(In case you missed the previous installments in this series, you can
access part one at this link, and
part two here at this link.)
As described in the November 15, 1996 issue of the Disneyland Line,
"Last September, the Lilly Belle presidential car of the Disneyland
Railroad…was pulled off-line and put into rehab to restore and improve both the
exterior and interior of the car, bringing it up to a 'presidential' level." The
restoration team consisted of Main Street Attractions Assistant Managers Steve Arneson and Pro Trias; John McClure, and folks from Decorating, including
Christine Goosman in Concept/Show Design, and members of the Disneyland Design
Studio, including Kim Irvine, Tracey Sheldon, Bill Moore, Tracy Trinast and
Disney Store Trivia Contestants relax aboard the Lilly Belle.
Photo by Matt Walker
Externally, the car's platforms were repainted, and yellow safety tape was
applied to the steps. Internally, the furniture was reupholstered, and a new
carpet was installed. According to the Line, "Several new personal
pictures of Walt Disney and his family from the Disney Archives are on display.
Many of the original lamps were replaced or repaired to their original
appearance, and silk roses and old-fashioned luggage were added to the decor."
A photo of Walt, surrounded by daughters Sharon and
one of the Lilly Belle's walls.
Photo by Matt Walker.
After this rehab, the car soldiered on several more years. But with every
passing year, a new problem was festering under the surface: Dry Rot.
The car's wooden construction had survived decades of use, but now, the
effects of moisture were beginning to take their toll. The exterior wood was
becoming brittle and fragile, and in the late 1990s the car was once again
removed from the line.
One of the few products manufactured to commemorate the Lilly
Belle. This is a large-scale car produced by model train manufacturer LGB.
Unfortunately, those in charge of the Park were not too keen on spending a
veritable trainload of money to restore a car that few guests would ever
experience. Even some pragmatic roundhouse cast members considered the car "dead
weight" that added unnecessary tonnage to their trains, continuing to tax their
already maxed-out little locomotives. And so, once again, the stately
observation car of the Disneyland Railroad was quietly stored away, out of
sight, in the back of the roundhouse. There she remained, partially dismantled
and windows boarded up, for several years, seemingly forgotten.
nailed directly to the car sides.
The plywood paneling behind the E.P. Ripley's old boiler
conceals the decrepit Lilly
Belle in this photo by Preston Nirattisai.
Various proposals by cast members to work on the car themselves came and
went, and were sometimes the cause of inter-union disputes. Who should rebuild
the car? The roundhouse crew, who primarily belonged to boiler or machinist
unions, or Disney's union carpenters? All the while, the car continued to
deteriorate, with one cast member commenting that the wood siding was so
depleted in some areas that he could easily "put a finger" though the material.
Many guests may not have missed the car, but there were a significant number of
knowledgeable fans who wondered about the beloved car that had so much history.
Frequently, Disney-oriented Internet message boards had threads that asked
"What's the condition of the Lilly Belle?" or "Where's the Lilly Belle?"
Clearly, folks missed her.
This is a shot of the Lilly Belle as she sat in darkness in the back of
in early 2005. The window frames have been removed
and can be seen strewn on
the chair in the foreground. You can see the thick
layer of dust coating nearly
every surface of the car. Photo courtesy Preston Nirattisai.