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End of the Line for Beloved Train : Hobby: A retired Disney animator is donating rail cars that once chugged through his back yard to a railway museum.

November 14, 1990|RANDYE HODER | Hoder is a regular contributor to San Gabriel Valley View

After more than 50 years of running the Grizzly Flats Railroad right in his back yard, Ward Kimball is preparing to hear the whistle blow for the last time.

The retired Walt Disney Co. animator is donating the line--two real, full-sized working locomotives, a passenger car, a boxcar, a flat-bottomed gondola and a wooden cattle car--to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Riverside County. The museum also plans to display the Grizzly Flat's Victorian-style depot, windmill and water tower, as well as 900 feet of track--all currently behind Kimball's home in an unincorporated area near San Gabriel.

"I wanted to find a place for it while I could still get around," said the 76-year-old Kimball, who has been playing with trains ever since he and his wife, Betty, bought a locomotive from the Nevada Central Railroad in 1938 and shipped it to their house. "I wanted to be involved in the project and to ensure that Grizzly Flats had a good home."

The museum has about 140 pieces of railway equipment, including some of the old Red Car trolleys operated in Southern California by the Pacific Electric Railway from the early 1900s through 1963.

"Kimball's trains feature a unique aspect of railroad history," said Tom Jacobson, president of the museum. "It is a significant addition to our collection." The trains are notable because they were designed to run on narrower tracks than the standard cars of today--3 feet versus 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches. Kimball collected them as the era of "narrow-gauge railroading" in the West came to an end.

Kimball also has donated as much as $100,000 to the museum to build a steel engine house to store the trains. The first of the line is expected to be moved to the museum next fall. The transfer of the entire collection will take several years to complete, Kimball said.

The train enthusiast said he mulled several offers to house his collection, including one from the Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. In the end, he selected the Orange Empire museum, where he has been a longtime member, because it was close to home.

"It was close enough that I could still have a little fun with it," Kimball said. "I figure I've still got a good 15 years in me."

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