair and Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Both train enthusiasts (especially Kimball) they had originally taken The Superchief out of Los Angeles (complete with staterooms next door to one another) to Chicago, Illinois. It was the only vacation Walt ever took with anyone outside of his immediate family.

The much heralded Chicago Railroad Fair in Illinois (which had opened in mid-July) was an event celebrating 100 years of railroad history west of Chicago. Set on the shore of Lake Michigan, the fair featured historic locomotives and as honored guests, Walt and Ward enjoyed several days of running some of the nation's most valuable trains.

"Running that old equipment was equivalent to shaking hands with Thomas Jefferson." -Ward Kimball

The Railroad Fair was broken up into various lands such as Vacationland, an Indian Village, a New Orleans section, and a Gold Gulch (a frontier section) with a haunted house. The fair also featured live shows and nightly fireworks.

Walt and Ward's second stop was in Dearborn, Michigan to experience Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. Featuring four centuries of historic buildings (which had been moved from their original locations), they were laid out in an old fashion Main Street design. Among the impressive buildings on display ... the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop (the birthplace of aviation) and Thomas Edison's Menlo Park laboratory!

Obviously Walt was greatly influenced by what he had experienced on this 10-day trip.

The Chicago Railroad Fair was a one-time event, but Greenfield Village still exists today!

Click HERE for more August 26 Disney history.

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