Tag Archives: Lilly Belle

Lilly Belle Corrections

So I’ll admit it–I wasn’t taking notes during my Lilly Belle trip, but fortunately I emailed our conductor, Vern, and he very nicely pointed out that I got some of my facts wrong.

Vern sets the record straight

From the horse’s mouth:

Although, Walt had always wanted a private car for his railroad, it wasn’t realized until almost 10 years after his death. Then a man named Ken Kohler, the Roundhouse Superintendent, from 1961-1990, suggested that the observation car be revived as a Bicentennial Car. The Grand Canyon, car #106 didn’t see much light in storage, but was a great candidate for change.  Eventually an idea was spawned that resulted into the building of this elegant private railcar as it is today. In July 1974, Ken was successful in convincing the powers-that-be into returning the car to the rails as a swank Presidential car as part of the park’s bicentennial celebrations. In 1975, the observation car, known as Grand Canyon, was refurbished and converted. Under the guidance of Retlaw Enterprises (Walt’s personal company, which still owned and operated the railroad at that time) Bill Cottrell and Lillian Bounds Disney, Walt’s widow and the car’s namesake, the canary yellow-and-green “Grand Canyon” received a meticulous, two-year-long makeover into the beautiful, burgundy “Lilly Belle” began. The car [was] to be used by Disneyland for Club 33 guests when visiting the park or hosting important guests.

And as such, the kimono in the car was not a gift to Walt, who was already gone. Man, I just love learning all of these little facts and fun stuff, don’t you? Thanks Vern!

Lilly Belle Ticket

Here’s an interesting fact about the Lilly Belle! It’s called a “Presidential Car” because it has a platform on the back where the President can step out and make a speech, à la “whistle-stop tours.” How very Abraham Lincoln!

My friend Linus, who filled me in on that piece of knowledge, also took the time to scan in our tickets:

Front

 

Back

What a great souvenir! Be sure to read the rest of my Lilly Belle post!

 

Lilly Belle

The Lilly Belle is Disneyland’s private train car, named after Walt’s wife Lillian and used to entertain VIPs at Disneyland starting with its first passenger, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito.

And I got to ride it.

Oh yeah.

And the best part is that YOU can ride it too! If you’re persistent enough and your timing is good. But more on that in a bit.

The Lilly Belle

The Lilly Belle was originally a regular train car that had been taken out of service to make way for the cars where all the seats face sideways so you can see the Grand Canyon and Primeval World dioramas. In 1976, just in time for the bicentennial, Disneyland converted the Lilly Belle into a private train compartment for VIP guests. The car was decorated in a Victorian theme to match Walt’s apartment above the firehouse.

This carpet is actually from Walt’s apartment

You ride in luxurious velvet seats:

Looking toward the front door

Looking back at the rear door. The Lilly Belle is not actually tilted like this picture.

And the details throughout the car are just wonderful.

Gorgeous woodwork and stained glass run along both sides of the top of the car

Even the light fixtures are fancy

There are a few tables including this buffet.

The flowers are glued down

There are a couple of small side tables, one of which was set up to be a drink-that-comes-in-small-glasses and writing table.

I don’t think it’s iced tea that’s served in those little glasses

Let’s look a little closer–beautiful glasswork.

Kevin and I collect fountain pens and things that fountain pens rest on, particularly Victorian pen stands, so I couldn’t resist a closeup of the pen rest and ink bottles.

Such a great detail

In the rear of the car is a reading table:

Walt’s personal library–reproduction

and a photograph. According to our conductor, this is a reproduction, since someone stole the original. Nice.

Lovely table

What a great picture!

The beauty is in the details!

Fringe on the window shades

Not for real fire

A particular highlight is a kimono near the door, said to be a gift from Emperor Hirohito himself. I’m going to guess that this one is a reproduction, but it’s still very beautiful.

I wanted to reach out and touch it

Even the hooks on which it hangs are detailed

Man, I miss the decorations from the Victorian age. She said as if she’d actually lived there.

Since people have acted poorly in the Lilly Belle in the past, each group has to be accompanied by a conductor. The up side to that is that you get a whole history lesson while you ride.

This was Vern. He was great.

You even get a special Lilly Belle ticket with a hole punch shaped like a locomotive. I forgot to take a picture so I’ll post one later.

The Lilly Belle is always the last car on the train

Vern and a corner of my friend and blog reader, Linus V.

On our trip, the Lilly Belle was pulled by the Ward Kimball locomotive, although any of the locomotives can do it.

I just love this.

So now, I know your burning question–How do I get on the Lilly Belle???

It’s a matter of a little bit of savvy and a lot of luck. Things you should know first are:

  • The Lilly Belle is not in service every day
  • They don’t allow people in the Lilly Belle when it’s very hot (as we learned on Friday)
  • You cannot make an advanced reservation. You have to do it that same day
  • The Lilly Belle requires an extra conductor and one may not be scheduled for the day you’re there, which is another reason why they might turn you away.

With that in mind, here’s how to get on:

  1. As soon as you get in the park, go up to the Main Street train station and when a train comes by, ask the conductor if the Lilly Belle is in service and if so, can you make a reservation or ride immediately. The Main Street station is where all passengers are expected to board and disembark. A passenger who needs to use the wheelchair ramp boards at the New Orleans station. Be sure to ask at the MAIN STREET station unless you use a wheelchair, if you ask at any other stop they won’t let you on. If you use a wheelchair, ask at City Hall.
  2. If they tell you no, thank them and try again the next day

Now honestly, chances are good you’re going to get a no, so if you want to ride and you’re from out of town, make sure to inquire the first morning of your trip and keep it up until you leave. Don’t wait for your last day to see if you can get a ride.

The Lilly Belle is truly one of those hidden, little-known experiences at Disneyland that make your visit that much more magical. And in the search for Disneyland Magic, I’d say that’s a big hit right there.

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