Walt Disney's locomotive
A model of Walt’ Disney’s backyard locomotive, Lilly Belle. Courtesy of the Model Railroad Museum

Walt Disney is well known for his groundbreaking cartoons, movies and amusement parks, but who knew he built a miniature railroad at his home in the Westwood area of Los Angeles?

The entertainment pioneer’s unique hobby is on display now at the recently reopened San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park.

“The Carolwood Pacific: Walt’s Magical Railroad” is an exhibit created in partnership with the Carolwood Foundation in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. The exhibit tells the story of Disney’s love of the railroad and how this lifelong passion influenced some of his best-known works. 

In 1949, Disney started to build the 1/8-inch scale backyard railroad on weekends. He could often be found at the controls of the steam locomotive Lilly Belle, or tinkering inside his little red barn, which now sits in Griffith Park as a museum.

The never-before-seen exhibit was originally slated to open in November 2020, but was delayed by the pandemic. It’s part of the museum’s 40th anniversary celebration, and donations are welcome.

The Model Railroad Museum is open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.