Los Gatos Model Railroad Impresses Walt Disney

In the 1950s Billy Jones and Walt Disney shared their passion for model railroads.

Anyone who has visited Disneyland has probably hopped on board the model railway that surrounds the world-famous tourist destination.

Walt Disney was a dedicated fan of model railroads and when he began developing the format for the Anaheim theme park he knew he wanted to expand on the steam railroad he had built in his own backyard.

In the early 1950s, Disney paid a visit to Los Gatos and the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad.  He was obviously impressed with what he saw and with the man behind the operation, Billy Jones.  The two enthusiasts became friends.

In 1999, Disney's Carolwood Pacific Railroad was relocated from his backyard to the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park.

Source: Hooked on Los Gatos, the Library and Museum History Project

Billy Jones Family Collection

Philip S Levine January 19, 2013 at 05:28 PM
The railroad was actually located originally in Monte Sereno not Los Gatos Correct??
Stephanie Mathews January 20, 2013 at 06:48 AM
The Jones Ranch was located at Daves Avenue and Winchester Boulevard. The city of Monte Sereno was incorporated in 1957.
Gary Hinze January 20, 2013 at 07:14 AM
It was on the northwest corner of Winchester and Daves, in Los Gatos. I remember riding my bike over there, but I was too shy to get on the train. I liked watching the locomotive go by,hissing and puffing. History, pictures and other details here: http://www.bjwrr.org/index.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_%22Billy%22_Jones This is not a model railroad. It is more properly called a miniature railroad, it carries passengers. A model railroad (usually) does not. Model trains are detailed scale models. There is also a distinction with toy trains. There is some overlap among the categories. The Golden State Toy Train Operating society puts on the display at Cupertino Square: http://www.trainweb.org/gsttos/GSTTOS/Welcome.html Some larger model train layouts carry passengers. These are known as "Live Steam": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live_steam
E.J. Kelley April 23, 2013 at 11:01 PM
Walt Disney and company visited Los Gatos to inspect the locomotives built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, which Jones had acquired from the estate of their builder, Louis MacDermot, after caring from him in his later years. Disney hadn't set his sights on Anaheim yet, and was looking for a smaller train for a smaller parcel across the street from his Burbank studio. While Billy rejected Disney's offer to purchase the lot, they indeed remained friends, and the trains eventually found their way into the hands of Los Gatos native and former mayor Al Smith. Walt's barn was indeed relocated to Griffith Park, the original train (which Billy Jones visited and ran) is now displayed at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.


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