LALS 1966 – Our Club Turns 10 and Gains Momentum

January 1966 was kicked off by an energetic new Board with wide-ranging plans proposed for the new year. Topics included a significant eastern track expansion, a safety program for operations and public ride days, increased member participation, and the building of 15 new public riding gondolas.

In January we launched a monthly newsletter, the Engine Booster, with 1966 Board Secretary Ross Crawford as editor. Besides Club news, each month’s issue featured a chapter from the soon-to-be-published book “So You Want to Build a Steam Locomotive” by LALS member Joe Nelson.

FCR committee accelerates projects

An FCR (Facility Change Request) Committee was started for long-range planning with Doug Alkire as chair. Doug proposed that the plans for the eastern expansion should be authorized immediately, and that plans for a future western expansion of the 1-1/2” track to the Travel Town border be developed.

In February, heavy rains washed tons of decomposed granite down the hills into our facility. Using shovels and wheelbarrows, LALS members moved this mud to the lowlands east of Sutchville, and a 550’ drainage ditch was dug for routing future floods into the east meadow. A retaining wall was built of old railroad ties and metal pipe (FCR #7-66). Dick Priest engineered and built a metal plate bridge across the ditch to accommodate the three gauges of track.

Second eastern expansion “Disney Loop” built

Buss Sutch and Dave Rogers adding ballast to the new Disney Loop track on the east end.

In 1964 we were gifted with 1,200 feet of track plus switches and rail timbers from Walt Disney’s private Carolwood Pacific Railroad. Construction was started on FCR #17-66 in September 1966 and was built entirely with the Disney materials. It was first known as the “Scenic Route”. The new 7-1/2” gauge loop began near where the switch is today to Nelson Tunnel, and wrapped south then east behind the area where the Alkire Shed now stands, and continued eastward along Crystal Springs Drive. It then curved northward along a low, 17 foot-long bridge, where it joined the northeast edge of 1959 eastern expansion

With the Disney Loop, the 1959 outer loop became the inner loop and both were connected at the northeast corner. Buss Sutch built the complicated crossing, which featured three curving legs and the diamond.

Pedestrian Bridge and Public Safety

Included in the Disney Loop project was new fencing along our south and east borders, as well as an elaborate pedestrian overpass to make crossing the new Disney Loop tracks safer. A fence had already been erected directly behind the Sutchville Station to prevent pedestrians from walking onto the tracks. Earlier in 1966 a Safety Program was developed by Chet Peterson and Doc Reiter which included a manual for the safe operation of trains and crowd management.

Golden Spike Ceremony for Disney Loop

We finished the new “Scenic Route” loop just in time for our Fall Meet on October 22 and 23. A “Golden Spike Ceremony” was held on the bridge with an authentic gold spike donated and driven by Harry Dixon, Secretary of the IBLS, and City Park officials attending. Walt Disney, an honorary Charter Member of LALS, was invited, but unable to come because of his schedule. He wrote later that he was very happy that his track proved beneficial to the Club. The rest of the Meet was very low key and relaxing, and included many train rides over the new track. It was such a success we decided to hold a fall meet every year.

Merrill Davis running Buss Sutch’s 4-6-2 Pacific Daylight on the Disney Loop.

Shortly afterward in December, came sad news the world over, and especially to our hobby, that Walt Disney had passed away. It was decided at the December membership meeting to rename the new expansion “The Disney Loop”.

Announcement in December 1966 Booster of Walt Disney’s passing.

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